Saying goodbye to Johnnie

October 21, 2023
Riverfront Estates
Almonte, Ontario

My dearest Lynn,

Thank-you for your email in which you asked for my thoughts regarding John’s request that you plan a reception following his death. May I first acknowledge that Johnnie often repeated the names of Lynn and Hugh as those who were among his closest and most valued friends. I recall your friendship goes back many, many years (perhaps as far back as childhood in Manor Park). Whenever we all foregathered it was instantly apparent that you, Hugh and John mutually propelled one another. Your collusions and bantering were unparalelled and as often mischievous.

We are open to travel to Toronto if that were convenient for most; however I would prefer meeting in Ottawa. I believe a good number of John’s friends are from Ottawa. It is where he worked for his entire career.

Everything I know about John centres upon Ottawa, Key West, Fort Lauderdale and Naples, Florida.  In Ottawa John and I regularly met for drinks and lunch at the Château Laurier hotel after having first expiated our impending guilt at the nearby National Gallery of Canada. We gleefully walked along Major’s Hill Park past the American embassy to the hotel. If the weather were propitious we sat upon the outdoor café overlooking the locks of the Rideau Canal as the waters emptied into the Ottawa River adjacent the Parliament buildings.

Parenthetically our detours to Key West, Fort Lauderdale and Naples, Florida were devoted to hedonism only. The connection with the Château Laurier hotel is more substantive.  We were both members of the health club there; it is where we met.  It is similarly there that I met my partner Denis who was also a member of the health club.  In fact it was Johnnie who suggested I invite Denis to join John and me for drinks one evening at the Market Station bar in the By Ward Market after routine performance of our swim and steam bath. That was 28 years ago.

Although Johnnie had a libidinous hallmark (of which I had no personal knowledge) he had as you know an undying affection for the upscale theme. I therefore suggest a convention of his erstwhile cronies at the Cháteau Laurier hotel, in particular booking rooms on the Fairmont Gold floors where after dinner we could convene in the private lounge to complete our reminiscences before retiring for the day.  Initially we could rally at Zoe’s lounge in the hotel for drinks.

Zoe’s, located within the walls of the Fairmont Château Laurier, offers a captivating bar experience while serving up a side of local history. Named after Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s wife, Lady Zoe, this space was transformed from a concert hall and reintroduced as a Bar in the late 1980’s. It quickly became one of Ottawa’s most popular gathering places. Today, the room is contemporary chic and remains equally impressive with its big bold chandeliers, unique details and original artwork, including six Karsh photographs in the Reading Lounge leading to the bar.

Afterwards dinner at Wilfrid’s restaurant also in the hotel.

Located within the elegant walls of the chateau, Wilfrid’s Restaurant, Ottawa, is an award-winning establishment offering unique culinary experiences, special-occasion tasting menus, and the best weekend brunch in Ottawa. Executive Chef David De Bernardi and his team are famous for their superb selection of regional Canadian cuisine with a focus on sustainable produce. The beautiful dining room offers a wonderful outlook of the Parliament Buildings and the Rideau Locks, at this esteemed restaurant with a view in Ottawa.

Staying in one place and not having to move about the city is in my opinion a suitable proposal. I for one could relive the precise memories I have of Johnnie (including an invigorating sauna and swim). For those who are unfamiliar with Ottawa the Château Laurier hotel is situated in the centre of activity. The Vancouver connection is for me remote.  I haven’t been to the Empress Hotel in Victoria for over 65 years!

As much as I like Toronto (where I obtained my undergraduate degree from Glendon Hall and was subsequently called to the bar at Osgoode Hall), and as bountiful as the Royal York hotel is as well, on balance I prefer making a weekend stay at the Château Laurier hotel as a more exact place to close the lid on Johnnie’s coffin. Springtime in Ottawa for example is a vivid season of rebirth, complemented by the annual tulip festival.

Affectionately yours,

Post Scriptum:

Bill, I’m so heartened by your message because you have mentioned the ideas I’ve had in the back of my mind.  You are a stabilizing force in my life.

More later because within the past hour our new fridge has been delivered.