Tag Archives: obituaries

Gazette’s cryptic crossword maker Alan Lee dies

Many years ago, I witnessed family members of a friend of mine doing the cryptic crossword in The Gazette. I don’t remember how it worked. I don’t think I understood how it worked (and I still don’t). I just remember that for these puzzle addicts it was one of the things they did.

Alan Lee has been doing The Gazette’s weekly cryptic crossword since 1994. But his name soon won’t be gracing the weekly puzzles page anymore. Lee died suddenly on Friday at the age of 81.

Reporter Catherine Solyom has an obituary for Lee in Saturday’s paper, a brief glimpse into the life of the man behind the black and white squares and list of clues. He’ll be remembered at a special gathering at McKibbin’s Irish Pub on Friday.

But what of the puzzle, which last Saturday published No. 938? There are some still in the bank, which will take us to April. But after that, it’s still not clear. Maybe his daughter will take it up. Maybe someone else. Or maybe they’ll replace it with another puzzle. Either way, there’s going to be a change.

Jack Layton front pages

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what would make the front pages of the papers on Tuesday. Not only was Jack Layton a larger-than-life figure, and the first leader of the opposition to die in office since Wilfrid Laurier in 1919 (at least, that’s what Wikipedia says), but he conveniently died early on a weekday morning, giving newspaper editors a full working day to decide how they would honour him on their front pages.

The Globe and Mail (above) got a lot of buzz on Twitter, but it wasn’t the only one to use a sketch of Layton, and certainly not the only one to quote from the end of his letter to Canadians, as you’ll see below. Different papers chose different file photos, but the headlines of his obituary were written by Layton himself. (Maybe with some help from a talented speechwriter.)

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Ted Tevan is gone

Ted Tevan, one of Montreal’s talk radio greats, inconveniently died on Friday night, the time when statistically news has its smallest impact. Though it might have taken a few days, his colleagues and others have taken notice and offered their thoughts and stories.

I never met Tevan myself, so I have nothing to add, but I wanted to compile everything in one place.

Gabriel Morency talked quite a bit on his show Monday about Tevan. Mitch Melnick also devoted his show on Tuesday to Tevan (clips are posted here and will be aired again on Saturday), with interviews with people like Aaron Rand, Dickie Moore, Mitch Garber, Bill Brownstein and a bunch of other people I’m too young to remember.

Tevan’s funeral was Wednesday at 1pm at Paperman & Sons, 3888 Jean Talon St. W. CTV’s Cindy Sherwin was there.

Badly-timed celebrity deaths

Jerry Orbach, Susan Sontag, Benazir Bhutto, Michelle Lang, Tony Proudfoot, Rémy d’Anjou.

What do these people have in common?

They had the misfortune of dying in late December in recent years, meaning their presence on year-end obituary lists is hit-and-miss.

Orbach and Sontag died on the same day, Dec. 28, 2004, according to Wikipedia. That, more than some editorial decision that they weren’t important enough, was why they were left off lists of celebrity deaths that year, like this one from Associated Press and this one from Hour.

This year, Radio-Canada’s Regards sur 2010 special ended with a long list of important people (particularly Quebecers) who died during the year. Missing from that list is former Alouettes player Tony Proudfoot, because the news of his death came the morning of Dec. 30, the day after the show aired. Some print lists, like this one from Postmedia News and this one from Canadian Press, include his name (at least in their latest versions – this one from Postmedia and this one from CP don’t have it).

Radio-Canada’s year-end special, which was repeated on Jan. 2, is also missing Rémy d’Anjou, who died on Dec. 27, even though he was important enough for Radio-Canada itself to run an obit.

This is the problem when you summarize something before it’s over. I realize there’s a desperate need to fill space just before New Year’s, but publishing a list of people who died during a calendar year before the year is complete is like printing the boxscore of a hockey game before the last buzzer, or publishing a review of a movie before the final act. It’s inaccurate, and obituaries is a place where accuracy is pretty important.

And it’s not like you can just hold them over for next time. Tony Proudfoot and Rémy d’Anjou won’t be appearing on any “they left us in 2011” lists.

Adams family

Alston Adams at a Yulblog meeting in 2008

Alston Adams was a character.

I didn’t know him very well, but he was a hard guy to forget, and not only because he’d usually be the only black guy at a meeting of Montreal bloggers.

Adams had been fighting cancer for years, and blogging about it. Even though it was a serious medical condition with a depressing prognosis and no cure, he still kept going, showing up at the monthly YULblog meetings with his razor-sharp wit in tow. It could catch you off-guard, but it was endearing. With the energy and arrogance he showed, you’d think cancer wouldn’t stand a chance.

It took a long time, but cancer won the battle. Adams died yesterday, according to his friends, who have been flooding his Facebook wall. He was 35.

Since they knew him better than I did, I’ll point to the eulogies from his fellow bloggers:

A while ago, Adams participated in a documentary called Wrong Way to Hope, about young adults with cancer. The trailer (released almost a year ago) doesn’t do justice to his personality, which was far more animated (this bit from the deleted scenes is much more representative).

There’s some ironic timing here: His death comes just as the film is coming out. The premiere was two weeks ago, and the Canadian premiere is next week.

The monthly YULblog meeting is Wednesday, Oct. 6, 8pm at La Quincaillerie, 980 Rachel East. Expect Adams to be on the tips of tongues of those present.

UPDATE: Here’s daily mugshots of Adams until Sept. 13, three weeks before he died.

Gazette loses Uncle Hughie

Hugh Anderson, who was most recently The Gazette’s seniors columnist, died Wednesday from retroperitoneal sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

There’s an obituary in Thursday’s paper, but the more interesting pieces are the ones written by Anderson himself, who explored the issue of death in his columns recently.

Anderson disappeared from the paper briefly in 2007, and returned to write a series of articles about the death of his wife and the process of grieving the loss of a loved one. He disappeared again last fall, returning in January with a piece about his own cancer diagnosis, knowing his life was very likely coming to an end.

With that piece, the column was transformed into The Next Chapter, expanding to include baby boomers (who don’t like to think of themselves as seniors yet) and including pieces from other writers.

Anderson’s last column, about euthanasia, was published on Feb. 15.

UPDATE: Gazette Arts & Life editor Michael Shenker uses the space once occupied by Anderson’s column to write about him and about death.

There always has to be a first

Michelle Lang

The other day, I edited a story for Page A2 about civilians who are working in Afghanistan. It was a short but interesting story about people who work in one of the most dangerous places on Earth, and the people back home who worry about their safety. I paid little attention to the byline, one of dozens I go through during every shift.

The story was written by Michelle Lang, a reporter for the Calgary Herald who has been reporting from Afghanistan.

She’s dead now. The first Canadian journalist killed while reporting on the Afghanistan war, along with four Canadian soldiers. She was two weeks into a six-week stay stay there. She was engaged, planning to get married in June. The Herald has (lots) more.

I wish there was something more poignant and insightful I could say but “that fucking sucks.”

She was 34.

UPDATE (Dec. 31): The front page of today’s Herald:

Calgary Herald, Dec. 31, 2009

The main story is accompanied by pieces by columnists Robert Remington and Don Martin about Lang, and others about Afghanistan.

Today, city hall in Calgary lowered its flag in honour of Lang, and the names of the four soldiers who died with her have been released.

Meanwhile, I’ve seen some debate online about coverage of this journalist’s death. Some questioned a headline used at the Globe and Mail that focused on the fact she was a “bride to be”, as if we should be offended that a death is considered more tragic when the person is engaged. Others questioned the level of coverage given to this journalist, as if her death is more important than the deaths of soldiers, diplomats, aid workers or anyone else because she was a journalist.

Both are legitimate criticisms, but both are facts of life. It is more tragic because she was engaged. It is more tragic because she was a reporter. We wish it wasn’t so, but it is. It’s not fair, and it’s not balanced, but it’s true.

In any case, the Herald gets an exemption from this criticism. This was their reporter. She was part of their family.

From today’s editorial:

But forgive us if we grieve more publicly today. When it is one of your own, it makes it almost difficult to breathe. There is a huge hole in our hearts as we remember a bright face, a true friend and a fearless talent …

Obit: Henry Lehmann

Henry Lehmann

Henry Lehmann

Two obits, one in the Gazette and one at Hour, about Henry Lehmann, a visual art critic who contributed regularly for the Gazette for many years (and before that, the Montreal Star) and CBC Daybreak.

Most recently, he was an art history teacher at Vanier College, where he died of a heart attack in his office on Thursday.

Though Lehmann stopped writing for the Gazette in 2008, many of his later articles are still online (on the old Gazette website). Among them:

And that’s just the stuff Google has over Lehmann’s last two years.

Lehmann was either 64 or 65, depending on what source you trust.

Oh Nelly, oh Pierre

It was a double-whammy this week for ICI, or at least it would have been if that newspaper still existed.

Late Thursday came word that Nelly Arcan, née Isabelle Fortier, was found dead in her apartment, in what police are apparently treating as a suicide. On Friday evening, it was Pierre Falardeau, the “colourful” political commentator and filmmaker, this time of cancer.

Both were former ICI columnists, and both continued writing under the 24-Heures version. Falardeau stopped during his cancer fight, but Arcan’s final column was published the day after she died (it includes no mention of that, since news came out after the paper went to press).

The ICI columnist page looks more like an obituaries page now. The two main stories on 24 Heures’s homepage right now are obits for Arcan and Falardeau, though the first reads more like a police blotter.

The tributes are still pouring in.

Nelly Arcan

Nelly Arcan

For Arcan, whose death was much more surprising than Falardeau’s, there’s a level of … let’s call it discomfort. The media don’t normally report on suicides, for fear of encouraging them. But you can’t simply ignore the death of an important figure, nor can you fail to mention how they died. So here there’s no choice.

There’s also the problem of unanswered questions. We still don’t know how she decided to take her own life (everyone has that morbid curiosity, whether we like to admit it or not), and more importantly why. The first answer is known by a few, the second probably only by one, who now can no longer speak.

Nicolas Ritoux has an open, personal letter to Arcan, which gives a window into her troubled soul.

Being a public figure who has written extensively, we can also go through the media archives, looking at her interviews and her writing in a different light. P45 magazine unearths an article written by her about suicide back in 2004, though it doesn’t delve into the personal. Cyberpresse similarly collects some of her thoughts on the subject. Bazzo.tv has video of an interview with Arcan last fall, which talks about how she chose her name and her fears in life (one of which was losing her parents – ironic since those parents are now living their worst nightmare).

Cyberpresse has opened up an entire dossier on the subject.

More on Nelly Arcan from:

Pierre Falardeau

Pierre Falardeau

In Falardeau’s case, the death wasn’t so surprising. Falardeau had been fighting cancer. If obituaries hadn’t been written in advance, journalists could at least have suspected they’d soon have to write one.

Expressions of condolences are coming in from all parts, from Guy A. Lepage, Pauline Marois and others. Perhaps because more people knew him, because he made more of an impact on the lives of Quebecers. Or maybe it’s because talking about his death isn’t awkward, even for those who disagreed with everything he said.

More on Pierre Falardeau from:

UPDATE: Now talk of naming a street after him.

Also: More Gazette pieces on Falardeau and Arcan.

Gardening expert Stuart Robertson dies

Stuart Robertson (CBC photo)

Stuart Robertson (CBC photo)

If the plants in your garden seem a bit limp today, they might be water-logged from the rain, or they might be mourning the death this morning of local gardening expert Stuart Robertson.

According to obituaries in The Gazette and at CBC, Robertson died Wednesday morning of complications from pneumonia after a long battle with lymphoma.

Robertson, who worked at CBC Radio in Montreal (among other things, as a traffic reporter) until retiring in June, turned his gardening expertise into a weekly column in The Gazette (the last one was just this past Saturday), a regular column on CBC television, and a weekly (sometimes more than that) spot on CBC’s Radio Noon. He also wrote two books on gardening.

The CBC obit mentions that Robertson was a popular columnist on Radio Noon. This can’t be overemphasized. His gardening call-in was by far the most popular regular segment. While other times the call-in segment would struggle for a trickle of calls, when the topic was gardening everyone wanted to get on and ask him a question. The only thing stopping the station from having him on more often was a concern that Radio Noon not turn into the Stuart Robertson Gardening Show.

Stuart Robertson was a quiet man, but his departure leaves an ominous silence.

UPDATE: The full Gazette obit got Page 1 treatment on Thursday.

Dobbin’s dead

Len Dobbin, the host of the Dobbin’s Den jazz show Sundays on CKUT Radio, died Wednesday night after suffering a stroke at the Upstairs jazz bar … in the middle of the jazz festival.

Dobbin, who also photographed jazz artists and wrote about jazz, was a fixture of CKUT. His show had gone 736 episodes (he would count them), or about 14 years.

He was 74, and he is already being missed by many in the jazz community, his death coming at either the worst or best possible time, depending on your perspective.

You can listen to archives of Dobbin’s Den here. Next Sunday’s show, which Dobbin was scheduled to host, will instead become a special tribute show hosted by Mike Chamberlain. Details are still being figured out. It runs 11am to 1pm on CKUT 90.3FM.

UPDATE: La Presse has a short obit, as does The Gazette, with some thoughts from Bernie Perusse and James Hale. Hour and Mirror also chip in.

UPDATE (July 14): A memorial is planned for August 9.

CKUT has audio of the Len Dobbin memorial show online in MP3 format: Hour 1-2, Hour 3, Hour 4-5.

UPDATE (Sept. 29): A piece in This Magazine.

No coincidences

Two people who never met and had only seen each other once in their entire lives died on the same day. To some, that might be considered a coincidence unworthy of mention. To others, it’s a tragic miracle of two people “linked in life and death“.

Tom Hanson, a Canadian Press photographer, died suddenly while playing hockey on March 10. A day later, Gazette photographer Phil Carpenter posted a tribute to him on the paper’s photography blog. (CP also has a tribute gallery) Included was an iconic picture of a man holding a gun over his head during the Oka crisis.

A relative of Richard Nicholas, the man in the photo, mentioned on the blog that he had just died as well, in a car crash. Turns out it was on the same day.

An obituary of either man would have merited a short article, but not much more. Neither was a household name. But both dying on the same day, they suddenly become more of a story together.

When I die, I hope it’s on a day when someone else tangentially linked to me dies so that my obituary can become more meaningful.

No more Emru

Emru Townsend, the guy whose search for a bone marrow donor became an Internet campaign to get people to register, and who found a match but kept the campaign going, died Tuesday night after it became clear the cancer was too much for the transplant.

The hope now is that others won’t have to face the same fate.

UPDATE: PC World, which he contributed to, has an obit (via mtlweblog) with links to some of his articles, including the 10 worst (console) games of all time.

The Gazette also has a longer obit posted, at least part of which was compiled before his death when it was clear he wouldn’t make it.