Remembering Chris: A Tribute to Chris Gort

In 1979, Chris Gort came to South Riverdale Community Health Centre in search of a family physician. Over a period of 20 years, he was a SRCHC member and served on the Board of Directors.

In an interview for SRCHC’s 40th Anniversary, Chris said, “When I ended my term as Board chair, I met with Lynne. She asked me for some parting advice. I suggested that the Centre should pick two things and become outstanding in those areas.  I bumped into her a few years later and she told me they had done this through the harm reduction program (COUNTERfit) and the diabetes program (DECNET). I’m proud of this place. I’m a member and patient here and I’ve always appreciated it. I am thankful that I’m getting good health care and I hope to remain a member and patient for many more years.”

Two years ago, Chris was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). It causes the death of neurons which control voluntary muscles, leading to physical deterioration and, ultimately, death. Over the past year, Chris wrote a blog about his situation, the pleasures of family and friends and his gratitude for all the small but important things he continued to enjoy, like the wind blowing the trees outside his window.

On March 24, 2019, some SRCHC staff members attended an event in his honour. Chris was also at this event, a testament to his long and close relationship with Elaine, his life partner and wife. She said that she wanted to share the event with him, not wait until he died to have a memorial without him. Elaine and Chris were lucky in so many ways to have had this time together, both sacred and challenging, and appreciated that others had not been so fortunate.

Chris continued to represent SRCHC at the Partners for Health table up until two years ago. I will always remember his wisdom, support and ability to navigate muddy waters. Most importantly, I will remember that he left us a set of principles by which we have continued to operate: to be thoughtful and bold, courageous and humble, reliable and accountable. Going at times where others fear to tread. One cannot build on a weak foundation; Chris played a key role in creating a strong foundation which we have continued to support and which is now written into our collective story.

On April 2, Chris passed away peacefully at home. We will forever remember his appreciation of small things, his compassion for others who have less and his contributions to the Centre. And we thank him.

Lynne Raskin, CEO