GORDON VADUM, 1933-2024

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Gordon Christian Vadum, KC, died peacefully at Toronto, Ontario, on February 1, 2024, at the age of 90. In his final years, he suffered from dementia.

Before those days, he was alternately charming and curmudgeonly, known for his devastating wit,  rapid retorts, legendary cussing, and occasionally dark sense of humor. He was also blunt and had little patience for phonies.

It would be understatement to describe him as a focused man.

A lawyer, real estate developer, manufacturer, restaurateur, musician, Asian art collector and dealer, and taxicab driver, he was born June 22, 1933, in Toronto, but spent the first half of his life in Hamilton. His father, Peder, was a blacksmith from Denmark; his mother, Marie Josefina, a homemaker from Finland. Too young to serve during the Second World War, he was briefly an air cadet in the Royal Canadian Air Force a few years later.

He earned a B.A. from McMaster University, and an LL.B. from Osgoode Hall Law School. He “took silk,” that is, was appointed a Queen’s Counsel, or QC, in 1975 (and became a King’s Counsel, or KC, the moment Queen Elizabeth II was succeeded by King Charles III).

He practiced law into his eighties, often working 6 days a week. Originally, he was part of his own law firm of Bordonaro, Vadum, and Nella, in Hamilton then Toronto but later went out on his own as a sole practitioner.

He took delight in words, enjoyed crossword puzzles, and was fiercely competitive when playing word games such as Scrabble and Boggle.

He was an avid, fearless, downhill skier, hitting the slopes in Canada, the United States, and Europe, and a jogger in the early 1970s before it was cool. He liked watching football and enjoyed attending baseball games — he had season tickets for the Toronto Blue Jays’ first two seasons. He drove fancy cars such as a Lotus and a Lincoln Continental Mark IV and he drove them fast. He was a freemason and for a time was active in the Scottish Rite.

Active in the Progressive Conservative Party, he managed the successful campaigns of Lincoln Alexander, Member of Parliament, the first black person to be elected to the Canadian House of Commons (1968), and of John Roxburgh Smith, a Member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament (1967). He was also instrumental in the election of Ontario Premier Bill Davis in 1971. He adored President Richard Nixon.

A lover of all things Asian, he studied Mandarin Chinese at the University of Toronto later in life. For years he had a tutor from the university practice conversational Mandarin with him once a week.

Known for being a dapper, style-conscious dresser, he often had suits and shoes custom-made. He was a Jazz enthusiast, and played the clarinet and saxophone professionally when he was young. A skilled cook and a master of the wok, he somehow managed to make liver taste really good. He made his own pasta and espressos. He was also a huge movie buff, especially films from old Hollywood.

Widowed once and divorced twice, he leaves behind his grown-up children, Matthew and Carolyn, along with Edie, the prettiest Siamese cat ever. (His first wife and mother of Matthew and Carolyn, who was born Beverly Jean Blake, died in 1976 at the age of 32.)

He also leaves behind two sisters, Arlene and Bonnie, while two sisters, Norah and Heather, predeceased him. In addition, he is survived by many nephews and nieces.

He did not want a funeral, but a memorial reception will be held in the coming months.

Our world will not be the same without him.

Photo: Gordon Vadum with his infant son, Matthew Vadum, in October 1966.