Obits by Our Members about Our Passed Members
Gordon Alfred “Gordie” Page
“The Entertainer” reads the plaque in our lounge that also bears the name of Gordie Page.
A far better musician than most with whom he played, he led various assemblages of players over his many years through what I’m sure must have been the complete canon of pop and jazz standards–holding the tune together and pulling both rhythm and harmony out of whatever piano the venues had to offer, filling in tastefully, emphasizing only the strength of the piece being played. Having heard a melody once, he could play it back to you immediately afterwards.
I recall clearly hearing him dance his fingers through little lines behind “Girl from Ipanema” just before a break in sets. During the break, I showed him an old chart for “(There’s Got to Be a) Morning After”–the well-known song from the movie “The Poseidon Adventure” [the first one]. He took the sheet, began to play and I jumped in with the words on the second time through. We finished the song and he continued to noodle around with the melody afterwards. “Nice changes,” he said, “but those words. Not good.” He grimaced a bit. And as usual I instantly knew what he meant. Before meeting Gordie Page I sang anything just to enjoy the process; since meeting him, I sing only when there is something worth saying that the music doesn’t already say. But always there were the tunes, and he gave them the uncluttered airing that most of them deserved. He was, perhaps unknowingly, an advocate of the Louis Armstrong Philosophy School: there are only two kinds of music — good music and bad music. “Why would anyone want to listen to bad music? Remember, Ellington didn’t need words to be great.”
And so he played the good stuff, the human stuff, and it spoke more than any lyricist could write in a lifetime. “OK, Ira Gershwin wrote a few good ones,” he said, “but still, where would he have been without George?”
Thanks, Gordie. Nice changes.
— Will Heigh
Paul Richard Abbott
Whether nose down in a game of chess, discussing why Wittgenstein was completely wrong or expounding boldly on the merits of Shakespeare, Paul Abbott was one of a kind. I, of course, took the opposing side just for sport–as he did on topics over which I ran the offense–and we passed many an hour sipping Bushmills and calculating the airspeed of the European swallow, with or without the cocoanut.
The sound of guitars often accompanied our voices, but not often enough, for if there was one thing Paul would rather do than sing, it was talk. About everything. I have never met anyone who could talk about any subject and not come across as a simmering nitwit — except Paul.
A bellowing mass of fury one minute, he was a land-locked Errol Flynn the next.
He favored “Peggy Gordon” when we played; I preferred “Loch Tay Boat Song”–and then we’d agree that “The Dutchman” was a better song than either and play it instead. But for now I’ll defer to his choice and quote a verse from his favorite that, since his passing, always reminds me of him:
I wish I was away in Ingo
And that’s how I like to think of him now — not in such sad remembrance — but loose upon the briny somewhere, singing to the sun.
— Will Heigh
Johan Lawrence Harder PWP
My greeting of “Johan, vie geht’s?” was always answered with “Zer gut!”, in a clear and booming voice. This exchange exhausted the limits of my German, but it occurred every time we met for the eight years that I knew him. Bright, down-to-earth, but with the patience of a bear trying to open a can of icing sugar, John Harder derived more happiness out of being an Eagle than any other person I have met. Anyone calling his name would hear “Whaddya waaaant?” or “I didn’t do it!” as a response. One of the first to arrive and always one of the last to leave, there was a period of time when I honestly thought he lived at the Abbotsford Aerie.
He was many things to many people–good company when you were having a ‘cup of tea’ (because he didn’t drink, you know ;-)…the stern task master regarding the Ritual…the social butterfly who would always enter the smoking room and then pull everyone’s attention with his little mock coughing fit followed by that Mr. Magoo grin…the Aerie Secretary whose pen had only one speed: slow (not necessarily a bad trait but for one who took minutes at meetings peopled with the likes of Millette, Kersey and yours truly, this always meant he was scrambling)…the historian who would regale anyone who cared to listen with tales of Len Cutting and Charlie Spooner and the good old days in New Westminster…the owner of a widely-famous bottle of gin that went from Convention to Convention for nearly twenty years and which he seemed completely incapable of emptying because nobody would drink the vile stuff…the reliable one upon whom the weight of the world would fall suddenly and his reaction would be to mutter “Yuh-yuh-yuh” and then go methodically about lightening the load and solving the problem.
No chocolate was ever safe in a room with him. And no Eagle ever felt more special than when he talked to them.
Those who knew him will miss him for the rest of their lives.
And although it seems now that it will never be the same without him, if we all work hard and play hard, it’ll feel like he’s still here.
Prost, Johan! We’ll see you when. And please don’t have any more gin to try and pawn off on us. We’re wise to your little plan now.
— Will Heigh
Dale Marvin Enns PWP
Dale Enns was a four-time Past Worthy President, a two-time Grand Aerie Bulletin Award-winner, and an all-time advocate of precision. Of course he had his wimp glasses of Molson Canadian to keep him company. And he always sat at the same table in our lounge, and in the same chair every time. He loved Judy and we automatically loved her. There was always a sense of permanency about him, and these were just little symbols that represented the visible tip of a very well-submerged iceberg. Fastidious, ferocious and firm, he took everything he did seriously. Always there to both set out and set up tables for dinners, to decorate Christmas trees, he would take on all the detail-laden tasks that usually drive others to slow madness.
But that was where he existed because for him, life itself was in the details. He never wasted a move, or a word, or a task — for him, economy was the only style. At his job, I’ve often wondered just how many pennies he saved the city while working as a purchaser. He may not have always gotten the best deal possible, but between what he spent and what the bare minimum was I would have hated to have tried to live on the difference. He was pleasant and open to those who were also that way. He was guarded and mistrustful of those who kept information and plans to themselves, and it was perhaps because of this that you could come to him in times of need and never be left wanting.
He believed greatly in the beauty of things: the honest emotion of a song, the impact of a properly spoken word or polished maneuver, or the lithe lines of a classic automobile. And in that last thing I believe he found the truth he most trusted — something conceived by the human mind, prodded into shape by thought and superior engineering, enjoyable because it worked properly and subsequently exceeded all expectations. Perhaps this was his internal clock, since it didn’t matter to him how well something worked unless all of the details were just right. I often thought he might have been happiest if surrounded by machines, where he could freely and happily demand their subservience and tinker them into perfection. If he took on a position in the Aerie, he would memorize the Ritual because it was a mechanical detail that was part of the duty. The concept of volunteerism and its inherent weaknesses never mattered because if one took an oath to do something, what else was one to do but excel?
The last year of his life gave him many disappointments and that is very sad. But none of us could fix the world enough to make everything work like that smooth and efficient timepiece that the world represented to him. He was a perfect choice for Aerie Father during my term as Worthy President, someone who could supply formality when I came to the task equipped only with imagination and in-bred loathing for anything rigid or repetitious. And I waited the entire term for him to scold and guide and correct but he did not, because my term suffered from the same problems that his last term as President did only a few years before: we were surrounded by old blood and old ideas and had inherited a rut completely built and reinforced as the time had gone on. We both needed fresh ideas and fresh air and there was none apparent from the tired bodies around us. So he and I would chat occasionally and smile, knowing that a drastic change was needed to make some sort of sense and headway out of a stalled experiment. I’m sure his thoughts went to what engine to choose, how much gas to give it, and how much it would need throttling back, just as he knew a good machine needed.
Knowing that he never experienced the finished renovations to the Aerie Lounge and the great revenue that they have produced is a poignant personal regret. But I think he knows, in fact I just know that he knows. Somehow.
We who remain have to become the prodders and tweakers ourselves. We need to do what he did and represent what he represented. And I truly feel we will. After all, he was right, it IS all in the details — in our own “faith and humidity”, as he mistakenly said once when competing in Ritual. New leaders, new ideas and new members. And we who remain will be the new drivers of a very sound machine. He would have liked that part.
As he did, I believe there is soul in precision. But more than before, I’m beginning to understand and love the machine. Dale the Engineer left many good things behind so it’s up to the technicians now. I would miss him more often but there is still so very much of him here — a calm spirit of precision that drifts like ether inside the pretty new walls. Every little “Eagle” tweak made from now on will show that he will never ever truly be gone.
David Patrick Scanlan
Dave Scanlan (at right) during one of his many nights of service
Teacher. An Irishman born a Scot. Musician. Rabid football supporter and avid literature student. Conversationalist. Cancer-survivor and war veteran. Polymath. Trained navigator and amateur wanderer. Karaoke darling and British cinema exponent. Gentleman. Bridge advocate. Questioner. Poet. Answerer. The seventh son of a seventh son.
Left to his own resources, I doubt that Dave Scanlan ever experienced a boring day in his life. When with others, he could not help but make their days brighter by widening their knowledge, their minds and their haunches because sometimes around Dave, one had no alternative but to just sit down. “My God, that man can talk,” was a comment a friend made to me once when Dave sauntered away for another warm glass of Kilkenny. “Yes,” I said, “but unlike most people who talk a lot, you’ll soon discover that Dave has something interesting to say.” And he did.
He and I talked about everything under the sun, from air navigation and other “duff gen” (a Commonwealth Air Force term meaning unfactual or inaccurate information) to the historical causes of war between peoples of the Earth, to the sad state of the English language in the mouths and minds of today’s youth to the brilliance of Duke Ellington to the sad state of the Scottish Premiere League (despite his beloved Celtic’s success and my beloved Dundee United’s lack of same). One evening it was a scene-by-scene review of “Schindler’s List” on his gigantic television only ten feet in front of us. Another night he had me parse a poem to see if it was as terrible as he thought it was. His preference for ‘Galway Bay’ and mine for ‘Carrickfergus’. Another night of cider-fed analysis of Catholicism which I liked for its music and he for its catechism. His lilty performance of ‘That’s Amore’ and my forced stumble through ‘Moondance’ before the Karaoke Gang on Saturday nights. His fondness for ‘Tortilla Flat’ and mine for ‘Cannery Row’. The laughter. Endless games of Casino, which he won most of the time.
Both of us, possibly unconscious of it, were distant children of the Greek philosopher Crates, who commented that the unexamined life was not worth living. He introduced me to British films and television programmes and I always aimed him at new guitarists I had discovered; a tape of ‘Girl in the Picture’ came home to my house, a tape of Martin Taylor and Laurence Juber went home to his. I fell in love with a fountain pen he had and it came home with me; he fell in love with an electronic guitar I had and it went home with him. He was 39 when I was born, but it didn’t matter — we both spoke the same language, both thought that Louis Armstrong was a genius and both read everything we could get our hands on, no matter what it was. And talked about most of it.
I’ll miss him forever, and I can count on one hand the number of people in my life I could say that about. You don’t find friends that good just anywhere. They have to arrive already built and already in motion. All I can say is that St. Peter had better let Dave in right away or he’ll have a very long night on his hands indeed.
Good night, Dave, and thank you for always having something to say. Now you’ll finally be able to play those bar chords you always wanted.
– Will Heigh