David Middleton

Biography of David Francis Middleton

david middleton

David Middleton's life is well characterized by his long-term commitments: friendship, cooking, music appreciation, social justice, cooperative initiatives, travel, community development, support for local arts, adult education, conflict resolution through mediation, neighbourhood involvement, gardening and tennis. To each of these interests, he eagerly devoted his time, energy and many skills.

He was born in 1950 in Cobourg, Ontario – the first child of Betty and Bill Middleton. His brother, John, and sister, Joan, were also born in Cobourg. Bill was a career fireman for the Department of National Defense and an avid golfer. Betty's main focuses were her role as wife, mother and home-maker, her active participation in the Catholic Church, and volunteering her assistance to local people in need.

David graduated from Cobourg District Collegiate Institute East in 1968, and he went on to obtain an honours B.A. in History from York University in 1972. While he was at York, the rest of his family moved to Barrie, Ontario. His parents lived there for the rest of their lives, and his brother and sister still live there. After graduation from university, David made his first of many trips abroad – to travel in Europe with a close friend. He moved to Kingston in the spring of 1973, and lived here ever since. He died in the summer of 2010, at sixty years of age.

Because of its excellent location and lovely architecture, his first Kingston residence (with a few good friends) was in Sydenham Ward, long before the evolution of that area into a 'fashionable' Kingston neighbourhood. After a few years there, he moved to a small collective in an old limestone farmhouse that he and others rented on lovely rural land beside the St. Lawrence River, half way between Kingston and Gananoque. A major activity of this group was vegetable gardening, followed by canning and preserving the bounty that they produced each summer. After several happy years there, he moved in 1986 to a house he bought (and always loved) in Kingston's Near North End. The name on the mailbox when he moved in was 'The Taj'. He kept both the mailbox and the house's name, and he resided in The Taj for the rest of his life.

David's first jobs in Kingston included neighbourhood and community development in North Kingston; cooking (at Scarecrow Restaurant and the recently-opened Chez Piggy), research, program evaluation and writing for St. Lawrence College's (former) Department of Community Learning; continuing education in the College's Human Studies Department; and special research and writing projects for Family Mediation Kingston (FMK). He became a member of FMK's permanent mediation team in 1982, and in 1994 was named its executive director. After the agency lost its provincial funding in 2003 (at the time, it was the last Provincially-funded family mediation service in Ontario), he became a freelance mediator in Kingston and nearby cities.

A glance at some of David's many volunteer activities in Kingston gives a clear picture of what was important to him: Allied Indian and Metis Society (support group for Native inmates in regional prisons); Belvedere Housing Cooperative; Princess Court Cinema; Kingston and District Social Planning Council; Kingston Community Legal Clinic; Kingston Artists Association Incorporated (KAAI); Ontario Association for Family Mediation; North Kingston Community Development Council. For most of these agencies and organizations, he quickly became a member of their boards of directors; for several, he was elected board president.

David was pleased and proud that he had visited every non-arctic continent except Australia. It was his great pleasure to travel with close friends and share the excitement and novelty experiences and adventures in other cultures. He especially loved Mexico and went there many times over the years – to Oaxaca, the Yucatan Peninsula and several other locations. Wherever he want, he took photos to capture sights and people from his trips; he especially loved markets, street scenes and other images of the daily lives of local people. A visitor to The Taj would quickly recognize David's love of travel: he proudly displayed photos, art and crafts, cookbooks, and always jars of hot chili peppers from each location.

One of David's first Kingston jobs, in the mid 1970's, was as director of the Community Information Service (CIS), a community development agency for North Kingston located at 286 Montreal St. While he was there, he and two associates wrote A Feasibility Study for Multi-Service This report described the woeful lack of social and cultural services which then existed in North Kingston, and it suggested some directions toward remedying this long-standing inequality.

The 'lessons' of the CIS job, along with insights gained from preparing the report, made a strong impression on David, one that stayed with him the rest of his life. When he moved to the Near North End, and then ended up working in the community as well, he found himself well able to devote considerable energy to a celebration of neighbourhood life, as well as to give support to community and city-wide efforts to redress the imbalances that have characterized life in Kingston north and south of Princess St. for generations.

Many of his closest friends were also his neighbours. This gave him tremendous joy and became perhaps the most significant source of personal pride and fulfillment during his entire life. Nothing would please him more than to know that he was continuing to contribute to the ability of others in his chosen and beloved neighbourhood to enjoy, enhance and celebrate their lives.

Jeff Piker