Memory of a family legend won’t soon fade

It seems almost inconceivable that 25 years have passed since the death of my brother Stu. He was always a larger-than-life figure in our family as the eldest sibling in a family of 10 kids.

It seems almost inconceivable that 25 years have passed since the death of my brother Stu. He was always a larger-than-life figure in our family as the eldest sibling in a family of 10 kids.

Stu was one of those highly driven people who measured himself against the world in every facet of his life. His death on March 3, 1986, was a highly unnecessary outcome to a series of misadventures that garnered national attention.

He was a staff sergeant in the RCMP in 1986 and he was killing time in Ottawa prior to a return to Bogota, Colombia, as a part of an international drug investigation team. Now one would assume that Ottawa would be a lot safer than Colombia in the 1980s and that assumption would be very accurate.

But Stu had broken his leg on an icy Ottawa sidewalk in January 1986 and things subsequently got very complicated for him. The initial problem was that nobody would stop and assist him as he lay on the sidewalk waving his arms for help.

So he crawled to a nearby house and got help. The lack of compassion spurred him to write a letter to the Ottawa Citizen newspaper outlining his predicament — and Stu was a formidable writer.

The problem got worse for Stu as the cast was not properly set on his broken leg. Stu’s steadfast fear of Murphy’s Law was again weaving its magic on his life. Eventually Stu had a re-cast placed on his leg, after which he suffered some unexpected pains in his chest that were diagnosed as pleurisy by his physician.

It turned out that Stu actually had clot movement from the fracture to his lungs. It also turned out to be fatal. He died in his Ottawa home trying to dial for help.

The result was instant devastation for our family. We couldn’t comprehend how such a powerful character could ever succumb to something like a broken leg. Stu had been in many dangerous situations because of his investigative work in the international drug trade.

We weren’t immune to the concept that Stu might die due to the hazards of his job, but none of us saw this scenario from a mere broken leg in Ottawa, of all places. It left us with a big vacancy at the head of our family.

We had all embraced Stu as a very driven guy who loved his fun as much as his work. He had seen the world and he was one of those guys who absorbed his world like a sponge. He was big on detail and he could weave a picture like nobody who I had ever met in life.

Even if he wasn’t my brother I would have been more than happy to listen to his encounters with everybody from Walter Cronkite, former UN Secretary General U Thant and Pierre Trudeau to Jimmy Buffett.

A visit to Red Deer was always a big holiday for Stu. He loved his hometown and he loved dialing down to a relaxed pace while he was home.

The biggest sign that Stu was home was the giant stack of books and magazines outside of his bedroom. He read everything from War and Peace to Archie comics in an effort to satisfy his reading addiction.

He competed at everything in life from football, hockey, basketball and track to Trivial Pursuit. First place was the only acceptable position for Stu, so it was always fun to beat him at anything just to rile him up.

Now 25 years have already passed since Stu’s untimely death. It’s funny how I remember watching him play high school football when I was a pre-schooler. Our mother was very concerned that Stu might break his leg playing football, and that is the only reason I remember the game at such a young age.

I took it literally as a child and assumed that meant his leg would break off completely. Who knew that a broken leg would one day actually kill the guy who was Superman in his family?

It still seems crazy — even after all these years.

Jim Sutherland is a local freelance writer. He can be reached at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The QEII was closed Sunday morning due to a pole fire. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
UPDATE: QEII near Red Deer reopens

The QEII has been reopened after being closed due to a pole… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

San Jose's Tomas Hertl, center, celebrates with teammates Patrick Marleau, left, and Rudolfs Blacers, right, after Hertl scored a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Friday, April 16, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s games record

For Patrick Marleau, the best part about Monday night when he is… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

WASHINGTON — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at… Continue reading

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Federal government to send health-care workers to Ontario, Trudeau says

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says federal departments and some Canadian… Continue reading

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

Most Read