It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. James Duncan. James was born at the Calgary General Hospital on January 07, 1931. He was the third child of Dr. Harvey Duncan and his wife, Dorothy Dixon. James grew up in Scarboro, Calgary, in a wonderful house with a large garden, the perfect place for many adventures with his adored sister, June, and his brother, Richard. Summers often included a wonderful exploration of Hornby Island, with their Dad filming silent movies of their antics.
James was a genuinely sweet and caring man who wanted to help people and animals alike. He always had a winning smile and a twinkle in his eye and was up for anything. After attending Western Canada High School, he went on to the University of Alberta. There, he received a degree in Zoology prior to receiving his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1958. He enjoyed Frat life to the fullest and made many wonderful lifelong friends. Upon graduation, a group of these buddies bought a property in Sylvan Lake. The esteemed LH Estates, where many wonderful years were spent with his beloved University cohorts and eventually their spouses, children, and grandchildren - a close extended family that has endured for decades.
James met the love of his life, Marjorie Ellen Harrison, in 1959. He was practicing dentistry in the Grey Hound building in downtown Calgary and Marjorie was working at the pharmacy on the main floor of the building. They were besotted with each other and married on January 30, 1960. They had three beloved children: Laura June, James Dixon, and Dawn Ellen.
James had many interests and hobbies. He was an avid traveller and enjoyed adventures all over the world. One of the highlights was when he attended the Vimy Memorial where his father had fought in World War I. His other hobbies included photography, gardening, fishing, singing, and learning new languages. In addition to French, some German, and Spanish, he learned Mandarin Chinese.
James loved people and was a charter member of the Stampede City Gyro, an international friendship club. He and Marge enjoyed many wonderful occasions across Canada and the US with their pals from Gyro. Their last singing and dancing performance was a wonderful rendition of Chicago.
His love of animals prompted him to get involved in the Calgary Zoo. He joined the board in 1962, was the president of the Calgary Zoological Society from 1983-1987, and was on the board for 27 years. In 1979 Jim was asked to look at one of the Orangutans who was “off his feed” and so began his pioneering dentistry for the animals at the zoo. He ended up developing endodontic procedures (root canals!) for these larger carnivores. He treated a number of animals, including, the Siberian Tiger, Snow Leopard, Panther, Bears (Polar, Grizzly, and Spectacle) as well as Lemurs, Gorillas, Orangutans, and a Patas monkey (which his daughter Dawn, who was studying Primatology at the U of C at the time, was thrilled to assist with). James and Dawn collaborated again to bring the world-famous Primatologist, Jane Goodall, from Africa to Calgary on two occasions to speak at the Jubilee Auditorium and the Calgary Zoo atrium. In 1984 Jim travelled to China to lay the groundwork for bringing the Panda Bears over to Calgary for the 1988 Olympics. (Speaking Mandarin came in handy!)
James was loved and adored by all who knew him. He was a much-loved husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend. Jim is predeceased by his wife, Marjorie; his sister June (Bill) Montgomery; and his brother Richard (Kay) Duncan. He will be sadly missed by all, but especially by his children; Laura (James) Broadbent, James Duncan, and Dawn (Eric) Verheylewegen, his grandchildren; Emily (Josh), Gillian (Dan), Jonathan (Christine), and Hugh, and his three angelic little great-grandchildren.
We can take solace knowing that he is with Marge now singing and dancing in Heaven. Forever whispering, “I love you so”.
Due to Covid restrictions, no service will be held at this time.
To send sympathy gifts to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dr. James Roger Duncan, please visit our tribute store.