The first time I met Wally he was wearing a western style shirt, a black leather vest, and a bolo tie. A tall man, he looked down on me and said, “I heard a rumour you’re a musician”. Discovering a shared interest in music was the beginning of our friendship.
A Parkdale fixture, Wally could usually be found at Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre, or outside the former Queen’s Donuts Coffee House (where he would occasionally buy me a donut I swear was about as large as my face). He would come to The Dale too, most often to our Open Mic events and more recently, our Sunday service.
Over the years Wally accumulated a large amount of sound gear. He was generous with it and would routinely bring it along whenever needed. A guitar player, Wally was notably a part of The Jolly Roger Band. I recall him excitedly sharing the CD they pressed and talking about how to launch it.
I’m quite certain that Wally inquired about my daughter Cate nearly every time I saw him. He liked to call her “little one”, I suspect because she was so young when he first met her. I think he always pictured her as the five-year-old who loved to perform at the Open Mic nights. Less than a month ago, sixteen-year-old Cate came along to visit Wally in the hospital. He looked at her and said, “I’d like the little one to teach me how to play the ukulele”. Cate was game, but sadly now won’t have the opportunity.
I remember when Wally told me he was sick. He was very matter-of-fact about it, though that didn’t mask his worry. There was a lot of room for hope, and so I tried to lean on that. As things progressed, Wally became weaker and weaker. He relied a great deal on Devon, a Dale community member, who was both his friend and care-giver. I felt honoured that Wally, often via Devon, was continuously inviting me in for visits. We had many opportunities to chat and, at his request, pray.
Recently I got to meet Wally’s daughter and son, both of whom he talked about frequently. I always count it a privilege to meet the families of my friends in Parkdale, and this was no different. To them, the rest of his family, and to his large circle of friends, I want to offer my condolences. As one who knows how complicated grief can be, I pray for each of you as you embark on its journey.
Joanna, Meagan and I got to see Wally for the last time on Monday afternoon. He died in the early hours of Tuesday, March 5th. I am relieved that he is out of pain AND terribly sad. It is amazing how those two feelings can co-exist. I know his death has come as a huge shock to many, having been one of those people we somehow expected to always be around. Wally: you will be missed. I hope you’re hosting a dance party, enjoying food, and maybe even learning the ukulele. Cate and I will be sure to play a song for you.
March 21, 1953 – March 5, 2019