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"RED" 2003 Obituary


REDFORD o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-11-21 published
HODGKINSON, Ronald Arnold
Born July 27, 1927 in Ottawa. Ron died peacefully with family by his side on November 16, 2003 at the Victoria Hospice, at the age of 76. He fought a tenacious battle with cancer, courageously and with his sense of humour intact to the end. Predeceased by mother Josephine CAVILL, father George HODGKINSON, and brother Gilbert. He will be sadly missed by his loving wife Jean Lesley (née BANCROFT,) of 46 years, his son Eric Ronald HODGKINSON, daughters Janice ROBINSON (Dan REDFORD,) Susan VIMINITZ (Mark,) grandchildren Jenna, Sam, Josh and Zack, brother Art, sisters Nora, Elsie Ann and Helen, 11 nieces and nephews, and many dear Friends. Family and Friends are invited to celebrate Ron's life at the Gordon head United Church, 4201 Tyndall in Victoria, at 3 p.m, on Saturday, November 22. Donations can be made in his memory to the Cancer Society or the Victoria Hospice.

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REDGRAVE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-10-16 published
Father figure to the Canadian stage
British-trained Stratford character actor never craved starring roles
By Allison LAWLOR, Special to The Globe and Mail, Thursday, October 16, 2003 - Page R11
For Mervyn " Butch" BLAKE, entering a theatre was a magical experience, something he never tired of during an acting career that spanned close to three-quarters of a century. Mr. BLAKE, one of the most loved members of the Stratford Festival Company, died on October 9 at a Toronto nursing home after a long illness. He was 95.
"Theatre seems to give me life," Mr. BLAKE said in 1994. "I just feel marvellous when I enter the theatre... it's one of the things which keeps me going."
Over his long stage life that included 42 consecutive seasons with the Stratford Festival of Canada, Mr. BLAKE "had the distinction of playing in every single play of Shakespeare's," said Richard MONETTE, Stratford's artistic director.
"He had a great life in the theatre," Mr. MONETTE said.
Adored by both audiences and fellow actors, the veteran actor was known across Canada for his enormous talent and generosity of spirit. When he wasn't working at Stratford, he acted on the country's major stages and in television and film.
For seven seasons, he toured with the Canadian Players, bringing professional theatre to smaller towns. And in 1987, he won a Dora Mavor Moore Award for best performance in a featured role in a production of Saturday, Sunday, Monday at what was then called CentreStage (now CanStage).
"Everyone loved Butch without exception," said John NEVILLE, a former Stratford's artistic director.
Mervyn BLAKE was born on November 30, 1907, in Dehra Dun, India, where his father was a railway executive.
His father wanted him to become an engineer but after falling in love with the theatre, Mr. BLAKE was able to persuade his father to allow him to study at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In 1932, he graduated and soon made his professional stage debut at the Embassy Theatre in London
During the Second World War, he served in the British Army as a driver. It was during the war years that he is said to have got his nickname Butch. A witness to the horrors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Mr. BLAKE was present at the liberation of the camp by British troops. It was an experience that haunted him for the rest of his life.
At the war's end, he returned to England and to the stage. He married actress Christine BENNETT and spent the years between 1952 and 1955 at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. There he worked with many of the great British actors such as Sir Laurence OLIVIER, Sir Michael REDGRAVE and Dame Peggy ASHCROFT.
Despite his success on the British stage, he decided to join the Stratford Festival of Canada, then in its fifth season. With his family in tow, Mr. BLAKE moved to Canada and in 1957 appeared in a production of Hamlet with Christopher PLUMMER in the title role.
"He wasn't a leading actor," said actor and director Douglas CAMPBELL. "He was a supporting player. As a supporting player you couldn't get better."
Mr. BLAKE always saw himself as a character actor who never cared that much about starring roles, said Audrey ASHLEY, a former Ottawa Citizen theatre critic and author of Mr. BLAKE's 1999 biography With Love from Butch.
"He was one of those actors you never had to worry about," Ms. ASHLEY said. "You knew Butch was always going to do a good job."
Known for his unfailing good nature and even temper, he enjoyed re-telling gaffes he had made on stage. Mr. MONETTE remembers one performance where Mr. BLAKE appeared on stage as the Sea Captain in Twelfth Night. The character Viola asks him, "What country, Friends, is this?" And instead of responding "This is Illyria, lady." Out of his mouth popped, "This is Orillia."
To the younger actors at Stratford, Mr. BLAKE was a father figure. "He was very fond of the young actors and would take them under his wing," Ms. ASHLEY said.
Stephen RUSSELL remembers arriving at Stratford for his first season in the mid-1970s. He was placed in the same dressing room as Mr. BLAKE, an experience he still holds close to his heart.
"He was one of the most generous human beings," Mr. RUSSELL said.
One of the areas Mr. BLAKE was most helpful in was teaching fellow actors how to apply stage makeup. He loved makeup and on his dressing-room table he had an old rabbit's foot that he would use to apply his face powder, Mr. RUSSELL said.
Aging didn't stop him from applying his own elaborate makeup. Playing the role of old Adam in As You Like It required him to go through the same makeup ritual when he was 70 years old as it did when he performed the role years earlier as a much younger man.
Aside from the stage, one of Mr. BLAKE's passions was cricket. During his first season in Stratford, he played on the festival's team and was responsible for starting a friendly, annual cricket match against the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Each season, members of the two acting companies would come together for a civilized afternoon of cricket and tea. The Stratford team still goes by the name of Blake's Blokes.
In honour of his talent and dedication to the theatre, Mr. BLAKE was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in May, 1995.
"When he entered, the stage just lit up," Mr. RUSSELL said.
Mr. BLAKE leaves his wife Christine BENNETT; children Andrew and Bridget; and stepson Tim DAVISSON.
Details of a memorial service to be held in Stratford, Ontario, have yet to be announced.

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