James Dyment was the kind of uncle who made silly noises behind his mother’s back, and broke into laughter when someone passed gas. He loved to make his nieces giggle, and gave them playful nicknames when they were young.

In return, they decided to call him “Uncle Puncles.” The nickname stuck for decades, a reminder of his comedic personality. James never tired of making people laugh. At his sister’s birthday party in the fall of 2019, after he heard one of his great-nieces meow like a cat, he broke out into his own rendition of “Meow, meow, meow, meow.”

The family belly-laughed, and asked for an encore, which he gladly obliged.

Died on April 11, 2020
Niagara Falls, ON
Age 77

“We captured the moment,” says his niece Karen Jones. “I watch it often.”

Books played a huge role in James’s life. As an avid historian, he had an enormous book collection including books on the monarchy, biographies, and, of course, history. He worked for decades as a head high-school librarian in Hamilton, and received his masters in library science from the University of Buffalo.

He was full of knowledge, and loved to share it. In 2017, he donated over 5,000 books to the Nova House, a women’s shelter in Niagara Falls, Ont. After his retirement, James moved to St. Catharines, Ont., to be closer to his family, including his nieces, great nieces and nephews, and his sister Doreen Jones.

He would also plan his vacations around visiting with distant relatives around the world, and often brought Doreen along. His favourite place, though, was at home with his best friend, his king cavalier dog Barney.

This story was first published in MacLean’s as part of a collaborative project with Canadian journalism schools to document the lives of people who have died from COVID-19. To learn more about the project and to read the other obituaries, click here.