Langara College Association of Retirees

Dave Mitton

Of our several losses over the past year, one of the greatest, for all of us, is that of Dave Mitton. We are all saddened by the loss but it was reassuring to hear from Dave’s wife Halina and daughter Jennifer that “He lived his life to the fullest”, and that thanks to both of them “He had very good quality last months”.

Dave was a founding member of the Langara faculty having started at the King Edward School campus of VCC in 1965 (when he was just 21 years old). He was a builder of community who not only enjoyed conviviality but saw it as a welcome duty. A founder and early President of the Langara Faculty Association and an early promoter of the fundraising Galas where he performed with the DerryAirs, and of institutions such as the annual LFA Presidents’ Bar where his famous Margaritas were always a main attraction (whose appeal was augmented by the fact that acquiring one was a chance for a chat with Dave).



Dave had so many friends and colleagues that it would be very difficult to track them all down or to include their recollections individually or even collectively. As predicted by Dave Lidstone when passing on the sad news, numerous tributes poured in from the Maths/Stats Department as well as from colleagues across the whole spectrum of the College and beyond.

In addition to the many messages on the retirees listserv and math dept email list, there have also been many private exchanges in Dave’s memory, so that in his passing, as in his life, he continued to bring people together. May he ever continue to do so!

There follows a sampling of various messages that came our way but it is probably by no means comprehensive. Apologies to all we have missed.

Dave Lidstone: I am saddened to share with you the news that the Langara Mathematics and Statistics Department lost one of its cornerstones when Dave Mitton passed away on March 5 at age 77 years. The notice in the Vancouver Sun includes some wonderful pictures. … I am sure we will hear wonderful stories and thoughts from many as the news gets around. For now, let me close by offering a variation of a traditional Scots lyric.

Of all the comrades that e’er I had, They’re sorry for my going away.

So, fill to me the parting glass, And drink a health whate’er befall.

I’ll gently rise within your thoughts, Good night and peace be with you all.

John McBryde: Thanks Dave L for circulating the sad news of Dave Mitton’s recent passing, and your kind and fitting words accompanying the message. In so many respects, Dave Mitton was a giant at Langara College, serving in so many roles within the Department and Faculty Association as a whole, not only during his tenure of 35 years, but also after his retirement where we would see him at the Presidents’ Bar at the annual Christmas Dinner, at the Galas, at retirement functions and in various social settings. It is such a shame that Covid restrictions have prevented us from gathering to pay tribute to this wonderful individual, our good friend and colleague who – together with Halina who was also a bastion of the College – hosted so many of the Department parties over the years in their warm and welcoming home.

My first Term teaching at the College was in the JAN-APR Term of 1967 (at that time Vancouver City College on 12th Avenue at Oak Street), where Dave had already been teaching since its inception as a College in September 1965. Hard to believe that our first encounter as colleagues was 55 years ago this month. Makes it all even more poignant! I feel privileged that I often sat at the same table with Dave and Halina during the annual Langara Christmas Dinners, including at the last Dinner in 2019, before Covid forced cancellations.

It is a testament to Dave that, as well as from his own Department, many tributes poured in from those colleagues who served in other areas of the College. Dave was an inspiration, living life to the full and bringing joy to us all. We shall miss him greatly.

Edgar Avelino : As a new immigrant to Canada in the summer of 1973, I took an Algebra course with Dave in the spring semester of 1974. This was to be the beginning of a nearly 50-year relationship I had with Dave.

At this time in my life, I did not know what field of study I wanted to pursue. I was certainly not considering Mathematics. How could someone who needed tutoring in Math throughout high school even consider this? But unlike my supercilious high school Math teachers, Dave’s calm manner in teaching the subject put me at ease in the classroom and less anxious about the subject. Little by little, the subject became more and more interesting to me. By the end of that year, I had decided to major in Mathematics.

Ten years later, I applied for a teaching position in the Langara Math/Stats Department. Dave was the department chair at that time and was therefore in the Selection/Recommendation Committee that interviewed me and later on, evaluated me. In post-evaluation meetings with him, I always came out optimistic and more enthusiastic about teaching. And in my final evaluation, I remember how positive he was when he recommended me to the committee for a regular contract.

For so many years when he was at Langara and even after his retirement in 2000, he and his wife, Halina, welcomed the department to their home in Vancouver on a Friday in September for a department party. Dave valued and nurtured these social gatherings which brought members of the department closer. He often organized lunches or got together with a few Langarans after work to have a couple of drinks at one of the pubs near the college or sometimes called us to sit around in his office just to chat and have some laughs. There was also the annual summer weekend spent at Don Burbidge’s home in Princeton, BC where we sat around in Don’s patio and listened to each other’s stories. Dave was a great story-teller.

Sometime in the early months of COVID, Dave phoned me just to check up on me. We had agreed to get together after the pandemic was over. Sadly, this will not happen.

Outside of my family, I cannot think of anyone who had a greater influence in my life than Dave. To me, Dave was a teacher, a colleague and a friend. I miss him a lot.

Alan Cooper: In both the Department and the Faculty Association Dave was a builder of community and good fellowship. In addition to being a great teacher, he was also a friend and mentor to colleagues. And when he gave necessary correction (which sometimes I needed) it was always gently done and I never saw him angry.

One of the ways he brought people together was by conversation and story telling. I recall many tales of curious characters (and animals!) encountered on his annual treks to Cape Scott with Ernie Allan, and on explorations (some of which I shared) around Don Burbidge’s retirement home in Princeton.

Shortly after receiving news of Dave’s passing, I was contacted by Veda Roodal Persad and we shared memories of Dave – including a memorable performance of ‘Three Little Maids’ from the Mikado at one of the first Langara Galas. And on another occasion Martin Gerson shared memories of climbing expeditions with Dave and Al Cone.

Dave’s community building extended beyond just Langara and he helped to establish a similar level of conviviality at the proceedings of the provincial math articulation committee on which he served as Vice-Chair for several years. And as is so typical of him he continued in regular association with members and leaders of that committee long after his retirement – having regular lunches with colleagues David Leeming and Leo Neufeld after his move to Victoria.

He was, and remains in our hearts as, both a definer and an embodiment of what it means to be a Langaran. Let it always be so.

Rebecca Friesen: I’m very sad to hear this news. I never got to work with Dave Mitton as he was retired when I started but I have lots of good memories of him and Halina. The very first Department party I attended was at their home. They made me feel very welcome and I enjoyed seeing them again over the years at many other parties. He was a lovely man and a great supporter of Langara and especially of the Math department. He will be missed.

Elaine Cone (wife of Al Cone – another core Langaran whom we also lost this year): I want to acknowledge the wonderful heart Dave had. He would go out of his way when he came to Vancouver to visit Ernie Allen who was in Banfield Pavilion down the street from VGH and stop by to visit my Al (Cone) in Windermere, across from VGH. Because of Al’s stroke, he couldn’t speak, but Dave didn’t mind having a one-sided conversation. He realized that while he couldn’t speak, Al could understand, and it was wonderful for Al to see his friend. I think Dave was the one at Langara who encouraged Al on his quest to climb “Sky Pilot”, getting him a T-Shirt emblazoned “Sky Pilot or Bust”. When I told Al that his friend Dave had died, he wept.

Tim Higgs: Dave was my first Langara roomie — summer 1976 in “cellblock A264″ as he referred to it — and was my friend ever after. Among my fondest memories: “wine guys” bike trips [with friends Steve and Shaun] to Cordova Bay where Dave always offered a welcoming glass.

Steve (not an official Langaran, but my co-sommelier at many Xmas wine-bars), Dave Mitton and I for years drove to Oregon to buy wine grapes; Shaun was a “mature” student of mine at Langara when he had a mind to get a degree in enology (after having been a fighter pilot instructor in the Canadian Air Force) and as such joined the wino group that included Mitton. For maybe 4 or 5 years, until Mitton had gone somewhat downhill two years ago, Steve, Shaun & I would invade Mitton’s on bicycles for a couple of overnights in the summer. You can imagine the agenda: spend the day hiking the beach or the hills, or maybe driving to an Island winery, then good food, good wine, and lots of talk. [Though gotta say, I don’t understand why one would waste their time integrating around a circle, only to get back where they started — not even if one were assured that they were encircling a finite number of singularities!]


Larry Warren: Dave exemplified a life well lived, leaving behind a world better for his sojourn in it. I will greatly treasure any chance we may find to meet to acknowledge our friend’s life and our friendship.

Keith Gilley: We will miss his wonderful sense of humour and his devotion to Langara’s faculty friends.

Jose Aguirre: It is very difficult to accept when a well known Mathematics and Statistics Professor of Langara College and friend: Prof. DAVE MITTON leave this world, it is sad but we have to accept it!!

As a colleague, we know of the wonderful stories and thoughts, specially about teaching and friendship that students and colleagues spread at Langara .

Well, we have to accept it and give the condolences to Halina, his dear wife.

Good night and peace with you all

Mary Novik: I, too, have good memories of Dave Mitton, who was a mainstay — sometimes the mainsail! — of college life. For those caring for family members with Alzheimer’s, I’d like to recommend a book, Four Umbrellas, co-written by Vancouver author June Hutton and her husband, Tony Wanless. The book records Tony’s struggle with young-onset Alzheimer’s and their struggle to get recognition and help for his condition.

Stay well and stay safe!

Del Myles: As I remember Dave, he was a very genuine individual. Although my contacts with him were few and far between, I knew from others that he was most well liked. I do want to express my condolences to Halina, and hope that she will take comfort from having had so many years living with Dave to remember fondly.

Leo Neufeld: It’s always good to hear from dear friends and former colleagues, even when the news is sad. Yes, we also miss our luncheon buddy, Dave Mitton.

I mentioned Dave’s passing at the last meeting of the now BCcupms and the Secretary noted it in the Minutes.

Dave attended the BCcupms meeting at Columbia College in 2016. I believe that that was the last time that he attended one of those gatherings. There is a nice picture of him in the photo gallery for that meeting (attached) taken at the ‘Greek’ Dinner. Dave was always a loquacious, cordial dinner guest/companion with stories at-the-ready. One story he loved recounting was about the embarrassing adventure that Jack Bradshaw undertook in the wee hours after an evening of touring the watering establishments in, I believe Prince George. Great fun!

Dave served as Vice Chair of the BCCUPM (as it was then) — I think during David Leeming’s tenure which ended in 1994. The last meeting he attended was at Columbia College in 2016.

Dave and Halina lived in Victoria for some months every year. This allowed Dave, David Leeming and me to host lunches for the three of us on a rotation basis. We will miss those times to catch up and reminisce.



Clearly Dave Mitton touched many lives. And he left all of us with fond memories, the sharing of which continues to bind us together.

So, we’ll conclude with an echo of the poem so aptly quoted by Dave Lidstone:

Let’s fill to Dave the parting glass, And drink a health whate’er befall.
And let him rise within our hearts. Peace and good cheer be with us all.

From Edgar . . .

It just occurred to me that the piece I wrote about Dave Mitton may be one of the longest, if not the longest, of all of the tributes that were written.  I would be quite happy if you were to say that Dave was a teacher who influenced my decision to major in Mathematics, the department chairman when I was hired who guided me in my early years of teaching, and a friend who touched me and others in ways that I will not forget.

An Ode to Dave, the Derry Air

I first met Dave at a planning session for the Langara Gala of 1993. We both sat at a table in the staff lounge and quickly responded to the idea of putting a singing group together. Soon five of us (Dave, Emily, Roger, Ted, and I) would be regularly showing up at Ted’s to sing and rehearse for the Gala. Following that first Gala, we all just kept meeting and singing and did performances at care homes, Oakridge Mall and various Langara socials. The Sunday morning coffee rehearsals turned into wine and dinner singing parties. The Derry Airs were an institution for seven years.

Dave loved to sing Irish Folk tunes like Danny Boy and When Irish Eyes are Smiling, and Panus Angelicus at Christmastime. Dave made us great Irish coffee and always had an entertaining story. He had the kindest heart and was such a warm and generous person. He was the kind of person so full of life that you’d think would live forever..

One of the many songs the Derry Airs ‘adjusted’ the lyrics to was After the Ball.

After the bar is over
After the wine is gone
After the drinkers leaving
After the beers are done
Many a head is changing
If you could feel them all
Many the drinks that have vanished
After the bar…

Well Dave.. it’s After Your Bar… and we’ll miss you a lot, but I think you’re still singing, or whistling… wherever you are. I’ll think of you with every Panus Angelicus till the end of time.

Susan Calvert
February 2022