Remembering Duncan Haimerl

NEMPA is still mourning the loss of long-time member and friend Duncan Haimerl. His friend and colleague John White shares his remembrance below. Duncan is fondly remembered by all and is greatly missed. You’re welcome to add to John’s reminisces by adding a comment.
Duncan Haimerl

I first met Duncan back in 1979 when he was working for the Montreal Star.  At first glance he was a an overly large shambling man with  mismatched clothes and stains on his tie but, once engaged in conversation, it became  apparent  Duncan was large in a good many ways — in mind, heart and spirit.

He had no easy time of it. He had personal setbacks, family burdens.  Professionally, he always seemed to be starting from the back of the pack, the perceived bumpkin competing with media  sophisticates, until he ultimately would prove his worth.  But he  had talent; he could write, and that talent took him far.  He had an encyclopedic  knowledge of things  diverse, mundane, extraordinary.  He was  a font of knowledge  of railroads; he knew more about Canadian rail transport than the “barons” who ran the them. There was literally no subject that could creep into a discussion about which Duncan was not informed, knowledgeable, and able to illuminate his peers.

Duncan achieved professional renown, stained clothes notwithstanding.

He took on Indian tribes and the Canadian government in a long battle to save a child, his grandson Ishmael,  a grueling trial that wore on him  immensely.  He persevered and won; that victory proved his greatest joy.

Duncan always looked out of place tramping the halls of automotive commerce, the “mountain man” as his family called him, threading his way among the smart suits in Detroit, New York and elsewhere.  He was “directionally challenged” and, as such, a source of amusement.  Duncan went the “other east,” took the  really wrong turn,  forgot to get off the train — but if you needed a lift, he was available.

Directionally challenged in a car, on the road — yes.  But in life  Duncan had the true compass, a moral compass that always pointed true north.  In a business where  shortcut came to mean a lot more than merely the quickest route from point A to point B, Duncan always knew the right road, the high road, and he never left it.

We shared  a lot of good times over the years; we shared a birthday, the unfortunate happenstance of birth on Christmas Eve.  We exchanged greetings every year via telephone.  I shall miss that this year; I miss Duncan.

Long life is a mixed blessing; we survive, but to mourn those who do not.

John R. White

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3 Responses to Remembering Duncan Haimerl

  1. Keith Griffin June 19, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    Above all, I remember how much Duncan loved my girls. He took scores of pictures of them – and I never saw one, which also seems like Duncan. BTW, did any other NEMPA members know that Duncan was a Trekkie? In all the long talks I had with him on ride and drives, I never knew.
    On a serious note, the efforts Duncan and Nancy did on behalf of Ishmael have guaranteed Duncan a place in heaven – mostly like on a Canadian railroad car.

  2. Robert Pihlaja June 19, 2010 at 8:44 pm #


    That was a touching tribute to my Uncle Dunc! All your words and observations about him are true.

    It was those same attributes that I observed while growing up that made him one of the role models and influences in my life.

    He will be missed.

    Rob Pihlaja

  3. Antoinette Arianna June 21, 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word.

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