Nothing brings this country to a momentary stand still like the death of one of our very own beloved authors. In early May this year, we came to a sudden halt. The nation responded immediately – it was announced on every radio station from coast to coast, on local and national news and in every newspaper, informing us of the loss of a most impassioned writer, ardent environmentalist and a true Canadian icon for sure.
Farley Mowat dead at 92. The end of an era; a century really. And the nation mourns.
One of Canada’s best known and best loved authors; Farley Mowat is recognized as a nature lover, world traveller and champion for those without a voice. The latter includes wildlife, the First Nation peoples of the north, and of course the land. As CBC reports, the author spoke out on the radio show The Current less than a week before his death against a proposed plan to equip Canada’s National Parks with wifi, which he called “a disastrous, quite stupid, idiotic concept, and should be eliminated immediately.” There is no doubt he was passionate, outspoken and controversial.
He has been called feisty, fiery and a ferocious imp! Those who were close to him describe him as low key, approachable, and even shy. He had one persona for the media and one for home. He was known to his family and friends as good-natured, down-to-earth and just a pleasure to be around.
Mary Talbot (artist featured on the cover of The Link Spring Issue 2013) worked as Farley’s assistant for over thirty years. In a tribute to the famous author, she says “Yes, he could certainly be outrageous and contemptuous of authority, but the real man was endlessly caring, quietly generous, a compassionate friend and mentor.” She continues; “A man of passion with the humour of a rascal. A man a little short of height but of enormous stature. A literary giant who lived an unpretentious life. A seeker of the truth. A man who expressed his innate creativity in an exceptional manner.”
“Farley’s mail brought letters from around the world telling him how his writing had changed their lives for the better. Many thousands of children wrote to him about Owls in the Family. And Farley replied, encouraging them in their reading. In earlier years, he sometimes read from his books to children of various ages at libraries and schools, and he encouraged them to read a great deal, to read widely and then to write, write, write.”
“Farley often said Writing was his function. He simply had to write. He was self-disciplined and organized. Writing requires this. How else could he have published 42 books, with about 550 editions and translated into 26 languages? He was completing his 43rd, his mind sharp to the end.” Of Farley’s wife, an author in her own right, Mary says, “It can’t be easy for Claire to find time to complete her own books, though, as she is Farley’s biggest, most important support system.”
So, this brings an era to a close. A long life, well lived by the combination of two passions: writing and nature. He leaves a legacy. He is survived by his wife Claire, sister Rosemary, brother John, sons Sandy and David, as well as three grandchildren.
To his many dedicated fans from Canada and beyond, we are comforted by this life work as he bids us farewell – Farley was fond of saying “God bless you in your good works.”
Photos courtesy of Mary Talbot.
Photos courtesy of Mary Talbot.