WYERS email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-05-06 published
By Leslie POWERS Thursday, May 8, 2003 - Page A22
Artist, banker, bird watcher, traveller, amateur archaeologist. Born February 4, 1925 in Ottawa. Died June 17, 2002, in Oakville, Ontario, of cancer, aged 77.
Two things usually struck people when they first met Ken: He had a way of finding something remarkable about you and passed along his observation with sincerity and a grand sense of humour, and he was a constant source of information. Ken could tell you in great detail all about the unusual bird nestled in the tree or the areas of Nova Scotia where the Mi'kmaq people settled. He was inspirational, yet humble enough to be inspired.
Ken was born in Ottawa to a single mother but was raised by his strict Irish grandparents. Barely 17 years old when the Second World War broke out, Ken, determined to serve his country, enlisted. He became a member of the Royal Air Force's 12th squadron, stationed in Lincoln, England. Remarkably, Ken made it back from every one of his 32 missions.
Prior to the war, Ken had no ambitions for higher education or a career. Upon returning to Ottawa, he had a new sense of purpose and direction and immediately enrolled in Carleton College. He later entered the college's undergraduate commerce program before completing his degree (with Honours) at Queen's University.
Shortly after graduating, Ken was hired by the Industrial Development Bank (now the Business Development Bank of Canada) and began a career that took him, his wife and two children to Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax and Oakville. During his tenure at the bank, Ken also spent time in Ghana, Africa, teaching commerce.
Ken's wife Joan was his soulmate and constant companion. The couple met in 1954 after a performance of Swan Lake by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Joan was a ballerina with the Royal Winnipeg and Ken was introduced to her following a performance one spring evening. Married after nine months of courtship, Ken would often remark on how lucky he was to have met his "darling Joani."
While living in Halifax, Ken started taking art classes. Ken had always drawn, but the art classes uncovered a unique talent. Art became a focal point in Ken's life. Friends would often receive a painting to commemorate a special event. Incredibly well-versed in art and artists, Ken became an aficionado and collector of Canadian art. When living in Winnipeg, he made a special point of contacting the primitive painter, Jan WYERS. Ken befriended Mr. WYERS and corresponded with him for years. While living in Halifax, Ken contacted Nova Scotian painter Maud LEWIS, and made several trips to her tiny house in the country where everyone would gather round the wood-burning stove, discussing her art over a cup of tea.
Ken's other interests included bird watching -- a passion born out of a chance childhood meeting with Canadian ornithologist P.A. TAVERNER. Ken also liked archeology: his archeological digs took him across Canada and to the Badlands in the United States. When Ken invited Friends and their children on his archaeological digs he would often strategically place arrowheads around the site so the children would find them.
In 1980, Ken retired from the bank to pursue his many avocations. For the next 20 years, Ken and his wife travelled extensively. The places he visited became inspiration for his artwork and his paintings often portrayed images from distant lands or those closer to home, such as snow-laden pine trees in Algonquin Park or decaying totem poles on the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Shortly before his death, a close friend remarked that Ken operated the way people are supposed to be living their lives: with passion and with joy.
Leslie POWERS is Ken's daughter.
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