John Baigent – May 1, 1941-Dec 3, 2016


Posted by Dave Crozier, Partners’ Tech Volunteer and close friend of John​ in Enderby

We are saddened to let you know that John Baigent passed away peacefully on Saturday, December 3rd, 2016 at his farm in Enderby, BC surrounded by his family. He was 75 and fought a long heroic battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) with the constant care of his wife, Woinshet Bayssie and support from all of his 6 children (Kevin, Marty, Andrew, Spring, Joey and Tigist) and their families and a very few others close to him in whom he had confided.

John was the co-founder of Partners in the Horn of Africa, the original Executive Director from 2001 to 2012 and was still a member of our Board. Partners is the culmination of John’s 50 year love affair with Africa that started with two years as a CUSO volunteer teacher in Ghana. John had some strong ideas about effective international aid which he demonstrated with his model for Partners which focused on responding to choices made by the communities and requiring the communities to contribute in some fashion to their projects. John’s passion and gift for story-telling made for a compelling inspiration that motivated many Canadian donors, volunteers and long-serving Board members to be enthusiastically involved, and of course made connections to many Ethiopians and their communities as the respectful partnerships with Partners enhanced the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians.

A close Enderby friend has written a fitting tribute to John:
“I am struggling with my own grief over losing John too and all that he meant to us. What good company he was! I always felt like my best self when I was around him. He instilled in me that kind of self-confidence and he showed an interest in me as a person that I have found so rare in my life. I felt like I could talk to him about anything and he always listened and had a thoughtful response. His sense of humour, his laugh, his passion for the people and country of Ethiopia, his determination to provide a good life for Woinshet and Tigist and his endless compassion and altruism for people in undeveloped countries. I told him a while back that I had a very hard time imagining a world without him in it, and now I see that this world I couldn’t imagine has come to pass.”

John Baigent has inspired many to help improve the lives of others in this world. He will be missed.

John’s obituary, as below, was in the Globe & Mail and Vancouver Sun on Saturday, Dec 17, 2016
<< Click here for a copy of John’s obituary as it appeared in the Globe & Mail on Sat Dec 17 >>


MAY 1, 1941 – DECEMBER 3, 2016
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic
Van Morrison

The Path: John grew up in Toronto (for which he never quite forgave
his parents) with an English Canadian dad, Murray, and French Canadian
mom, Suzanne. His French Canadian roots prevailed and at 15 he moved
to Montreal to live with his beloved Aunt Therese Barré and attend Loyola
High School. Thus began an enduring love affair with La Belle Province.
High school was followed by two reflective and formative years in a
Jesuit seminary (perhaps an early indication of a bent for the law) and
then a return to Montreal for a B.A. at Loyola College, now Concordia.
After his B.A., Africa beckoned and John headed to Ghana for two years
of teaching high school as a CUSO volunteer, an experience that shaped
his life forever. This was followed by a year in Ottawa running CUSO’s
West Africa program. Then off to law school (Dalhousie and Harvard)
before moving to British Columbia in 1970 and practicing labour law in
Vancouver for 20 years. Finally, founding and running Partners in the
Horn of Africa, a Canadian aid organization based in Enderby and focused
on Ethiopia where Ethiopians were “partners” in projects they chose for
their communities. John spent a good part of the last 15 years living and
working in Ethiopia, a country he loved and whose culture and people he
greatly admired.

The Highlights: Coming of age in Quebec during the Quiet Revolution and
early years of the Peace Corps, developing a sense of social justice and
seeing life as an opportunity for social change and an obligation to help
others; raising 6 wonderful children (Kevin, Martin, Andrew, Spring, Joey
and Tigist) and enjoying loving relationships with Diane, Marguerite and
Woinshet; representing working people for many years and practicing law
in the early days of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, arguing on behalf
of trade unions for a broad interpretation of Canada’s basic freedoms of
association and expression; swinging dry flies across the Bulkley River for
summer steelhead; spending months on end in the land of Prester John
and learning so much about true “civilization” from the people of Ethiopia
whose lack of material wealth allows them to treasure and nurture
personal relationships. And ten wonderful end years with Woinshet.

Final Notes: John was grateful for an early diagnosis of AML, which he
chose to share with only a very few as he did not want to be treated any
differently because of his illness. The knowledge of his diagnosis allowed
him to devote the last years of his life to family and friends and deepen
his relationship with his 8 grandchildren and his Ethiopian daughter,
Tigist, all of whom he was so proud. He left us with few regrets and a
sense of gratitude for “a good run.”

“My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I
have been given much and I have given something in return.” ~ Oliver Sachs

A Celebration of Life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 4,
2017 at the Riverside Community Hall on Trinity Valley Road, 10km east
of Enderby.


by Partners in the Horn of Africa