At 76 years of age, after a brief illness at University Hospital but having lived life to its fullest, Darwin Semotiuk passed on Tuesday, January 4, 2022.
Darwin meant so much to so many and was truly one-of-a-kind. He was gentle and kind, a leader and mentor who exemplified character and integrity, a thoughtful and caring person all wrapped up with an easy charm. His love of travel and adventure, his value of education, his curiosity, integrity and passion for life, as well as his commitment to community were lifelong values and have been ingrained in his kids and grandkids.
Born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Darwin made his way in life - he played sports, studied hard (even on 'dates' with Mary) and earned scholarships to the University of Alberta (BPE 1963, MA 1965) where he was captain of both the football and basketball teams (earning Athlete of the Year in his final seasons) and Ohio State (PhD 1970). Darwin also represented Canada and caught the travel bug while playing for Canada's National Basketball team in 1965-66. He was a faculty member at the University of Manitoba, Ohio State University and most notably at The University of Western Ontario spanning 43 years (1971-2014), after which he was granted professor emeritus status. During his time at Western as a tenured professor in the Faculty of Physical Education (now the School of Kinesiology), Darwin was head coach of the Western Football team (1975-83, Vanier Cups in 1976, 1977, Coach of the Year in 1976) and was the Chair of Intercollegiate Athletics for 20 years, where he held student athletes' academic success in the highest regard and viewed athletes as people rather than players. A former player said that there are two types of coaches - transactional (for the moment) and transformational (for a lifetime). Darwin’s guidance, intellect and compassion clearly made him a transformational coach, had an indelible effect and will live on through the many that were fortunate to be associated with him.
Darwin’s awards and honours are many, but some that he particularly valued and hang in his home office are the City of London Mayor's Honour List (2002), University of Alberta Sports Wall of Fame (2002), The "W" Club Hall of Fame (2007), International Fellow for the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education (2010), London Sportsperson of the Year (2010) and the Western Humanitarian Award (2014) which recognizes Darwin's efforts in humanitarian work in education and sport in Cuba.
Above the many awards, recognitions and accolades, Darwin was first and foremost a loving and wonderful husband of 54 years to Mary, a proud father to Krista & Brad, a caring father-in-law to Alec & Kara, a doting Papa to Noah, Tyler, Lauren, Duncan & Theodore and a loving brother to Wally and Natalka.
Touching so many lives, Darwin was a coach, teacher and mentor who deeply cared for his athletes, students, colleagues and teams. He was a tried-and-true friend to so many who loved him dearly. His gift of connecting with people was one of his many super-powers - one couldn't help but feel special and valued in his presence. His open heartedness often led him to spark long and lively conversations with strangers in London and around the world. His positivity and enthusiasm for life had a rippling effect that probably expands far beyond what we'll ever know.
Anyone who knew Darwin would know how loyal and supportive he was to his many communities. As a Western Mustang, he was 'purple & proud' and could be seen wearing his signature purple apparel, as a Londoner and Canadian he would sport his Canadian flag at home and abroad, and as a husband, father and grandfather he would take pride in his greatest legacy, his family.
Darwin was always up for a game of golf at Sunningdale, a good long walk, a visit with fellow Wingaters at the cottage, an airport pickup, a Tim Horton's coffee with his coffee club, cheering on Western teams, apple picking with his family, pancakes at the sugar bush or an ice cream cone at the Sparta gas station. He loved spending his time and life with Mary and his family and friends and could also be found checking the latest sport scores and clips on his ipad while relaxing in his home of over 40 years on Hastings Drive or at the cottage overlooking Lake Erie.
The words shared in the many notes and tributes from people who cared for Darwin truly capture who he was and how he will be remembered. Darwin's life was fully lived and enjoyed - his memory and values will live on in those who were fortunate to have known and loved him.
A Celebration of Darwin’s life will be held at a later date. A heartfelt thank you goes out to the doctors, nurses and staff at University Hospital who helped Darwin over these challenging past weeks. Private interment will be held later at Sparta South Cemetery (located near the family cottage and a great ice cream place).
If desired, remembrances may be made to:
Western Football - providing financial assistance to student athletes
Donations to the Darwin M. Semotiuk Football Award at Western University attention Kendra Lealess, Western University, Westminster Hall, Suite 110, 1151 Richmond St. London, ON N6A 3K7 (cheques payable to Western University) 519-661-4200
Online donations: www.westernconnect.ca/semotiuk
London Community Foundation
Donations to London Community Foundation c/o Semotiuk Family Fund
London Community Foundation, Covent Garden Market, 130 King St. London ON N6A 1C5
519-667-1600 Ext. 207
Online donations: https://www.lcf.on.ca/donate
For those who are already missing Darwin's voice, you're welcome to listen to a podcast recorded by his son Brad on Father's Day this past year.
Condolences may be emailed to: email@example.com
Joe and Janis Blimkie
January 15, 2022, 9:11 am
Dear Mary, Krista and Brad. Janis and I were devastated to hear of Darwin s passing. I had the highest level of respect for Darwin as a person, coach and parent. He exuded total commitment, excellence and hard work with a warm and honest smile. He was one of the best coaches I ve ever had and would have made an outstanding military commander leading troops into battle. Anyone on his defensive teams would gladly have followed him into any battle no matter the odds. We know he will be missed in the hearts of many, not least of which are the hearts of those family members he s left behind. But he will not be forgotten. RiP. Joe and Janis Blimkie
Bud and Phyllis Callahan
January 10, 2022, 11:04 am
Mary and family:
Our thoughts are with you all during this very sad and difficult time.
Darwin will be missed by many.
Don and Lezlie (Francolini) Wolfe
January 19, 2022, 6:17 pm
Mary and family,
Our thoughts and love are with all of you.
Darwin was a joy to be around. Mom and Dad talked often about how lucky they were to have you and Darwin as friends, and especially how much they enjoyed vacationing at Disney with you both.
January 12, 2022, 12:40 pm
Dear Mary and Family,
Lyn and I trust your memories of Darwin will ease the pain of his passing. We have read many of the tributes that have appeared on line. We would like to echo those and add our own. As a distant relatives we came to know Darwin in the last few years. The few times we had to be together were joyful and special for us. His kindness and caring for others touched our hearts. His love of family was obvious. His eyes twinkled when he talked about Mary, Brad, Kara and the grandkids. We felt blessed to be able to share time with him, to see what made the " legend " and experience first hand the touch of an angel. Our Mom, Olga (Semotiuk) Pollard had a special place in her heart for her cousin. We share that special place in our hearts with her. Our memories of Darwin are special; as, he was special. We send our condolences of his passing, and, do trust the memories you have of him will bring you blessings, peace and joy when you remember him.
January 11, 2022, 2:24 pm
So sorry to hear about Darwin. Not only was he a nice guy, he was a class act. Remember playing B Ball with him in high school. Condolences to the family....
January 8, 2022, 9:35 am
An amazing individual and coach. A positive motivator, he was at once an academic and down to earth, accessible to everyone. Rose above adversity at a young age and excelled. Super job, fellas!
January 8, 2022, 11:23 am
This is Ann (Hirsch) Dyck, fellow classmate of Sept 65 nursing at the UofA Hospital.
I read in the journal today of the passing of your husband, Darwin. I have some memory of Mary and Darwin dating. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family. He seems to have been a wonderful husband,father,grandpa, and friend and mentor to many, and all around great guy. I am praying that you will know God’s comfort and love as you grieve his death and move forward with life.
Mike and Beth Murphy
January 7, 2022, 5:43 pm
Dear Mary and family. I was so sorry to read of Darwin’s passing. So many wonderful things have recently been said of him because he was a wonderful person. I am going to miss him greatly. I will end by saying: a wise person once told me that once the pain eases the wonderful memories flood in. I have found this to be true. Mike and Beth Murphy
January 7, 2022, 6:58 pm
So sorry for your loss Mary, Brad and Krista. Simply put, a great man. He will be missed.
January 8, 2022, 2:02 pm
Was so sorry to hear of Darwin’s passing. Just want you to know you are in my thoughts at this sad time. You have many happy memories of your years together and they will give you comfort in the days ahead.
January 8, 2022, 2:06 pm
So sorry to hear of Darwin’s passing. Just want you to know you are in my thoughts at this sad time. You will have so many good memories of you years together and they will give you comfort in the days to come.
Odarka Semotiuk Devlin
January 8, 2022, 4:14 pm
Dear Mary; Krista, Brad, Alec, Kara; Noah, Tyler, Lauren, Duncan, Theodore; Wally and Natalka
Please accept my sincerest condolences.
Although separated by distance, we were always happy to hear of our cousin and yet another accomplishment. And saddened to hear of his untimely passing.
There is still light to guide us in the world from the love he gave us.
Love and blessings,
Odarka Semotiuk Devlin
January 8, 2022, 4:39 pm
Dear Mary and family.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time. Gord and I will always remember the fun time we had travelling with you and Darwin in Australia. Darwin was such a thoughtful and caring individual. He will be truly missed.
Michelle Mottola and Gord Marchiori
January 13, 2022, 3:05 pm
Dear Mary, Sadly my card to you and Darwin sending thoughts and well wishes for his recovery crossed in the mail with your email about his passing. My thoughts of you continue as you grieve his loss. I hardly knew Darwin but appreciated what a wonderful man he was from your beautiful obituary written about his life. The details you shared of the recent memorial to him by your family brought tears to my eyes and I thank you for sharing this memorable occasion with all of us.
Many hugs from a long time friend, Joanne Austin
January 13, 2022, 12:58 pm
My sincere condolences to the Semotiuk family and friends regarding the sudden passing of Darwin. He had a major impact on many lives myself included. He was always a beacon of reason and calmness which were unusual occurrances on a football field or locker room. I will always remember to "use good judgement" thanks to Darwin. Farewell my coach, friend and mentor...you will be missed.
Doug 'Spinner' Munro
January 8, 2022, 10:43 am
I played for Darwin for 3 years and won the Vanier Cup with him in 1974. He was an amazing coach, a good man and a great friend. I played defense and Darwin looked after the defense. He had us so prepared for every game that it was almost like we knew what the other team was going to do on every play. I have successfully used that ‘preparedness’ that Darwin taught us, throughout my business life. It was an honour to have played for and to have been a friend of Darwin Semotiuk.
For the Hill…Darwin.
Dr. Cathy Faulds
January 8, 2022, 10:49 am
“His gift of connecting with people was one of his many super-powers – one couldn’t help but feel special and valued in his presence.“
Dr. Semotiuk connected with me at the sudden and tragic death of my close friend Dr Sandy Kirkey. He was instrumental in getting me through that period of time with his mentorship and “coaching”. He was a coach of life beyond sport and I am saddened that this earth will no longer reap the benefits of his presence. I wish to extend my condolences to his family and spouse Mary.
Dr. Cathy Faulds.
January 8, 2022, 12:56 pm
Mary and family: So sad to hear of Darwin’s passing. While I never played for him (I was a wrestler), I knew Darwin since the 1980s when he became Athletic Director, and post-Western, I always enjoyed chatting with him at Sunningdale. I respected his calm demeanour and attitude. He was a true gentleman. I felt privileged to have known Darwin even in this small way. I will say a prayer for your strength during this difficult time.