The Innisfil community of De Grassi Point gathered Saturday to celebrate the life of John Alexander Wardrop, who died on Aug. 3 at the age of 92.
Wardrop was introduced to De Grassi Point as a child and his love for the cottage area and Lake Simcoe led him to make it his year-round home, becoming the first permanent resident of De Grassi Place and its “unofficial mayor."
With his interest in people and his dedication to service, Wardrop had multiple careers over the decades – first with the Ministry of Transportation, then with Parkview Transit. He also became part of the “South Simcoe police family,” through his support of the amalgamated police force.
He contributed to police services whenever he could — in Toronto, Bradford, Innisfil and York Region — but became more deeply involved when, shortly after the amalgamation of the Innisfil and Bradford West Gwillimbury police services, he was chosen as Innisfil’s municipal representative on the local police services board.
Wardrop would go on to raise money for the police department, serve on the recruitment committee and provide endless support and encouragement to its officers, especially the marine unit.
His contributions were recognized when South Simcoe police named its first police boat the J.A. Wardrop, and its replacement, a few years later, the Wardrop II.
Whenever the police boat passed his home on De Grassi Point while on patrol, officers would sound the air horn or siren in salute, and Wardrop would come down to the shore of Lake Simcoe to wave.
On Thanksgiving weekend, family members, friends, colleagues and members of the South Simcoe Police Service attended a celebration of life for “Dad, Grandad, Pop, and as you know him, John Wardrop,” said daughter Liz. “He made a connection with you. … He treated you with kindness, care and respect. He was a gentleman.”
Harry Walker shared memories of the coffee meetings that Wardrop hosted in his home – “a longstanding tradition in the wider community” for 30 years, attended by “De Grassi neighbours, Lefroy neighbours, federal, provincial, municipal politicians. It was always interesting.”
And even if the coffee was “pretty awful… it wasn’t about the coffee. It was about the stories, the fun and the friendship,” Walker said. “John will be very sorely missed at the Point for all he did.”
“He was truly a member of South Simcoe police,” said former South Simcoe police inspector Steve Wilson, now division chief of investigations with the Toronto Fire Service.
Wilson first met John Wardrop as a constable with Bradford Police Service – a friendship that was to endure.
“My first impression was how kind and how genuine he was,” said Wilson, noting that some of Wardrop’s proudest moments came when he was appointed to the police services board, and when the department named its first police boat in his honour.
“He was such a great friend to all of the police community. The marine unit was always a favourite with John,” Wilson said, directing guests to look out over Lake Simcoe where the York Regional Police boat sounded “a final siren” for John Alexander Wardrop as it sped past.
Among those attending the celebration of life were Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin and former mayor Gord Wauchope; police officers, neighbours, colleagues from his days at the MTO and Parkview, family members and acquaintances whose lives he had touched with his sincerity, caring and open hospitality.
Granddaughter Allison, employed in the food, wine and hospitality sector, defined hospitality as “the friendly and generous reception of friends, guests and strangers,” and “one of the pillars that made grandad who he was to so many people.”
“For Granddad, it was community, connection and conversation," she added.
“He will always hold a special place in our hearts,” said Liz.