David MacKinnon, New Waterford

David Robert MacKinnon, New Waterford

1964 - 2024

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Obituary of David Robert MacKinnon, New Waterford

David Robert MacKinnon, a beloved father, son, brother, godfather, uncle, great uncle, nephew, friend, business luminary and proud Cape Bretoner, has passed away. His departure on June 13, 2024, in Halifax, N.S. at the age of 59 has stolen the breath of family, friends and colleagues touched by his legendary kindness, humour and integrity.

Born in 1964, David was raised in a “suburban turquoise” house in New Waterford where he learned the Cape Breton code of honour from strong, loving parents, four siblings and a colorful cast of friends with nicknames like “Cheesy,” “Duffy” and “Gussy Crowbar.”

David’s own lifelong nickname – “Storky” – was inspired by his lean physique and soaring height on the Breton Education Centre basketball court as a teen. He attended CBU (UCCB) and Dalhousie University (TUNS) where he earned an engineering degree and later moved to Ontario. He met his future wife, Jill, in a downtown Toronto bar, as their heads towered over the crowd. At the end of the evening, he handed her a business card. When Jill pointed out another woman’s number was scribbled on it, David turned on his iconic charm. Somehow, it worked. He promised to call her later that week. And he did. From that day until his last, every word he uttered about her was adoring. They married in 1998 and had two daughters, Laura and Kelly. In a life of distinguished accolades, his greatest blessing, he insisted, was being their dad. The family lived in Ontario, Fall River (Nova Scotia) and Arizona before settling in Hammonds Plains in 2010.

His professional life began as an entrepreneur when he launched his own technology firm, Robert Gordon & Associates in 1992. His success winning clients meant he needed staff. So he turned first to the people he trusted most – his New Waterford brothers and friends. They knew nothing about technology. But that didn’t matter to David. He knew they intuitively understood something more important.

One summer, as the company was growing in Ontario, several of the boys agreed to pack up and get on a plane to Toronto to live in the basement of Dave and Jill’s Mississauga house. It’s what family does.

That approach became the centre of David’s professional philosophy throughout his career. As he later rose through the corporate ranks of IMP Solutions to become the company’s executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2021, he focused first on people. He wasn’t a boss, his IMP colleagues say with reverence. He was a “true friend” who made bad days better, found the best in them and lifted it up. Anyone who got to know David loved him, whether you were an employee, customer supplier or competitor. He possessed a unique instinct to find that one point of connection with everyone he met and then nurture it. It placed him at the center of a vast constellation of friends, family and colleagues who became inexorably drawn to him. He lived larger than the rest of us. When he planned a boys road trip, it was a bus full of Cape Bretoners. When time came to select the annual Christmas tree, it was a 15-foot, Griswald family ceiling-scraper with 6,000 lights that took seven men to pull upright. When he bought a TV, it was 86” – a size he proudly declared to be one inch larger than the neighbour’s new TV.

On any given day, the warm and welcoming home he created with Jill was a busy central hub. The front door was always open. The kettle was on. There was plenty of room on the couch. Inside, David’s gregarious storytelling, enveloping bear hugs and quick-witted one-liners filled the house with laughter. And if you came broken, he would see that you mend with a soft voice, shared tears and a hand on your back. He was also devilishly unpredictable in the ways he expressed love. David would often assemble a cast of co-conspirators to humiliate a friendly target by orchestrating sophisticated practical jokes.

Those missions, which never failed, became legendary. In the end, the only possible response from the victim of David’s mischievousness was begrudging respect and quiet comfort knowing the whole operation was an act of love.

Not long ago, as the reality of David’s health struggles mounted, he and Jill took a drive to Peggy’s Cove.

As music played in car, the two quietly held hands and stared out at the panorama of ocean, rocks and trees. A song they had never heard before came on the radio. As they listened to the lyrics, he squeezed her hand.

“I wanna live a life so when I die

There's standing room only…

Stop judging my life by my possessions

Start thinking about how many headlights will be in my procession.”

Jill pulled the car to the side of the road. It was too much.

David is survived by Jill, his daughters Laura and Kelly, mother Nancy, siblings, Norma (Scott MacIntyre), Janet (Isaac Hashem), Doug “Brick” (Marcy), Blair “Beast” (Joanne), Murray Nitchke (father in-law), Blair Nitchke “Hamburger” (sister in-law) and a small army of MacKinnon nieces, nephews and cousins who will be recounting the stories of David now inextricably woven into their hearts for the rest of their lives.

David was especially proud of the community of friends and family who rallied around him and his girls but even before illness entered his life. The expression he often used, “there’s a lot of love in the room” is something he would say when human kindness surrounded them, and that was often.

In his passing, the outpouring grief of lifelong friends and family is captured in references to him such as “legend”, “a gentle giant”, “larger than life force”, “great human being”.

He was preceded in death by his father Dan Willie by only four days. The family is planning a celebration of life towards the end of July (details to follow). Love and hugs to all of you who had the pleasure of knowing this incredible beast of a man. Online expressions of sympathy may be sent to the family at: www.vjmcgillivray.ca.