A father remembered: Good Samaritan killed in mall attack lived 'adventurous life'
'I'm choosing now to focus not on the abrupt end but rather the rich and worldly totality of my father's life'
The son of a Good Samaritan who was fatally injured intervening on an attempted theft in south Edmonton is hoping his father will be remembered for a "legacy of love"— not the tragedy that took his life.
Iain Armstrong suffered severe head trauma on April 17 after stepping in when he saw a man try to steal from a vacant kiosk at the Southgate Centre.
Armstrong died three days later. He was 61 years old.
- 'Good Samaritan' attacked at Southgate Centre has died
- Violent attack at Southgate Centre leaves mall employee in critical condition
"As this horrible crime is likely to remain in the public eye for some time, I'm choosing now to focus not on the abrupt end, but rather the rich and worldly totality of my fathers life," wrote Iain's son, Sean Armstrong.
"While the community at large has been appropriately shocked by the brazen attack, I want people to remember Iain for the adventurous life he lived all the way from his humble beginnings."
Sean Armstrong wrote the following obituary, hoping to "share the incredible life of the best dad any young man could wish for."
Sean Armstrong's submission has been edited for brevity and clarity.
John "Iain" Armstrong was born February 26, 1957 in Bomi Hills, Liberia, the first child of father Samuel Armstrong and mother Oonagh Bushe Armstrong.
Due to regional political conditions at the time, he was born a citizen of Scotland, the home of his parents and family.
Envisioning his home and early childhood life wouldn't be too far a stretch of the imagination for most people in the capital region.
It was here, three or more dirt road driving hours away from the nearest major port town, with the equatorial jungle on every horizon, that Iain began grade school and played in back yards with his friends.
From the jungle to the bush
As a boy, he honed his love for tropical fruit (like the mangoes and avocados that accumulated on the tin roof of the family home) and welcomed into the world his two brothers, Frederick "Eric" Armstrong, and (Samuel) Mark Armstrong.
The fantastic adventure of life in the jungle came to an abrupt and tragic end for Iain's family in February 1967. Iain's uncle was slain in a home invasion by an assailant who had burgled a handgun only minutes prior from an adjacent house in the isolated mining town.
The family arrived in Montreal, disembarking the ship on Oct. 25, 1967. Sam secured a long term position with the Griffith open-pit iron mine at Ear Falls, Ont., deep in the vastly different, but still remote and inhospitable, woods of northwest Ontario.
The hamlet of Cochenour served as the family residence for the mine employees and their families, and it was here that Iain, the adventurous jungle boy, enjoyed an adolescence rich with outdoor escapades.
Iain loved water sports like boating and water skiing, and he also served as an open water lifeguard and swimming instructor at the beaches on Red Lake.
Iain lived the life of a country boy, and always held himself to the highest standard of work ethic. He attended Cochenour Elementary School and Red Lake District High School, graduating in 1976.
Following graduation, Iain started studies at the University of Manitoba. But never one to avoid hard work, he returned home to Cochenour every summer, working in the same iron pit mine as his father, to finance his university education.
Iain's brother remembers his epic tenacity as a child, describing how Iain would recruit his brothers to distract a notoriously unfriendly neighbourhood dog, just long enough for Iain to run the length of the yard and complete his newspaper delivery route.
Iain was also a skilled and accomplished football player. Starting with the Red Lake Rams, he continued his sports career, playing for the U of M Bisons. He was eventually called up to the CFL in 1979.
Unfortunately, Iain's football career came to a sudden end due to a knee injury he suffered at the B.C. Lions pre-season training camp later that year.
'She was the right one'
In August 1979, not long before his departure to the training camp, Iain met Sharon. While his football career may have been cut short, this left ample space for the blossoming young relationship.
Throughout his life, he often said that he knew "almost immediately that she was the right one."
On Oct. 24, 1980, Sharon Ann Seaman married Iain Armstrong. The two remained loving and caring partners for 37 years, until his death.
Iain graduated from the U of M with a bachelor of arts majoring in economics in 1983.
His occupational demands took Iain and his family through many homes in the Canadian interior. Sharon delivered their son Sean William Armstrong in June 1986 in Thunder Bay, Ont. Their daughter Dana Kathleen Armstrong was born in 1989. The couple's final posting with GM was in Saskatoon.
A new venture
Being a hard-working and highly self-sufficient man, Iain grew tired of the managerial grind within a gigantic corporation.
His passing has been a sudden, alarming and tragic event, which in no way diminishes his fantastic accomplishments.- Sean Armstrong
In March 1991, Iain and Sharon, in partnership with Iain's brother and sister-in-law, Eric and Judy Armstrong, founded Bunches Flower Co. in Edmonton.
Their very first location remains in operation.
Bunches Flower Co. has since become a mainstay of the independent retail community in Edmonton, employing hundreds of people in the Capital region over the past three decades.
Tragedy struck the Armstrong family once again on July 4, 1993. Samuel Sr. died as a result of a fall while performing maintenance on his eavestroughs.
Despite the never-ending toil of building a business (Iain and Eric performed the vast majority of their own construction labour to open and maintain each retail location), Iain never let his family or friends fall to the wayside.
Throughout Sean and Dana's childhood, Iain wore every volunteer hat that he could balance: coaching soccer, chaperoning church youth events, even becoming a highly qualified competition official with Swim Alberta.
He seldom missed his Thursday morning men's coffee group, affectionately referred to by the wives and kids as "the water buffaloes."
Iain never passed by an opportunity to help a person in need.- Sean Armstrong
In more recent years, Iain was frequently abroad with his old men's golfing crew, seizing every opportunity to escape the cold to which he hadn't really acclimatized since his initial arrival in Canada 50 years ago.
'A legacy of love'
Iain is survived by his wife Sharon, children Sean and Dana, brother and family Eric, Judy and children, brother and family Mark, Sherry and children, mother Oonagh, and is predeceased by his father Samuel.
His passing has been a sudden, alarming and tragic event, which in no way diminishes his fantastic accomplishments over the past 61 years.
He is held in high regard by the staff at Bunches Flower Co., and he always treated them with the same care and respect as he would his own family.
Iain never passed an opportunity to help a person in need, often going out of his way to lend a hand whenever and wherever he could.
He continuously exemplified civility and compassion toward others, leaving a legacy of love in the minds of the thousands of people with whom he interacted over the years.
If we would all behave just a little bit more like Iain, the benefit to humanity would be spectacular.