Dear Paula, Jaan and Tomas,
and friends and colleagues of Peter from near and far that have gathered here today to share our sorrow over his untimely passing.
I'd like to share a few thoughts and memories about Peter with you on behalf of our Estonian Boy Scouts support organization called the Raudhabemed or "Ironbeards" and on behalf of our many scout camp and cottage community neighbours and friends that are here today. As a little background to those that may not be familiar with Peter's early years, outside of Peter's daily school life, Peter grew up immersed in an active Estonian community here in Toronto. One organization he became very active in was the Estonian Boy Scout Group, Kalev. This is the same scout group where his boys Jaan and Tomas currently spend their Saturday mornings, developing useful life skills and hopefully the same type of lifelong friendships that Peter was able to establish.
Scouting for Peter was perhaps an avenue through which to learn about life, the outdoors and nature, and perhaps a place where he found positive male role models and influences, having lost his own father at the very young age of two. Many of us here that grew up with Peter in Estonian scouts in hindsight now appreciate the exceptional and fun opportunities that scouting provided in our development. For Peter, the sense of camaraderie and the friendships he developed while attending Saturday scout meetings, and all those weekend activities such as organized swimming competitions, riflery competitions, orienteering games, winter XC skiing camps and competitions and summer camps - packed full of activities - those friendships and those outdoor and sporting activities all endured throughout his life. In retrospect, its hard to tell whether those sports and scouting activities helped fuel or satiate Peter's innate inquisitive and adventurous nature.
One of the places that became very special to Peter throughout his youth and adult years, was our Estonian boy scout camp we call Kotkajärve, which translates into Eagle Lake in English, that is located near Huntsville in Muskoka. This beautiful piece of the Canadian Shield that our immigrant fathers and grandfathers had the foresight to purchase, and the fortitude to clear, mostly by hand, became for Peter a particularly special place.
Countless spring, summer, fall and winter weekends were spent there in his younger and early adult and university years. This fresh air respite from busy city school life, and later from working life, was a second home for Peter and many of closest friends. Weekends at the camp were spent productively at times doing upkeep chores, and lazily at other times paddling a canoe on the lake, catching rays on the swimming docks, hiking off to distant lakes, or blazing fresh XC ski trails through knee deep fresh powder during winter weekends. There, we had the great Canadian outdoor world as our oyster and the great friends to savour it with. Time there seemed endless, and all too short at the same time.
Kotkajärve was a place I believe that Peter always couldn't wait to get away to, and later when his career took him and Paula to Saudi Arabia, he couldn't wait to get back to. During the 13 years that Peter and Paula spent in Saudi Arabia, my infrequent emails with Peter would inevitably touch on what's been going on at KJ and who from our shared circle of old boy scout and girl guide friends had I seen or been in touch with, and what were they up to. His summer visits to Toronto during those years would rarely pass without a trip to Kotkajärve in Muskoka. Compared to a Saudi desert, this must have been heaven for him. Peter and Paula and the boys were able to enjoy a number of holidays to unique and warm destinations during their stay in Saudi Arabia, but I believe that a heartstring kept Peter attached to our scout camp and the rugged and beautiful landscape of our near north.
In Saudi Arabia, as Jaan and Tomas grew from being toddlers, I believe Peter began to fully appreciate the unmatchable country, lifestyle and privileges we have here in Canada. Even prior to uprooting from Saudi Arabia, Peter sought out the opportunity to secure a small cottage for his family at our Kotkajärve camp when one became available from an aging owner. I believe Peter had it in his heart, that such an opportunity for the future development of his boys could not be overlooked. As a fellow cottage owner and renovator there, I readily looked forward to Peter's summer visits at first, and later his return to Canada, so that we could meet up again more regularly at our beloved nature paradise. As cottage ownership took to cottage renovation, I'll remember those escapes where Peter and I were able to get away to the cottages on our own to "play home improvement" Estonian style, complete with frequent beer breaks and story telling and reminiscing about friends and events in our past.
Indulgences in our own cottage renovations didn't come without the feelings of obligation toward the scouting and guiding leaders and parents that blazed our wonderful camp property from the granite and heavy forests. Peter was also a member of the Ironbeards, a brotherhood of "old scouts" that put in volunteer time and effort in maintaining, building, and rebuilding again, the most important of Estonian camp buildings - the sauna. Peter knew how to balance personal pursuits with community obligations, and he did so in other ways as well. I am not quite sure whether it was his sense of obligation to his country of heritage, his sense of adventure or his innate social being, that caused him to want to complete the reserve office training program of the Estonian army, but again I believe that Peter matched a desire to contribute with his need to nourish old and new friendships. Peter was well advanced in setting a fine example for his two young boys of how to be a well rounded father and supporter of his heritage.
Life for Peter was not about the philosophy of "live to work", but rather "work to live". That's not to say that Peter avoided the pursuit of higher education or greater responsibilities or contributions to society through work, - no, his achievements were notable here, - but I will always remember Peter for the gregarious and unselfish social person that he was and for his devotion to his family. Our scout camp and cottage community will greatly miss Peter's presence and contribution, but Peter's presence will always
remain at our little nature paradise. To Paula and Jaan and Tomas, we offer our support and our hope that Jaan and Tomas willremain as interested in scouting and the great Canadian outdoors as Peter was. Doing so, I am sure would fulfill one of Peter's many wishes for you. I am sure that you too will always feel his presence when you visit your cottage and that little bit of paradise we call Kotkajärve that Peter loved so much. And, as I learned from Paula last night, I understand that at the boys' wishes, there is a little bit of the cottage and Kotkajärve that are with him now.
We know that you have now found your paradise, may you rest in peace, our dear friend Peter.
Eulogy for Peter Paunic