Saturday, May 18, 2019

St. George Street

When Stephen Godfrey, The Globe and Mail arts journalist, died six years ago, I wasn't sure whether I ought to attend the funeral. I had followed his arts coverage in The Globe over the years, but I knew him only slightly. Even though his death - a dreadful, patient one, in a wintry Toronto ravine, at the end of a long depression - had affected me, I didn't feel I had any right to mourn him alongside his family and close friends. I only knew him well as a reader, and the see-and-be-seen aspect of funerals made me wary. Still, I dithered. At the last minute, I dressed for the funeral, got in the car, drove by the church, saw the crowd of fellow journalists milling about outside, and took a pass. I regret it now. Even though I turned my back on the mixed bag of grieving, gossip, consolation, schadenfreude ;and voyeurism that characterizes funerals, I went on thinking about Stephen Godfrey. A contagion of grief had been let loose in the atmosphere, and I had caught it, like the flu.

Marni Jackson, January 11, 2000, The Globe and Mail

After leaving Dalhousie Law School in 1973 I began my career by articling with Macdonald, Affleck, Barristers &c., 100 Sparks Street in Ottawa. Our offices were not far from the Château Laurier Hotel which had an Olympic size pool, adjoining fitness room, steam bath and sauna. The venue was a regular haunt of local politicians (from nearby Parliament Hill) and businessmen.  At that time I lived at Pestalozzi College on Rideau Street.  Not having - or being able to afford - a car, it was in easy walking distance.

When swimming at the pool late one afternoon after work I encountered Stephen Godfrey.  Though we had never met, his family name was familiar to me.  I had for example heard of his brother John Godfrey who was a professor at Dalhousie University. I also recall having heard a peculiar tale about John. Apparently he applied for a job somewhere and when asked what he would like to do in life, he replied was that he should like to be a tea pot. Reportedly he then gestured the spout and handle of the pot with his arms. My more direct connection with the family arose from having met Stephen's father, Senator John M. Godfrey at his plush Toronto-Dominion Centre high corner law office when I applied for an articling job with McCarthy Tétrault, Barristers &c. Senator Godfrey had the good sense to turn down my application, after having pointedly added - and with some undeniable vehemence - that his children also went to private school but that it was his wife's idea, not his.

John Godfrey was born in Toronto, Ontario. His father, Senator John Morrow Godfrey (June 28, 1912 - March 8, 2001), was a Canadian pilot, lawyer and politician.  John Godfrey graduated from Upper Canada College in 1960. In 1961 he attended the Neuchâtel Junior College, Switzerland. In 1965, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity College, University of Toronto; and in 1967 he received a Master of Philosophy from Balliol College, Oxford and Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil), St Antony's College, Oxford in 1975. He worked as an economist, historian and journalist. In the mid-1970s Godfrey was a history professor at Dalhousie University, Halifax . He served as president of the University of King's College from 1977-87. From 1987 to 1991 he was editor of the Financial Post.

Stephen was then living in the Sandy Hill area of Ottawa which was essentially adjacent where I resided. Stephen and I had a further alliance in that we had both attended Glendon Hall of York University where I got my first degree in Philosophy.  He was I believe five years younger so understandably our paths did not cross there. After making our acquaintance at the Château Laurier Hotel we met several times at my sparsely furnished apartment, sipping tea and chatting, usually sitting or sprawled on the floor to escape the summer heat and humidity.  I was then an avid cyclist and intent upon loosing the additional weight I had acquired at law school when attending local Halifax pubs with my friend and law school professor Ian B. Cowie.

GODFREY, Hon. John Morrow

On Thursday, March 8, 2001, in his 89th year. Much loved husband of Mary Ferguson Godfrey. Loving father of John Ferguson Godfrey, M.P. (Patricia Bongard); Sally Forrest (Nicholas); Anne Godfrey; and the late Stephen Godfrey (Susan Harrington). Proud grandfather of David and Tessa Forrest; Harry Godfrey; Kathleen and Robert Godfrey; and Ian Godfrey. SERVICE TUESDAY, MARCH 13, 2001 3 P.M. CHRIST CHURCH DEER PARK 1570 Yonge Street. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Arthur Somers Rotenberg Chair of Suicide Studies, University of Toronto, or the National Ballet School, Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Workshop would be appreciated by the family. Arrangements under the direction of the HUMPHREY FUNERAL HOME A.W. MILES CHAPEL (416) 487-4523.

Subsequently I went to Osgoode Hall, Toronto for the Bar Admission course. I was contemporaneously a Don at Devonshire House, University of Toronto next door to Trinity College. After Osgoode Hall I returned to Ottawa to practice with Macdonald, Affleck. Within a year I moved to Almonte, Ontario to live and practice with Galligan & Sheffield, Barristers &c. In 1978 I bought my first house on St. George Street.  I quipped that the place was so small I had to back into it.  At that juncture or shortly thereafter I reunited with Stephen when he came to Ottawa for a business meeting.  We dined at my tiny house on St. George Street that evening.  We both became hopelessly drunk and my final recollection of Stephen is that he left the next morning in a decidedly unhealthy state. I never saw him or communicated with him again.

It appears to be a trend upon growing old to revisit former acquaintances. Sadly two of my erstwhile acquaintances are no longer whinnying among us. Both were coincidentally alumni of Glendon Hall.  Both apparently died tragic deaths, at a young age, presumably by suicide. It inspires shivering sensation to debate what it is that promotes enquiry about someone with whom you are out of touch. In both instances mentioned the relationships hearken youthful times, times of hope and destiny, periods of rapid change and evolution, ephemeral moments.


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