Dr. John Robert Nicholas Lazier

1 noviembre , 19369 marzo , 2021
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It is with great sadness we announce that Dr. John Robert Nicholas Lazier died peacefully on March 9, 2021 at the Victoria General Hospital, Halifax. He was 84 years old. He is survived by his wife Dr. Catherine Lazier, Halifax; sister Mary Lazier, Violet Hill, Ontario; children Kate (Jane Pyper), Toronto; Rebecca (Price Waldman), New York; Nicholas (Jennifer Lazier), Halifax; and his beloved grandchildren, Jasper, Sylvia and Grace Waldman; Alyssa and Sophia Lazier. He was predeceased by his sister, Anne Lazier (Toronto).

Born in Toronto (November 1, 1936) to Helen Laura (Gourley) and Morley John Campbell Lazier, John showed us how to live life.

He grew up on Glengrove Ave. in Toronto at a time when you could play in the green fields north of Lawrence. He attended Lawrence Park Collegiate, then completed a BSc in physics at University of Toronto. It was there that he asked Catherine Sheldon, a biochemistry major, out for a “coffee sometime”. She said she would go for a “beer right now”. And that led to 59 years of harmonious marriage and three children: Kate, Rebecca and Nicholas.

After moving to Vancouver for a MSc and then to Southampton, England for a PhD, the family settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where John was a physical oceanographer at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, studying the Labrador Sea. He went to sea on 45 expeditions, many on the CSS Hudson, often as Chief Scientist, leading to numerous influential articles in a range of journals. He completed the first fully three-dimensional survey of the physics, oxygen, and nutrients of the Labrador Sea. He co-wrote the award-winning textbook, Dynamics of Marine Ecosystems in 1991, still in use today. John received many awards including the J.P. Tully Medal in Oceanography by the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society. He was clearly very accomplished but understated and self-effacing: Most family only knew stories of the expensive instruments lost at sea, storms and rescues.

But John’s work reached far beyond the ocean. He spent prodigious time at what he affectionately called the “work farm”, an ocean side property on Mahone Bay where he toiled year after year in pursuit of garden perfection. He hauled seaweed on to beds, built gorgeous fences, roto-tilled, weeded and wrote detailed notes to himself about what to do differently next year. His annual garlic giveaway was prized by friends and family. We delighted in the delicious fruits of his labour. Since his illness we’ve tried, with middling success, to keep his gardens going, and discovered just how productive and talented he was.

John had wide-ranging interests and skills. He was a beekeeper, sailor, jam-maker, squash player and amateur astronomer. He could carve a turkey or debone a whole fish at a big dinner party with great elan. He could fix most things around the house, and did. He was methodical and meticulous. He found time to contribute to the community by serving on the boards of the Canadian Diabetes Association and the Heritage Trust.

John loved his family implicitly, with constancy. He encouraged his kids and grandkids to take adventures, to follow their interests, nudging them towards independence. He was extremely generous, believing that his good fortune should be passed along when it was helpful. He gave gifts that showed he was paying attention. He supported other family members as an uncle, grandfather, cousin and brother.

What’s harder to capture is the silliness, the house parties filled with people, his gentle respect of everyone around him, and his enjoyment of music that took him to see Louis Armstrong at Massey Hall and Renée Fleming at Lincoln Center. But we remember.

In 1952, John received the Manual for Seamanship from his father, Morley, who inscribed the following: “With my hopes that he may have a fair wind and prosperous voyage.” He did and he will.

The family is very grateful for the excellent medical and nursing care John received at the Victoria General and to Devorah Gillard for her tender and thoughtful care.

Donations in John’s memory can be made to Symphony Nova Scotia or Scotia Festival of Music.

Due to Covid-19 the funeral service will be private. To view an online live stream of the service please visit Burial will be at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax.

A public celebration of John’s life will be held once we are all vaccinated.


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Dr. John Robert Nicholas Lazier


Michael Rochester

23 junio , 2021

I am grieved to learn of John's death. He was in the first Physics class I taught as a young lecturer at the University of Toronto in 1959-60. Many years later he told me that it was that class that had moved him, at the end of that academic year, to apply for a position at what became the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. The great success of his subsequent research career at BIO cannot but be a source of pleasure to all his professors.

Our connection had one other tie: John's father, Morley, was a close friend of my father in the 1930s. I have never forgotten a lively argument between the two of them about the correct pronunciation of the word "forehead".

With warmest regards and sympathy to Catherine and their family.

Paul Dunphy

13 junio , 2021

I am saddened to hear of John's passing. I was a co-worker of his at BIO, and I sailed with him numerous times when he was the Cheif Scientist on the cruise. What a pleasure to work with John! He always had time to explain the scientific programs, and he and I often sat in his cabin exchanging stories about whatever came up - be it science or the news of the day.

I considered him one of my best friends at BIO, even though I was not a research scientist. John was the kind of person you wanted to help collect and analyze data, spend time with, and he always treated us fairly and with respect. If I had to sum up my feelings in one sentence, I'd say John was a kind, caring person with a unique ability to inspire the best in those who knew him.

Rainer and Renate Friedrich

29 marzo , 2021

Dear Cathy, Kate, Rebecca, and Nicholas,

To all of you, our condolences on John’s passing. We learned of it when coming across the remarkable obituary; it eloquently testifies to the life, so rich and full of accomplishments, that John has lived. When meeting him at the Symphony, at the Scotia Festival or at parties it has always been a pleasure to catch up with his latest plans and experiences, among them perhaps a newly discovered wine. This will be greatly missed.

With heartfelt sympathy,

Rainer and Renate

Frances Gregor

23 marzo , 2021

My condolences on the passing of your husband, John. I did not know him but have learned from his obituary what an accomplished individual he was. No surprise there....he was married to you! I hope the memories generated by your years together will ease your grief. I hope to see you at the Chester market this summer.
Fran Gregor

Hilda and Stuart Grossert

21 marzo , 2021

Dear Cathy, Kate, Rebecca and Nick:

We were saddened to hear of John's passing. We remember him first as an affable, long-time neighbour and later it was always a pleasure to see him for a chat at SNS and Scotia Festival concerts,

We hope you will take comfort in your memories of a life so filled with many wonderful accomplishments,

Hilda and Stuart

Jill Hamilton

21 marzo , 2021

Dear Cathy, Kate, Becca and Nick,

Paul and I were very sad to hear of John's death. We heard he was ailing and that he was lucky enough to have the love and support of several family members with him over the past few months. That would have meant the world to him.

John was a very special neighbour on LeMarchant St. Always outgoing and good natured. He was so proud of each of you.

You will miss him terribly, but hopefully with time the good memories will outweigh the loss you are feeling now.

Mairi MacKay

19 marzo , 2021

A lovely obituary for a lovely man. So many wonderful dinners and visits to Chester. My heart goes out to You, Cathy, Nick, Becca and Kate.

Kirsten (Kisa) Mortenson

18 marzo , 2021

My condolences to Catherine, Kate, Rebecca, Nicholas and family on your loss. I keep thinking about the incredible legacy John leaves behind in his family, in his work, and all his amazing talents. I left Halifax as a child but have special memories of spending time with the Lazier family. I especially remember going to Chester and playing with Rebecca by the water. At dinner, everyone gathered for dinner and had mussels. One of which had many tiny pearls. I will cherish those memories and the time I spent with John's family.

Sonia Salisbury Muphy

18 marzo , 2021

Dear Cathy,
The obituary was beautiful, and told a bit about the man. Many happy years fly by without us knowing it. On reflection there is a warmth that comes from the memories of your times together and with your children.



Edward Horne

18 marzo , 2021

I was very sorry to hear of John's passing. John was at BIO when I arrived and I went to sea several times with him. He taught me not only about the Labrador Sea but how to lead a cruise and how to lead people. With our mutual interests in gardening, bees and sailing we always had lots to talk about. I especially remember our wonderful annual get together at the farm. Such wonderful memories. My deepest sympathy to Cathy and the rest of the family.