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Celebrating the life of Keith Turnbull

What a beautiful day Sunday was. Off with three old friends to Stratford in the morning for Keith Turnbull’s memorial celebration – Anne-Marie driving me and two giants of the theatre, Sue LePage the designer, and Nancy Beatty the actress. Much theatre talk and catching up all the way there, through the green fields of southern Ontario. There was a stellar obit for him in Saturday’s Globe.

It was supposed to thunderstorm, but the weather cooperated perfectly — of course it did, stage-managed by Keith the perfectionist director. We stood or sat outside in Dorothy’s lovely garden to chat and reminisce, and then a few hours later when it started to rain, we gathered inside, where actors sang songs, many of us spoke about Keith with hilarious and/or moving memories, and then we all sang.

We marvelled, again, at this extraordinary man, an intellectual (who told director Peter Hinton that he couldn’t understand Ibsen if he hadn’t read Hegel), a skilled gourmet cook who knew a great deal about flowers, who was kind to children, who travelled the world in a power wheelchair. His friend Paula talked about doing a show with Keith on Fogo Island off of Newfoundland, that one day there was a hurricane warning and they had to go out and search for him, found him barrelling down a gravel road in his wheelchair in a hurricane. “I’ll be fine,” he said. The local fishermen grew so fond of him, they built ramps so he’d have access to places previously impassable.

We all spoke of his generosity, adventurousness, relentless focus. In the last years, two of his close friends, Paula and his former partner Christian, provided endless thoughtful care for him. Only a few days before he died, they took him out to a museum and for lunch. A few months ago, they organized a party for him in his garden, although he was by then living in a care home.

So much love.

The event could not have been nicer. We all got to pick a tie. Keith had a collection of two thousand vintage ties, Christian had brought a bunch, and by the end of the day, most of us were wearing one. Many connections, going way, way back – including many who weren’t there, who should have been there, like his and our beloved friend Patsy Ludwick. So missed.

Below, a few of Keith’s ties. The living room gathering. Annie and I listening to Christian. A very solemn Keith, who never took himself seriously.

If ever there’s a sign of a life well-lived, it’s a send-off like that one. I wrote to my kids when I got home, When I get really old, let’s pretend I’m dead and have a grand celebration with all my favourite people and eat and drink and reminisce, only I’ll be there to enjoy it!

Sam replied, Let’s talk about it then.

And since we were in Stratford, I asked that we stop at Rheo Thompson Chocolates where I bought my usual half-pound box of dark chocolate peanut butter clusters and other delicious things. Should keep me going for a bit.

Otherwise, this week has been preoccupied with the house – getting the AC repaired, a huge relief in the sweltering heat, though as soon as it was fixed, the heat faded; now the temp is perfect. Finishing fixing various things in the top floor suite, just as well, because the son of an old friend really needed a place for two weeks, so is moving in on Friday. Another friend has rented the spare room. Someone else wrote wanting to come, and I wrote back, We’re full! My landlady days are heating up.

I watched an enjoyable film before cancelling my Amazon Prime membership and having to pay: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. One of my favourite actors, Gary Oldman – so hauntingly honest and contained, there’s no one like him.

A beautiful morning, with the scent of the roses drifting in and the cardinal chipping in his tree. Today, will prep my talk for tonight at the S. Walter Stewart Library. Glad to be alive.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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