Delivered by Phee Vania
afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, I have the honour today of speaking
about our very beloved Yezdi uncle.
Ford said, "To do more for the world than the world does for you -
that is success." Martin Luther King Jr said, "Life's most
urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" And Anne Frank
said, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment
before starting to improve the world." Each of these luminaries
could have been speaking directly about Yezdi Uncle. He quietly went
about making the world a better place, ever expanding his sphere of
influence and kindness where he could, to make a positive difference.
Yezdi uncle’s wish for humanity was ‘prosperity, cooperation and
peace for all’. Yezdi was a very charitable, unassuming, selfless and
down to earth person and throughout his lifetime, single-handedly and as
a representative of our Zoroastrian community, in his professional and
priestly capacities, he did as much as he could to help others.
of us has special memories of Yezdi uncle and as I provide this brief
overview of his life I do hope it will spark a memory in you of a
special time you shared with him. Our families have had a long and happy
closeness and while I am speaking these words to you today, many were
written by my father Bomy Boyce. The two men shared a long and caring
friendship that thrived for decades. Let’s walk a few steps together
in the journey of Yezdi uncle’s life.
Antia was born in 1922 and he was in fact a gift to the Zoroastrian
community. Those of us who had the privilege of being closely associated
with and touched by him are truly fortunate and enriched.
uncle was born in Deolali, a small town outside Bombay. He grew up in
the spiritual surroundings of an Agiary, with his mother Shirinbai and
where his father, Pirojshaw had a Panthak. He was born in a large family
and was the youngest of 7 brothers and 2 sisters. He remained close to
them all through his life.
uncle was ordained as a Priest in his young years. As time progressed,
he studied in Poona and obtained his degree in Civil Engineering in
1950. His sojourn in Poona brought out his sporting nature and he became
known as a Master Oarsman and represented his College in boating events
as well as boxing and wrestling.
passion for continuing education took him to Paris, where he studied and
learned the French language, which he found gentle and endearing, as he
himself was. He continued to improve his skills and mastery of the
French language even while living in Toronto and I recall that at
parties he would very happily ask me, Comment ca va? And he would smile
that wonderful smile of his, and the beauty of his soul
seemed to shine through in his smile.
met his future wife Perin in Poona and they courted on the river while
boating. Perin and he both moved to Bombay, where they married in 1952
and they had two sons, Zahir and Raymond. Yezdi uncle and Perin aunty
enjoyed a marriage that lasted over 40 years.
uncle moved to Canada in the summer of 1967, and summer remained his
favourite season. He stayed with a German family and found it a lonely
and miserable existence without his wife and two sons. Then he met
Dinshaw and Armaity Kanga in Toronto. They had a spare bedroom and with
characteristic kindness, they invited Yezdi uncle to move in with them
and he more happily passed the time until he was joined a few months
later by Perin aunty, Zahir and Rayo. That is when the bond between the
Kangas and Antias began, and it endures to this day.
and Perin with equal ease developed close bonds with many others. Just
as they served our Zoroastrian community well, both Perin aunty and he
served the Government of Ontario until their retirement – Perin aunty
in education and Yezdi as a Civil Engineer.
uncle also offered his Priestly services to the small Zoroastrian
community we were at that time. The community gratefully welcomed and
benefited from his religious guidance and leadership. Yezdi uncle ably
performed numerous services like Navjotes, Weddings, Jashans and death
rituals. He has graced my family by performing all of these religious
services for us, and looking around the room I know he has performed
many of these ceremonies for the families present today. Many a time I
would call him up and ask him if I was ‘allowed’ to do this or if I
‘had’ to observe that. He always looked at the
spirit of things and insisted on a very common-sense, inclusive
approach and never forced limitations on people as he
carried out the service of the Lord.
never charged for his priestly services and volunteered himself wherever
necessary in other locations in Canada and the US where many years ago
there was a serious shortness of such services. Like the
ripples in a pond, the work of this one very special man spread out and
touched the lives of many others. He became exceedingly well
known and he earned the fond title of our "Parsee Pope".
was one of the three who formed the initial constitution of the ZSO and
he was a ZSO President in the Seventies. He also became the President of
North America’s Mobed Council and because of his vast knowledge, he
was asked to write a book on Zoroastrian rites for the young initiates,
which he did. He was one of the two people to organize the first
Zoroastrian Congress in North America, held in Toronto in the 1970s.
This established a pattern and several other North American Congresses
followed. Many of us in this room would appreciate that his actions led
to a strong IMPACT!
uncle was a great ambassador for our community to many different
audiences. Yezdi uncle quietly but consistently acted on his beliefs. He
had an unshakeable belief in the brotherhood of man and in 1982 along
with 5 representatives of other faiths, he formed the Mosaic, an
Interfaith group that seeks to create understanding, harmony and
peaceful co-existence by education, friendship and dialogue. He also
enjoyed visiting schools and teaching about Zoroastrianism. He was
involved in the Provincial Ecumenical Education Commission who, amongst
other things, collates articles and readings from all faiths to assist
in Interfaith education. He was invited to attend the Mayor’s
Interfaith Council breakfasts in Toronto and he was part of a group who
blessed the first Peace Fountain at Toronto City Hall. He represented
Zoroastrians at Interfaith programs and was invited to meet Pope John
Paul during his visit to Canada.
participated in the Scarboro Missions Interfaith Program, which produced
the Golden Rule Emblem, presently displayed in the United Nations and
all around the world. He was invited to meet and participate at every
opportunity in Interfaith. As recently as 2008, despite significant
health challenges, he addressed the World Youth Interfaith Assembly at
the University of Toronto.
first met Yezdi and Perin about forty years ago, when I was a young
child. Right away, he and Perrin aunty gained a special place in my
heart. We lived close-by at that time, in Toronto’s very own Parsee
colony, Thorncliffe Park. Several Parsee families met often for dinners,
parties, picnics, and went on out-of-town trips in long convoys. Most
recently, Diana and I were in Yosemite National Park together with Yezdi
uncle three summers ago, and although he was the oldest in our group, he
never once slowed us down on a hike. Rather he enjoyed being out in the
wonder of nature, accompanied by Rayo and finding pleasure in the
company of our group.
Yezdi uncle was one of the first people who invited me to public
speaking, when he asked if I would speak at a World Conference for
Religion and Peace. I was young and terrified, but would not dream of
refusing a request from Yezdi uncle, so I accepted his invitation. He
quietly opened many doors for many people over the years, figuratively
volunteered for projects like ‘Out of the Cold’ and worked closely
with Muslim and Jewish groups for harmonious understanding of their
respective faiths. He also volunteered with The Canadian National
Institute for the Blind (CNIB) and for several years he provided
transportation in his car to people who were visually impaired and who
were to go to medical and other places for their needs. He joined the
Freemasons and quickly rose to the rank of a Master Mason and gave 10
years’ of service as their Chaplain. In 2004 he joined the Rameses
Shriners to contribute and partake in their charity programs. Later
today you will hear more about his role there.
had a great love for travel and has explored many places including
Alaska, Iran, Italy, China, Japan, Europe, the US, Australia and New
Zealand, to name a few. He enjoyed visiting Museums and he was very fond
of experimenting with different cuisines.
his love of travelling, Yezdi uncle tremendously enjoyed Gardening and
photography, and he especially liked to photograph flowers at very close
range. Yezdi uncle enjoyed cooking and for many
many years he was a vegetarian because he couldn’t abide the unethical
way that animals were treated. He also loved going out with the seniors,
going to the theatre at Stratford, and he enjoyed subscriptions to the
ROM and the Symphony Orchestra. As he was able to venture out less and
less, he liked to go on the computer or watch TV or talk to friends over
the phone. And we all know he was quite fond of limericks.
the last years’ of his life, Yezdi suffered ill health and needed
support on a daily basis. Although many care services were made
available he was still in need of comfort and attention. Ray used to
come home from work and attended to his father during dinnertime and
helped him in the evening. Yezdi was very much touched and appreciated
Ray’s involvement. He thrilled at Rayo’s loving
heart and the way he interacted with people. Yezdi uncle’s wish
for his two sons was that they enjoy their work and find happiness in
their life journey. Certainly each of his sons played a key role in
Yezdi uncle’s life journey.
asked what message he would like to leave for the community, he talked
about the ‘Freedom of Choice’ – that while each of us has no
choice in our parents, or when we are born, we do have the ability to
choose how we shall live: courageously, or in cowardice, honorably or
dishonorably, with purpose or adrift. Yezdi uncle chose for his earthly
journey, a life of honour, a life of service to others, a life that made
a palpable difference, small and large, in the lives of so many others.
His loving and caring ways brought warmth and joy to all he met, for
which he was revered.
Perin aunty was unwell, she had been an ardent student of Reiki and
introduced Yezdi to it. After some years of suffering, during which time
Yezdi looked after her with care, affection and unlimited tolerance,
Perin passed away in 1996. Yezdi continued practising Reiki for the
benefit of all, and found great solace and friendship in the Reiki
group. As the years progressed and his own health weakened, Yezdi uncle
asked God for help and to send him a Guardian Angel. As Yezdi uncle had
blessed so many and provided comfort to them, he himself was blessed and
comforted by the presence and caring support of Ann Irving in the last
few years of his life. Over the years she coordinated his medical
protocol and provided the care and support he needed. We, his friends
are thankful to Ann for all she did.
uncle, a couple of your frequent expressions were "God’s
Grace" and "God is Great!" Certainly our lives were
graced by your capability, your kindness, your intelligence, your sense
of fun in good times and your support in bad times. We will indeed miss
you and the divine sweetness of your smile.