Obituary of Dr. Edward Napke
Edward Napke, M.D.,D.P.H.
January 21, 1924 – February 13, 2023
‘Life is Good’ as our father so often said when he gathered with family. He lived life with such force and humour. It is with great sadness that we announce his passing on Feb 13 in his 100th year. He was born in Lebanon to Elizabeth Frame and Nickolas Napke. The family immigrated to Canada when our father was 6 months of age.
Ed is predeceased by his wife of 50 years Gunvor (Svanlund) and his two brothers Emile Napke and Maurice Roufael. He is survived by his sister Pauline Napke, his three children, Maria (Simon), Adam (Lariza) and Amanda and his 6 grandchildren, Alexander and Adrianna, Leonardo and Alexandra Victoria, Lucas and Maia.
He attended the University of New Brunswick completing a Bachelor of Science in 1945 and later went on to medical school at the University of Toronto where he also completed a Diploma in Public Health. Early in his career he conducted research at: Defence Research Medical Laboratories, Downsview, Ontario; Westminster Hospital, London ,Ontario; Karlinska Institute, Stockholm Sweden and Banting and Best institute, Toronto, Ontario.
His university years were also busy with other activities. Despite his terrible vision, his slight frame of 118 lbs, relatively long arms and apparently a wicked left hook earned him Bantum weight boxing champion for UNB in 1944. I remember him telling me he had to work during medical school which may have been the reason he became co-founder of the University Student Services at the University of Toronto. This work helped finance medical studies at the university from 1947-51. In later years he was concerned that we knew of his attempt to join the war effort. He was Company Quartermaster Sergeant, Canadian Officers Training Corps, 1944-45 and volunteered for Active Service Overseas, but due to his poor eyesight did not meet the medical requirements.
Our father has been called Canada’s Dr. Safety. His life’s work centered on pharmacovigilance. In 1963, he was asked to join the Canada Food and Drug Directorate to help implement new regulation following the Thalidomide tragedy. His colour coded paper-based ‘pigeon hole’ system allowed for the spotting of adverse effects and disproportionate incidences of harm. His work eventually gave rise to Canada’s Poison Control and Drug Adverse Reaction Program. He represented Canada in a feasibility study to help organize the World Health Organization for a drug monitoring program. After retirement from Health Canada in 1990, he continued to be a volunteer honorary consultant to the Uppsala Monitoring Center, WHO Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring. He was seconded to the WHO Copenhagen office to review and advise a number of European countries on their monitoring programs. He continued this work well into his 90s and in 2018, I accompanied him to the UMC ‘s 40th anniversary celebration where he was honoured for his work. He addressed the crowd with a speech that as usual encouraged all to think outside the box.
The statistics on household poisonings generated by the Poison Control Program gave rise to another safety measure that we take for granted today the need for child resistant packaging. He advised on many Canadian Standards Association committees over the years maintaining the packaging standards. In 2015, The Poison Control Program was expanded into the Canadian Surveillance System for Poison Information, and he was invited to consult and participate in its launch.
He also played an important role in the Professional Institute for Public Servants as Chairman of the Medical Group for 10 years and negotiated the first contract with Treasury Board for the Medical Group. He was a director and finally the first Vice President of PIPS.
Our father was an activist at heart and through out his life he was involved in numerous causes. Air quality and pollution were an early concern and I remember him driving to work in the 70’s on his bicycle which sported a plaque that read ‘Napke’s Antipollution Devise’. This was in the time of big gas guzzling cars and the oil crisis. Another early cause was his concern for tobacco smoke and the harm he knew it caused. As president of the Non-smokers Association, he lobbied all levels of government and industry and in 1976-77 persuaded the City of Ottawa to have ’No Smoke By-Laws in Public Places’, the first in Canada. This prohibited smoking in some public places and the rest is history; Another health and safety measure we take for granted today.
One of his final projects began in 2019, with a group of professionals from different disciplines who called themselves the “four musketeers”. He co-authored a paper on informed use of surgical implants and medical devices. The paper was presented at the International Clinical Engineering and Health Technology Management Congress in 2021.
He was a member and past president of numerous associations including the Canadian Nordic Society and the Canadian Association of the Club of Rome to name a few.
Family was very important to him and throughout his life he supported and partook in our lives and later his grandchildren’s lives attending whatever sport events or performance was taking place. As both myself and my sister Amanda took years of ballet it was only fitting that he should get involved and start a ballet company. He founded Les Petits Ballet Company of Ottawa and was its first President. My brother Adam was an avid paddler at the Rideau Canoe Club in his youth. Only fitting then that our father was director of the club for 5 years and chairman of several sub-committees. Throughout our lives we had many memorable trips to the Miramichi to visit our Uncle Emile, Aunt Margaret and our many cousins.
Our father also knew how to enjoy life. He had a passion for jazz, jitterbug dancing, theatre and travel. He would frequent Friday’s or other clubs to listen to friends play. He and Gunvor were long time supporters of the Ottawa Little Theatre from the 60’s onwards and they travelled the globe together during his retirement. After our mother passed away he would invite other family to join him at the Ottawa Little Theatre. He was fortunate to be active into his 90’s and was a member of the senior’s choir ‘Bells and Beauxs’ singing in Old Age Residences. Social gatherings were a must, and he threw a memorable 90th Birthday bash for 90 guests at the Ottawa Canal Ritz.
The last four years of his life were more of a challenge due to a fall just before his 95th birthday. He finally had to retire from many of his activities but he continued to state ‘Life is Good’ and was always game for a family gathering.
A life well lived!
A celebration of his life will be held on February 25, from 11am - 2pm at the Pinecrest Remembrance Services. Donations in lieu of flowers to the Canadian Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Salvation Army or the World Wildlife Fund would be greatly appreciated.
Live Streaming of the Gathering CLICK HERE