A Brother’s Loving Tribute: In Memory of Rob Stovel 1951 – 1989

David Stovel doesn’t speak loudly, in fact you need to listen closely to catch every word he says. However, I’ve learned that he means what he says, and he’s deeply passionate about the things in his life that matter most to him. Family is certainly at the top of the list.

Rob Stovel 1951-1989
Rob Stovel 1951-1989

In late October of 2017, CANFAR Chair Andrew Pringle told David that he planned to make a $30,000 donation in recognition of CANFAR’s 30th anniversary, to which Mr. Stovel suggested that he would do the same. “I’d like to do this in honour of my brother Rob, I know he’d like that”. A long-time supporter of CANFAR, David’s contribution will be the first to be granted by the newly created Rob Stovel Foundation.

A member of CANFAR’s Board of Directors and Chair of CANFAR’s investment committee, David and I sat down for a conversation in his office at RBC Wealth Management where he is a Vice President of Wealth Management. I wanted to learn a bit more about his brother Rob, and the intent behind creating the Rob Stovel Foundation.
David had spent the weekend going through some old documents and found a couple of letters from Rob. “One note took me a full half hour to get through. It brought me back in time and stirred up so many emotions.” David wears his heart on his sleeve, and I can tell that this conversation is both heartbreaking and cathartic. “Rob was really one of the kindest guys you could ever hope to meet. I remember him taking my kids who were 5 and 7 at the time, to Disney on Ice. The kids loved it, but I honestly think Rob loved it more. Every moment spent with Craig and Suzanne was a blessing for Rob.”

CANFAR Board Member and Chair of Investment Committee, David Stovel
CANFAR Board Member and Chair of Investment Committee, David Stovel

Reflecting on the weekend of rummaging, David remarks, “Some of the notes I found reflect his love for our family, and particularly my children, but some of them were about the pragmatic details of his life coming to an end – and the importance of support for his partner Rick. These notes were marching orders – and that makes me smile.”

Rob was constantly on the go. He was educated at Upper Canada College, and he spent his final year studying abroad in Switzerland. Afterward, he attended College in Canada. “Rob would frequently fly down to Myrtle Beach to visit our mother – they had a remarkable bond.” It was in Myrtle Beach that Rob shared the fact that he was gay, an issue that caused no concern for Rob’s mother, father, or brother Joe. “They loved him unconditionally.”

David and Rob’s mother passed away in the early 80s – prior to Rob being diagnosed with HIV. “Rob found out that he had AIDS and spent the next year under the care of the staff at Casey House.This allowed him to die at home, as was his wish – almost 30 years ago. It’s really hard to believe it’s been that long. He really was a wonderful man”.

With his now grown children, David set up the Rob Stovel Foundation intended to support CANFAR, and other AIDS Service Organizations, in advancement of their missions. “CANFAR is doing remarkable work with respect to awareness and HIV research. I really can’t imagine a more worthy organization for the Rob Stovel Foundation to support. I know Rob would be pleased to see what we, as a family, are doing in his memory and in his honour. If he were here right now, he’d simply say thank you, and to keep up the good work”.

What David doesn’t say – is that his brother would be terrifically proud of him. The Stovel family has become a champion in the support of HIV research and support services, and they are doing so in the memory of their beloved brother, and uncle.

Authored by Kyle Winters, CANFAR President and Chief Operating Officer