In Memory of





Obituary for Darby Elizabeth Uniacke Spafford

Darby Spafford

It is with full hearts that we share the news of Darby Spafford’s passing on January 13 just days before her 99th birthday. Darby lived a full and loving life and will be missed by many. Predeceased by her beloved husband Gordon and her youngest son Graeme, Darby is survived by her children James Spafford, Joan Sutherland and Catharine Hirano; her grandchildren Kento Hirano, Masami Hoshino-Spafford, Reina Shimada and Kazumi Hoshino-Macdonald and her 3 great grandchildren Yuto, Keitaro and Yojiro. Darby died peacefully surrounded by loved ones.

Please join us in a celebration of Darby’s life on January 27 (Saturday) at 1:00PM at St. George’s Anglican Church Crescentwood, 168 Wilton Street.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Misericordia Foundation or Harvest Manitoba.

Born in Toronto Ontario on January 25, 1925, the youngest of 4 siblings, Darby attended St Clements school (an Anglican girl’s school) from grades 1-13. There she developed a strong social conscience and a sense of community and inclusion. Energetic, curious, intelligent and friendly, she participated in figure skating and other sports and spent every summer at her family’s cabin at Muskoka where she developed a lifelong love of canoeing and wilderness adventures. Her father George Bayly’s death she was 16, while her 2 brothers were away at war, had a significant impact on her.

Darby took post-graduate training to become a physiotherapist just as the second world war was ending. Physios were much needed and she loved the work. Her first professional posting was to work in the veterans’ hospital in Vancouver. She sent many story-filled letters home to her mother describing her adventures in exploring a new city.

After moving to Kingston Ontario to work as a physio, she met her beloved husband Gordon - a former RCAF pilot and gliding instructor - who taught her how to glide. Gordon was studying engineering at Queen’s University. They shared a love of adventure and a strong sense of social justice, a love of the outdoors, and a great appreciation of the joys of life. They were married in 1949. Between 1951 and 1962, they had 4 children, while living a somewhat itinerant life, as Gordon worked as an engineer on a variety of projects across Canada.

In 1964, the family moved to Winnipeg where they settled. Two years later Darby attended University of Manitoba to upgrade her physio qualifications and soon after that started work as a physio at what was then the Society for Crippled Children (now Manitoba Possible) where she worked for her entire career. She loved working with children and was a highly regarded physio. Even after retirement, she volunteered her skills (e.g., in Bangladesh) while making overseas trips to visit their daughter Cathy and grandchildren in Japan, and then accompanying Gordon on consulting opportunities in Asia.

Darby delighted in parenting. Highlights were time spent in Vancouver and Victoria where hours were spent on the beach exploring tide pools and other outdoor activities. Darby loved to read and shared this love by enthusiastically reading stories to her children. The Spafford household was always one of welcome for neighbourhood children, friends and newcomers. Gordon and Darby’s beloved property at Lake of the Woods became a family hub for over 40 years, hosting many family reunions, and teaching grand-children and friends many of the arts of wood-craft, canoeing, kayaking and adventuring on wilderness trips.

Darby was a committed church member all her life, and contributed in a variety of ways to the ministries of her various churches, especially St. Georges Crescentwood. Gordon and Darby were central in forming the Refugee Committee at St. Georges, beginning in 1979. Darby’s keen intellect, prodigious memory, and unquenchable curiosity was a great asset to any study group – discussions were like oxygen to her.

After Gordon’s passing in 2013, Darby’s home remained a family center until her health started to weaken. She spent the last 3 years of her life at Misericordia Place where she was expertly cared for by the staff there. Her family deeply appreciates the tenderness and compassion with which MP3 staff enveloped Darby, as well as her family, and their willingness to work as a team in supporting her through this last stage of life.