While appreciative of last Saturday’s celebration organized for his 90th birthday, Cecil Reid really didn’t want to make a fuss of the milestone. He would have much preferred to mark the occasion quietly at home with Edna, his wife of 59 years and other family members.
That’s just his style.
Still mentally sharp and with no noticeable physical disability, the father of four children was toasted at the early afternoon festivity at a Scarborough restaurant.
Retired York Region District School Board principal Glyn Bancroft was not surprised that the low-key nonagenarian didn’t want a party.
“Cecil is extremely quiet,” remarked Bancroft who retired 15 years ago. “He however has exemplary leadership skills and he knows when it’s time to take a backseat.”
Three years ago, Reid asked Bancroft to assume the leadership of the Donald Moore Memorial Scholarship Fund Committee (DMMSFC).
“He felt I should be the chair because I was younger and I was a school principal,” recalled Bancroft.
Reid is a founding member of the DMMSFC established on Moore’s 100th birthday 19 years ago.
In April 1954, Moore – who died in his 102nd year in 1994 – led a 29-member delegation to Ottawa to protest the federal government’s restrictive immigration policy that shut out Blacks and other visible minorities at the time.
“It’s important that we remember Don and celebrate him whenever we have an opportunity to do so because he did an awful lot to promote the interests of Blacks and other minorities in Canada,” said Reid. “It was pretty bad back then and he stepped up to the plate to ensure that we would be treated with respect and dignity here. It was mainly because of him that immigration regulations were relaxed, thus opening the door to many Caribbean people and other immigrants who were once excluded.”
Since its establishment just over two decades ago, 19 students have benefited from scholarships offered in Don Moore’s name.
George Brown College administers the scholarship program.
Reid was a Combermere High School classmate of Sir Frank Worrell who went on to become the first Black to captain the West Indies cricket team and a University College of the West Indies warden before succumbing to leukemia in 1967. He bowled off-spin and represented Spartan Cricket Club whose members at the time included the late West Indies cricketer and administrator Sir Clyde Walcott.
Selected to play for Barbados in the annual inter-island tournament in 1946, Reid opted instead to take up an employment opportunity in Curacao as a laboratory technician with Shell, a Dutch oil company.
The influx of West Indians working in the oil fields in the Dutch islands triggered heated cricket rivalries between Curacao – of which Reid was an integral member – and neighbouring Aruba.
Migrating to Toronto in 1953 to study journalism, he graduated three years later and worked with The Scarborough Mirror for a few months before joining Canadian Press as a news editor in December 1956.
Before retiring from the national news agency in 1989, Reid helped Moore write his autobiography.
“That was a difficult task because many times I showed up to work with him only to find that he was busy in his garden or greenhouse,” recounted Reid who has a theology certificate from the University of Toronto’s Trinity College. “The book seemed secondary to him because he was a prize-winning and avid gardener.”
In the last two decades, Reid volunteered with East York Meals on Wheels and has been an active member at St. George the Martyr Anglican Church, serving as warden, treasurer and license lay reader.
Valuing the independence of driving his own car for nearly five decades, Reid acknowledged soon after his September 9 birthday that aging has impacted his ability to drive safely. He gave up his license last week.
“I really miss my Dodge Caravan mini-van,” he said. “But I was not feeling comfortable behind the wheel and it was time to stop driving. Vehicles are now moving too fast and everybody seems to be in a hurry. I can’t keep up with the hectic pace anymore.”
This was another example of Reid again knowing when to take a backseat as he did when he was chauffeured to his birthday party.