On Sept. 1, 2022, early in the morning, Dr. Nick Jaco died. He would have been 102 years old in three weeks’ time.
He leaves to mourn his wife of 66 years, Rose Marie, his four children, Nicholas, Peter, Jennifer and Christopher, and their spouses, Lola Weller, Candida Jaco and Robert McKay.
His eight grandchildren are also saddened by his death. They are Samantha and Jaqueline Jaco, Charles and Emily Jaco, and Alastair, Cecelia, Emma and Fiona McKay. Nick delighted in his two great-grandsons, Iver and Elek McKay and declared that they were certainly among the most beautiful children he had ever encountered.
Family members who also feel his loss are his Cornish relatives, especially his niece Mellyn, his nephews Glynn and Trevenen, and his many cousins in the extended Jaco family.
As a pediatrician, Nick met and healed many children of all ages but kept a very special place in his heart for premature babies. He approached their care with great compassion for the families and a careful application of the latest developments in neonatology for infants.
Nick had a long career in medicine prior to coming to London in 1966 to help establish a neonatal intensive care unit at St. Joseph's Hospital.
Born in the town of Liskeard, Cornwall, U.K., he was fond of recalling two highlights from his childhood. The first was when Edward, Prince of Wales, was touring Cornwall and met baby Nick with his parents, who were part of the flag-waving crowd. The prince noticed the child, pronounced him a very beautiful baby, and so provided for the family the royal seal of approval. The second was the birth of his little sister, Pamela, which he recalls as a joyous occasion. They remained close friends all their lives.
Nick proved to be a gifted student, particularly in mathematics, and in 1938 he received a County of Cornwall scholarship to study mathematics at Merton College, Oxford. The unexpected death of his father that year caused him to develop an interest in health care, and he transferred to the medical faculty in his second year. He studied under the guidance of many noted physicians and became a specialist in internal medicine prior to studying pediatrics.
In 1954, Nick immigrated to Canada with the intention of establishing a referred practice in a suitable location. After a year at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Nick moved to Sudbury, Ont., where he was attached to the Sudbury General Hospital.
His fiancée, Rose Marie, was a psychiatric social worker in the hospital, and they married in 1956. Their four children were born in the hospital and were destined to travel with their father in the development of his career.
The first journey took the family to New York, where Nick began his work with newborns at what was then Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. After three years of work and study, Nick accepted the position of chief of pediatrics for the County of Cornwall, and the family moved to Britain, to the city of Truro. There they lived in a large and ancient stone vicarage attached to Kenwyn Church, and the children began to adapt to the exacting British educational system.
But after a few years as a general pediatrician, Nick's interest in the premature newborn reasserted itself, and he accepted the position of chief of pediatrics at St. Joseph's Hospital in London, where he helped create the neonatal intensive care unit.
Throughout his many years of practice, he has met many of his former tiny patients, now robust teenagers or young adults, who claim him as the doctor who saved their lives.
Nick had many gifts and hobbies. He was very fond of music and enjoyed playing the piano, especially jazz compositions. He was an accomplished artist in both oils and watercolours and a keen member of the brush and palette club. Another interest was photography, and he always managed to find space for a darkroom in any home the family inhabited.
A very special place for Nick was the family cottage on Four Mile Island in the French River, just south of Sudbury. That was where he fished, painted, took photographs, and enjoyed the company of his children and grandchildren. Fortunately, he was able to spend some time near the end of his life relaxing on the French River in the company of his sons, Peter and Christopher.
Travelling was also a source of great pleasure for Nick and Rose Marie, and they enjoyed their many visits to Nick and his family in Australia, to Peter and his family in Edinburgh and to the Jaco clan in Cornwall. Holidays in Portugal, France, Spain, Greece, Tasmania, New Zealand and Costa Rica gave Nick the opportunity to photograph and paint many beautiful scenes.
When asked about his remarkable longevity, Nick would reply that he attributed it to his enjoyment of a daily glass of whisky before dinner. Since he knew that this piece of wisdom had little explanatory power, he would also confide that he was as puzzled as anyone by the length of his life, and he had no idea why he had been chosen to have the gift of years.
For the last four years of his life, Nick enjoyed a quiet, pleasant time at Windermere on the Mount. Although he gradually lost the ability to be active, he was still able to paint a charming scene in his last week at the cottage. His final days were eased by the attentive management provided by the palliative care team, and he died without pain in his own bed at home, with family members nearby.