Robert (Bob) Pike was a ‘dynamic, friendly, sociable, generous person’: daughter

Robert (Bob) Pike. Submitted photo.

Robert (Bob) Pike was a university professor, successful author, and a man dedicated to his family and charity throughout his life.

He passed away at Kingston General Hospital on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, the Kingston region’s first confirmed death as a result of COVID-19, according to KFL&A Public Health. He was 82 years old.

Pike was born in England in 1937, and studied at the UK’s London School of Economics and Political Science, completing both an BSc and MSc in Economics. He went on to earn his PhD in Sociology from the Australian National University.

Afterwards, he immigrated to Canada and became a professor at the University of Alberta, where he met his soon-to-be wife, Faye. A few years later, he accepted a professorship at the University of Ottawa, and he and Faye were married within 4 months.

The couple moved to Kingston, where Pike became a Professor at Queen’s University in 1969. Together, they raised two children, and Pike was named head of the university’s Sociology Department from 1978 to 1989, after which he retired, becoming a professor emeritus in 2002.

His Queen’s University colleagues remember him fondly. “Bob was a wonderful colleague – welcoming to new faculty, encouraging, good-humoured and dedicated to Queen’s,” says Professor Emeritus Roberta Hamilton.

Dr. Pike was among the first to address equity concerns on campus, including racism and pay equity for women, adds Annette Burfoot, Professor and Head of the Department of Sociology.

“He was a man of integrity. He could always be counted on to help pitch in where help was needed. He encouraged others in their research, was a team-player in collaborations, and championed innovation,” says Professor Fiona Kay. “He was tremendously supportive of graduate students and enjoyed mentoring junior faculty. I will miss the twinkle is his eye when he was joking and his roaring laugh when he told stories. He was proud of his family and cared very much for his children’s happiness. He was just a lovely man. I shall miss him.”

Eleanor Pike-Nurse, his daughter, says he leaves behind a long legacy of generosity.

“When I was young, he influenced so many younger people,” says Eleanor. “As a child, we would have graduate students over for dinner, and after they graduated he would keep in touch with them, especially those from other countries who were away from families. He would ‘adopt them,’ and help with their careers. That may not be that unusual now, but it certainly was back then.”

Eleanor says he was a “dynamic, friendly, sociable person,” who authored several books and articles, with a specialization in the sociology of education and communication.

“He was super involved with several charities,” says his daughter, including sitting on the Ryandale Shelter committee. When it came time for his church, Crossroads United Church, to sponsor some refugee families coming to Kingston, he readily and unhesitatingly helped. 

His beloved wife Faye died three years ago, only one month shy of their 50 year anniversary. “He never really recovered from that loss,” says Eleanor.

“He was a really good dad, loved bad puns, and loved history,” she says, adding that dinner table talks growing up alternated between who could come up with the worst joke, and learning about roman conquests.

He had three grandchildren he loved dearly, and enjoyed singing silly little songs to them, says Eleanor.

His daughter says that determination was another one of his hallmarks. “He was really successful despite difficulties brought on by scoliosis (curvature of the spine),” says Eleanor. “He had a lot against him when he was growing up, against all the odds he became a successful professor and an author.”

He’d been living at Kingsbridge Retirement Home for the past year, Eleanor relays. “They have been amazing,” she says, adding that as soon as the retirement residence found out about his positive COVID-19 results, they tested all of the possibly affected residents, with all of the test results being negative.

Indeed, says Eleanor, she believes that he likely contracted COVID-19 at the hospital, though how remains unclear. He had been at the hospital for an unrelated lung infection, according to Eleanor, and, as a prerequisite of his treatment, he had been tested for COVID-19 twice shortly before being admitted to the hospital. Both of those tests came back negative, she says.

According to Eleanor, he was recuperating well and was getting ready to be sent home, having been tested once more for COVID-19 before being discharged, when he began to develop serious symptoms. The COVID-19 test came back positive shortly thereafter, and his condition deteriorated quickly, says Eleanor. “He was admitted on Thursday night at 10 p.m., and he was taken off life support on Saturday at 3 p.m.”

He passed away with his children by his side, after they had made the difficult choice of taking him off ventilator support.

Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) says that for reasons of patient privacy and confidentiality, it cannot comment on or provide specific patient information, but indicates that there is no indication of an outbreak at the hospital.

“We are deeply committed to compassionate care and we are saddened by the passing of any patient and the impact of this loss on their family and friends,” says Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, Chief of Staff & Vice-President of Medical Affairs, Kingston Health Sciences Centre. “While we have a small number of patients currently admitted with COVID-19, we do not have an outbreak.”

KHSC says that their priority is always to work closely with KFL&A Public Health to understand and address the source of transmission and contact tracing related to any confirmed case of COVID-19 in the hospital. Their investigation continues.

Despite the questions that remain surrounding his infection, Eleanor is grateful for the support KGH staff have given to her and her brother, and allowing them to be by their father’s side in his final moments.

“They gave us the full, maximum PPE (personal protective equipment) for us to wear, and they let us be with him at the end,” says Eleanor. 

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