The Honourable William Alexander Stevenson, O.C., LL.D. of Edmonton
William Stevenson died on July 7, 2021, leaving a vast Canadian judicial legacy and a void in the hearts of his family and many friends.
There were two main pillars of Bill’s life: his family and the law. He loved both. Described by a colleague as a “juridical lighthouse,” his legal accomplishments are too many to list here, serving on four separate courts and teaching law for more than 30 years. He was also an amazing husband and father with a dry sense of humor and down-to-earth devotion to the important things in life. He was respected and admired everywhere he went.
Born in Edmonton in 1934, Bill rose from humble beginnings, earning every dollar for his education, attending the University of Alberta and receiving the law school’s gold medal in 1957. He was called to the Alberta Bar the following year and practiced until 1975. One of the proudest moments of his impressive career came in 1959 as junior counsel to friend and future partner, Bill Morrow, when they argued the last Canadian appeal before the British Privy Council in London. He received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Alberta in 1992 and the Order of Canada in 1996.
Bill became a judge in 1975 when he was appointed to the Alberta District Court. He joined the Court of Queen’s Bench in 1979, the Alberta Court of Appeal in 1980, and the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990. His career was cut short by health issues just two years later.
Always very humble and understated, Bill loved education. A voracious reader and lifelong admirer of Winston Churchill, he ensured that all his children received a university education. He was the first Director of Bar Admission in Alberta and founding Chairman of the Legal Education Society of Alberta. He was involved with the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, which along with the newly created National Judicial Institute, became responsible for designing and delivering education courses for new judges in Canada. He was a mentor to generations of students and lawyers. Even long into retirement, he took great enjoyment in having coffee with articling law students and regular meetings with the Legal Circle and his Tuesday coffee club.
When not being Justice Stevenson, he was dad. Happy to work away at the lake cabin, take his family on summer holidays, or simply clean the garage. Before heading to the courthouse in the morning, he would make brown bag lunches for school. There was nothing that he wouldn’t do for his beloved wife of nearly 60 years, Patricia and his children Cathy, Kevin, Vivian and James, including embracing all manner of small, mercurial dogs along the way. Except maybe go swimming. Bill was never particularly fond of water.
Along with Patricia; his kids and their spouses, Marty, Lisa and Leslie, Grandpa Bill loved and was much loved by his grandchildren; Declan, Sarah, Owen and Elliot.
With his health waning in the last two decades, friends saw less of Bill. Yet he fought on, demonstrating a tenacity that few could match. In his typical modest style, Bill requested there be no funeral service. After sufficient time for mourning and to get everyone fully vaccinated, there will be a reception to laugh, cry, tell stories and reflect on what an amazing life Bill led.
A special thanks to all the wonderful staff at Benevolence Care Centre for caring so much for ‘Judge.’ Memorial donations may be made to the Stevenson WA Law Review Endowment at the University of Alberta: ualberta.alumniq.com/giving/to/law