When I was just a little girl... I, like so many
daughters, was completely in love with my dad. I used to sit on his lap and
listen to him talk to me... and, no matter what it was that he was sharing
with me, at the end of every conversation, I would hug him, tell him how
much I loved him... and then ask him if he would please marry me when I grew
I love you, Dad.
There is no way to capture my father in words or in any other way.
Maybe this is because he was so many things, to so many people, through his good, full life.
He got his start in Hamilton, Ontario, where he grew up, met Kim, and where they pushed back dividing lines seen at that time, were married, and they went on to raise me and my sister.
In life, he imparted the importance of human spirit and the importance of family and friends.
He never preached, and he always acted as though 'a friend is a friend', someone to be treated with care;
And he did so with a deft touch
He knew what mattered and what didn't - and was unwavering on what did
He was also a man who acquired a mass of knowledge on Art, literature, religion, mythology, music, science, history and plenty more, to enjoy and to share.
He was never a pretender
He was completely unique
At the dojo, he was sensei
He practiced judo for more than 50 years
He taught technique, respect and family
As a poet and writer, he had such skill and also such care
Writing for him was Art.
He could make words dance sing and play, or bring you along in some other way
He could also bring art to any conversation, and he often did.
He would recall life memories, recite prose of all kinds and poetic passages at any moment, from far-reaching works that mattered to him once before, or then again.
Here's a quote that he sometimes enjoyed:
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate alone, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
(Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ulysses)
His early career path was varied and brought with it many life experiences that he enjoyed remembering.
When the family moved to Montreal in 1966 he worked as a newspaperman, as book editor and as a columnist, for The Gazette. He later joined Canadian Pacific Railway where he spent the balance of his working years as Managing Editor of CP Rail News. He retired n 1989.
He had a radio show on the CBC, did television appearances, he was a traveler, a teacher and a lecturer.
He was also president of the Montreal Press Club for a number of years.
Father was diagnosed with cancer, but continued to write, and published two books during these years.
The books were entitled "Then Came the Music" and "Reach Me Down the Moon".
The first was a book about art, mythology and the dying practice of conversation; the latter, published this year, was a book of poetry.
Dad was never afraid to do anything and was always ready and waiting for what was the next step along the way;
When it was soon his turn to die, he wished everyone the best;
He passed in the comfort of his home, together with his family.
Then came the music...
Ron Grant will live on, through his words, through his family, and through on...
...and in my heart..
I want to share two memories of how Uncle Ron helped me. I think they encapsulate my enduring regard for him.
A long time ago, in the late 1950s, I decided to run for Vice-President of the student council. I was in grade 7, and thrust into the furor of a junior election campaign in the duke-it-out hallways of old Ryerson School in Hamilton. (It was in the Queen St. neighbourhood, incidentally, to which the Shimoda family – Auntie Kim’s parents, and seven -- mostly adult brothers and sisters – had come from the West Coast to reunite and establish themselves after WW2. It was also the neighbourhood Ron Grant grew up in and knew like the palm of his hand.)
I was ok with making election posters and recruiting classmates to tape them up around the school. But after a few attempts at writing a speech my mother thought I could use a little help. I don’t think it even occurred to me that Uncle Ron could be of assistance. He went off with my words, deftly reorganized them without the slightest nick to my self-esteem, and he added a quote that proved to be a body-blow to my opponents. When we young candidates delivered our speeches at assembly in the school gym that fine fall day, mine ended, “If I am elected, I will do my best. If not, it will be all the same”. Uncle Ron had given me one of Abraham Lincoln’s most compelling lines. I was elected in a landslide.
In the spring of 1967, it was apparent that my first year at McMaster University had been an academic disaster, and since it was also EXPO year, I persuaded my friend Al Hayes, to go to Montreal to celebrate the Centennial with the rest of the world. We thought that a reconnoitering trip to find jobs and an apartment was the first order of business. When word of our plan got out we were invited to stay with Uncle Ron and Auntie Kim, Chris and Ian until we were settled. (Come to think of it, my mother probably had something to do with that too.) It strikes me now, how completely nonjudgmental, and totally supportive the Grant family was of our adventure. Even after Al and I started our jobs (at Bailey Meter and Electrolux up on Autoroute 40) and set up our sixties pad on Lakeshore Ave in Dorval, we spent a lot of time at 145 Cameron Crescent. Uncle Ron must have been bemused by our fledgling acts of independence and perhaps secretly pleased that he was contributing to the possible subversion of any notions I held about making a conventional way for myself. I even took Drawing & Painting 101, the first formal art class in my life, at then Sir George Williams University. And, I think it was also during that summer, when there were discussions (long at his end, short on mine) about Albert Camus’ The Fall, and Mordecai Richler’s St. Urbain’s Horseman, and the difference in definition between “ethical” and “moral”. And I remember reveling in my newly discovered existential angst and the sudden, revelationary unfolding of my life. Uncle Ron and Auntie Kim encouraged my independence, ironically, by letting me know I could count on them in this home away from home. It was unspoken support and I thank them for that now and I thanked Uncle Ron last Friday when I spoke with him.
I liked how Uncle Ron mythologized people and places that held so much personal meaning for him. Billy Kidston the Genius was as potent as Ares, Gore Park as mystical as Olympus, ED Smiths ketchup as sweet as ambrosia. He lit them with significance. “I like the past” he wrote as the last line of his introduction to his last collection of poems. It’s a sentiment beyond nostalgia. It’s a powerful loyalty to particular things that he knew were important – his way of honouring them. You may know that Uncle Ron penned and placed a memorial for Bill Kidston in the Hamilton Spectator every five years since the Genius passed away. The most recent one was dictated to Christene, and placed by Uncle Frank. It appeared a week ago, Aug 29, and it read:
Bill: Twenty-five years have passed since you died and this might be my last little note to you. I’m in my 80’s now and wanted to say that our long friendship has helped make my personal journey through life worth the taking. It has survived the Depression, the war, and all other distractions, ironically including that good night itself. No one else would know what I’m on about, not because they’ve missed the experience but because most friendships have a reason. Ours did not. It just was. I remember wondering, when you died, if I’d ever see you again. Well, that question has been answered every day since. Thanks for that and for keeping me company all this time. - RG
My friend in Hamilton, Bob Yates, read the memorial and emailed me. He wrote, ”I got a phone call on Friday from Dave Cordiner who used to work with Bill Kidston and me, and he told me about the Spectator posting about Bill which he accidentally stumbled upon. Bill, Dave Cordiner and I went drinking together on a daily basis and spent many memorable hours together during the time we were stage techies for a theatre company --- and the persona of Ron Grant entered the conversations many times because he was such a good friend and large presence in Bill's life and was an integral part of so many of his anecdotes…They had a special friendship and I'm glad I met them. (I first met Ron at the side of Bill's deathbed where the three of us killed a bottle of Scotch that Ron had smuggled into the hospital.) Oh well, c'est la vie ... but things and people like that make life itself even more special.
Uncle Ron held high hopes for the role art can play in making life bigger and better. Last Friday, in a conversation that began with Uncle Ron saying, I hope you don’t mind if I just listen to you talk, it soon became the other way around, and he made sure I got his point. He said he liked the old stuff, the traditional stuff, the good stuff. He worked hard on his writing. And he said, “Art is more than communication. It’s communion”. I liked him because he said and believed things like that. Bk 04/09/08
From Uncle Frank
I'm Frank Shimoda, but Ron and I called each other "Uncle" Frank and "Uncle" Ron because we have so many nieces and nephews. Most are here tonight, we hope you have an opportunity to meet them.
Uncle Ron is my brother in law, Kimi- nesan (Kim) being my older sister.
Uncle Ron is the youngest of four brothers. I'm the youngest of eight. As a young teenager, I remember seeing Ron, who was about seven years older than me, without knowing him, being tall and handsome, a kind of golden boy, who lived in our neighbourhood.
I believe my sister and he met through his mother who was a nurse at a hospital where my sister was a patient. It must have been a difficult courtship because it was soon after World War II and not an easy time for Japanese Canadians. Mixed relationships were rare and publicly frowned on. Despite these odds, they were married. Looking back Ron and my sister showed great courage to pursue their love for each other.
As you well know, Uncle Ron and Kiminesan have a wonderful daughter Christene and son Ian. The family have had a unique and happy but at times adventurous journey (as only Uncle Ron would have it) having lived in Hamilton, San Francisco, Toronto, Brockville and finally Pointe Claire; All the while the family love for each other being strengthened. This showed in the intensity of care, tenderness and devotion during Ron's illness the last couple of years and with his passing at home.
However, Pointe Claire was the place they settled in. Uncle Ron became involved in his Community. All of you would know about the Grant's here in Pointe Claire so I won't go any further. But we did enjoy attending Uncle Ron's Bobby Burns' celebrations and summer pig roasts (Which Ian expanded and carried on) with the proceeds to the Sick Children's Hospital.
I could tell Uncle Ron and his family were well respected members of the community and work community just by meeting his friends both young and old and the way people treated them.
However, his love and great enjoyment, of course, was poetry and writing.
We have six of his books of poems and two novels, which we will always treasure.
We always looked forward to Uncle Ron's and my sister's visit to Hamilton. My brothers and brother in laws would sit around the kitchen table over drinks (which we used to be good at) and discuss his poems and views on literature, politics, music, art and many other subjects which extended into morning. He never talked down to us even though his knowledge was far greater than ours.
The next morning he would get up early and walk around the beloved neighborhood where he grew up over seventy years ago.
Uncle Ron had an extensive and extraordinary memory, especially of his growing up in his Hamilton. We would sit for hours discussing old buildings, restaurants, pool rooms, his old friends, judo, basketball and baseball teams – he was a good athlete, we also discussed his many jobs. We just did that about three weeks ago. He was such a good host he struggled out of his sick bed and sat with us for over two hours. He was always so cheerful, courteous, and apologetic for being the way he was even though he was very tired and in pain.
He wrote about some of his Hamilton memories in his last book, 'Reach Me Down The Moon'. His other books contained characters named after his friends and experiences in Hamilton and around the country. I asked him where he got all his inspiration to write. He said it was easy when you have all these memories and thoughts in your head, which is just waiting to burst out!
He was a true artist in that money was never the object of his writing.
He was generous as he was humble – we know he gave many the proverbial shirt off his back.
Uncle Ron helped me get my first and only job which was in Public Health, and which I held for 37 years.
Uncle Ron sent one of three poems to my 90-year-old sister just three weeks ago. He was thinking of her even though he was quite ill.
The horizon was gone, drowned by the sea
Because the risen sun had not yet opened his eye
And both sky and water brushed together
Trying to eliminate the rim of sight
Before it was reborn again in light
A cloud landed on shore so I stepped inside,
There being no where else to hide.
...In closing, I was thinking last night one might never meet a person of greatness in a lifetime – I think I knew one for 60 years, but didn't know it – It was my best friend, Uncle Ron.
Letter from Uncle Harold
During the last few years you, Kimiko, Norah and I were all pre-occupied in an on-going battle against a vicious foe! With the aid of our large extended family we fought to the bitter end! You and Kimiko from far off Montreal gave us so much support with daily phone calls & you sent many parcels for Darrel's enjoyment!
Unfortunately we both lost a hard fought battle! I know Kimiko cared for you & stood beside you throughout your illness & Ron, I must compliment you & Kimiko for having a great son Ian & and pretty and thoughtful daughter Christene!
When you and I were talking on that fateful day, you informed me of the results of the prognosis, you said "Oh, what the hell" with a hint of humor!
Ron, you have more guts than I'll ever have & I'm supposed to be the descendant of a samurai!
Many years ago, we had a Japanese baseball league at Eastwood Park. On Sunday, I picked you up half asleep & you played centerfield. One day a fan asked me who he was because she said he looked too tall to be A Japanese!
Quite often, Norah & I visit the cemetery & we stand silently viewing thousands and thousands of plaques & markers glistening in the midday sun and thinking that everyone of these people here were indispensable to someone!
Ron, I will miss your frequent phone calls, your vibrant salutations & your humorous remarks that made my day! Rest in peace!
Your good friend,
WE ALL KNOW HOW MUCH RON ENJOYED LIFE AND WE ARE HERE TO CELEBRATE THOSE WONDERFUL MEMORIES
TO QUOTE SOCRATES:
"BE OF GOOD CHEER ABOUT DEATH AND KNOW THIS AS TRUTH, THAT NO EVIL CAN HAPPEN TO A GOOD MAN EITHER IN LIFE OR AFTER DEATH"
RON ONCE TOLD ME (JOKINGLY) THAT, AT THIS POINT IN HIS LIFE, HE PROBABLY ONLY HAD A COUPLE OF FRIENDS. AS I LOOK OUT AND SEE SO MANY OF HIS MATES WHO HAVE COME TO PAY THEIR RESPECTS, I CAN AT LAST PROVE HIM WRONG.
ALSO, I NEVER ASKED WHO THEY WERE IN CASE I WASN'T ONE OF THEM.
I MET RON 35 YEARS AGO AND LITTLE DID I REALIZE AT THE TIME HE WOULD BECOME MY CLOSEST FRIEND.
RON WAS MANAGER OF EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATIONS FOR CDN. PACIFIC.
I SUBMITTED A QUOTATION FOR THE PRINTING OF THE EMPLOYEE PAPERS AND YES I DID GET THE CONTRACT.
LATER WHEN I ASKED RON WHAT PROMPTED HIS DECISION HE TOLD ME HE LIKED MY BEAT-UP BRIEF CASE AND THAT SEEMED REASON ENOUGH FOR HIM.
I HAVE MANY AMUSING MEMORIES WHILE PRODUCING THE PAPERS AND ONE IN PARTICULAR.
AFTER WE PUT THE PAPER TO BED RON DECIDED WE SHOULD GO AND CLEAR OUR HEADS.
A SENIOR VP ENTERED HIS OFFICE OVERHEARD HIS PLAN AND EXCLAIMED: IT'S ONLY 3:00 O'CLOCK.
RON REPLIED, YES I KNOW BUT I CAME IN AT 10:00
RON WAS PRESIDENT OF THE MONTREAL PRESS CLUB FOR SEVERAL YEARS AT A TIME WHEN IT WAS THE WATERING HOLE OF CHOICE.
MANY OF US HAVE GREAT MEMORIES OF THOSE DAYS AND THE MANY FUNCTIONS WE ALL ATTENDED.
WE WILL NEVER FORGET THE NEW YEAR'S HOGMANAY AT THE MOUNT ROYAL HOTEL AND RON'S OAK BARREL OF ATHOL BROSE WHICH UNBEKNOWN TO MOST CONTAINED 200 OUNCES OF WHISKEY.
RON INTRODUCED OUR FAMILY TO JUDO. AS SENSEI OF A SUNDAY FAMILY CLASS AT THE SHIDOKAN HE TAUGHT PARENTS AND CHILDREN ALIKE THE TECHNIQUES AND RESPECT OF BEING A JUDOKA.
AT THAT TIME IAN WAS KNOWN TO PARTY LATE ON SATURDAY NIGHTS BUT SOMEHOW HE WOULD ALWAYS MANAGE TO BE PRESENT AT HIS DAD'S SUNDAY MORNING CLASS.
RON WOULD THROW IAN THREE OR FOUR TIMES TO DEMONSTRATE EACH TECHNIQUE AND HE SEEMED TO HAVE A TWINKLE IN HIS EYE WITH EACH THROW.
HOWEVER, IAN BEING IAN NEVER ONCE STOPPED SMILING.
AFTER RETIREMENT WE REGULARLY MET FOR A FEW BEERS. WE SPENT THE AFTERNOON CHATTING ABOUT SPORTS, POLITICS, OUR LIVES AND OF COURSE POETRY. THE DEPTH OF HIS WISDOM NEVER CEASED TO AMAZE ME. I OFTEN REMARKED TO RON THAT WE COULD BE DESCRIBED AS THE "ODD COUPLE" BECAUSE OUR BACKGROUNDS WERE SO DIVERSE BUT SOMEHOW THIS JUST DIDN'T SEEM TO MATTER.
HE OFTEN MENTIONED HOW FORTUNATE HE WAS TO HAVE A WIFE LIKE KIM. HE SAID SHE WAS WITHOUT DOUBT THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE WORLD WHO COULD PUT UP WITH HIM.
HE WOULD REMINISCE ABOUT THE DAYS HE DROVE CHRIS IN HIS VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE TO THE HIGHLAND DANCING COMPETITIONS. RON WAS ALWAYS SO VERY PROUD OF HER.
HE SHARED MANY PRIVATE MOMENTS WITH ME AND WAS OVERWHELMED WITH THE SUCCESS OF IAN'S FUND RAISING EVENTS ON BEHALF OF THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL. HE OFTEN MENTIONED THAT IT WAS A MYSTERY TO HIM WHY HE SHOULD BE BLESSED WITH SUCH A GREAT FAMILY.
RON WAS THE AUTHOR OF 10 PUBLISHED BOOKS, AND AN AUDIO CD OF POETRY AND MUSIC. HE ALSO WROTE A PLAY ENTITLED "THE WAITING ROOM".
I AM PROUD TO HAVE HAD SUCH AN INCREDIBLY TALENTED FRIEND AND TO QUOTE SHAKESPEARE:
"FOR IN THAT SLEEP OF DEATH WHAT DREAMS MAY COME..."