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Nick Cioran

August 2, 2018

The Carleton reported on October 8, 1958, “Nick Cioran hit over for the first McMaster score and led the Marauders with 24 points, three touchdowns and six converts… The air was filled with footballs as quarterback Cioran hit his receivers with monotonous regularity.” 

Nick Cioran was born on February 6, 1937 in Hamilton, Ontario. Growing up during the Depression and World War 2 he learned to make fun from whatever was at hand. He and Jim McArthur, would roam the roads and back alleys, practice basketball, baseball, and football until the streetlights came on, and forge a life-long friendship.

Between his love of sports and science he went on to become a top student at McMaster University and captain of the Marauders football team. It was there that Sylvie Elizabeth Stipsits (finally) caught his eye. From a first date at a tobogganing party Nick quickly discovered that Sylvie was the love of his life. On Halloween of 1959 Nick dressed up as Batman and proposed to his one, only, and lifelong Batgirl. She accepted, and they planned to marry on June 30 of 1960.

The Montreal Alouettes drafted Nick as soon as he graduated with a dual degree in Physics and Physical Education in 1960. If he accepted he would have to leave days before the wedding. Torn, Sylvie convinced him to pursue his dream of playing professional football. His teammates went on to call Nick, “The Scribe,” because he would write Sylvie a love letter every day at training camp and during the season. The delay led them to marry a week before Christmas in 1960, and they celebrated their 58th anniversary with a lobster dinner this past Christmas.

After football Nick completed his teaching certificate and Sylvie’s principal at Nelson Secondary School, Wayne Burns, was desperately in need of a teacher. Sylvie immediately recommended her beloved, and Nick impressed Wayne with his confidence, knowledge, and passion to teach. Something clicked, and Nick and Sylvie became much more than employees. Wayne and his vivacious wife, Nancy, became friends, and were frequent visitors throughout Nick’s life. 

Wayne’s decision to hire Nick made Sylvie and him the first married couple to teach together in Ontario. Despite the board inflicting a draconian contract on them that required them to resign without explanation, they persevered, and taught together throughout their careers. Jennifer Dickson Tooley, a former student, would later remember Nick as, “A true gentleman, carrying lunch through the school hallways to eat with Sylvie.“

A few years later Nick and Sylvie were invited to join Jim McArthur and his wife Fran north to the wilds of Grey County. They found a plot of woods and Nick carved a hole in it and built the house he had always dreamed of. While running water and electricity would come later, this was the house that Nick and Sylvie would raise their sons Cole and Jason in. Wayne Burns recalls visiting one November not long after. With snow drifting through the trees, Nick appeared in shirt-sleeves and a tool belt. “I’ve finally mastered it!” he said.

“What?” said Wayne.

“The fine art of whimsy,” said Nick. And whimsy it was. The deck of the day went on to include a rambling house with five additions, a chicken coop, and a pole house with three workshops, a guest room, a lumber kiln, and a showroom for Nick and Sylvie’s antique business. A boat house, a folly in formal gardens, a sauna house, and fully functional observatory followed. In the last year of his life Nick installed a wood burning stove in the boat house and winterized it.

Nick did all of this while a full time teacher at Nelson, Lord, Elgin, and for the bulk of his career, Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute, the first public grammar school in Upper Canada. Nick’s passion as a teacher shone through generations of students from the community, friends, and his family. He ran clubs and coached teams. He took students to Cape Canaveral to see the Apollo launches. Bill Legate, one former student, said, “Mr. Cioran was a truly inspirational teacher, one who helped me see the path I would want to take as a teacher myself.”

Beyond Cole and Jason, Nick also welcomed a friend of his son’s, and student, Dan Duncan, as a son and part of the family. Nick and Sylvie went on to see their three sons happily married and together to this day: Cole and Suzy, Dan and Lisa, and Jason and Yvette. Although he had no daughters of his own, his niece Lee lived with Nick and Sylvie for years. He also walked his niece Shelly down the aisle, and loved them both every day of their lives.

Eventually Nick and Sylvie retired. Nick took his hobby as a racquetball player further and went on to win the Canadian championships. It was at a racquetball tournament that he had his first heart attack. Fortune intervened. A doctor and ER nurse were watching the game. The facility had one of the first Automatic Electric Defibrillators installed. The fire department’s emergency response team was fuelling up their truck across the street. Joe Brant hospital was next door. Nick was quickly resuscitated and went on to make an astounding recovery and win the world masters’ championships.

This also bought him over a decade where Nick got to know and love his eight grandchildren: Dylan, Talis, Jordan, Aija, Nathan, Adam, Nyls, and Emma.  All count themselves lucky to have known their Papa Nick, the pirate who hid chocolate coins for them while they slept, the astronomer who introduced them to the mysteries of the universe through his telescope, and the grandfather who loved them to the last moments when his heart finally failed him this Thursday past.

Nick lives on in the memories of the students, friends, and family who love him.

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