My uncle and I have many things in common – devastatingly handsome physical specimens, profoundly intelligent, Olympian physiques, and the most dazzling array of luxurious slippers ever seen.
We are in Wayne’s house this morning, did everyone remember to put on their slippers?
I would like you to take a moment and reflect on a memory of time with Wayne that you are particularly fond of…but not his collection of slippers. Did that not bring a smile to your face, warmth to your heart?
I am honoured to give the eulogy for not only my uncle and my dear friend, but a marvelous man who profoundly embodied the nobility of being an educator. Also, a man embraced by friendships that have been cultivated and cherished for many decades.
We are here to honour Wayne MacPherson, but really, that is inaccurate. It is he that honoured us. It would be superfluous for me to list the reasons why it us that have been honoured.
Each of us assembled here are like tiles in a mosaic. No two are perfectly alike, yet each of us carry an element of the man that was Wayne MacPherson.
Hopefully, it is his warmth and sincerity, perhaps his compassion. A little bit of his sardonic wit and playfulness wouldn’t hurt either.
When we leave the Church today, that mosaic will leave with us, and the true meaning of being a Christian will have been fulfilled, that of disseminating the wonderful qualities of the person that is Wayne MacPherson, and making the world, as much as possible, a better place for your fellow man.
My uncle and I have enjoyed the company of each other’s friendship for nearly 46 years. I could not have found a better role model.
We both have an unusual love for film and a love for movies. I separate the two because my uncle really distinguished the difference. He was a child reborn during movies like Star Wars, but a fascinated intellect with a film such as “Delicatessen”, He relished the dark satirical humour of films with an almost perverse sense of delight… and it was infectious. A significant part of who I am has been nurtured by our mutual love of film.
There are so many memories I could share with you, but I won’t. I’ll illuminate a few, and save the rest for myself as time capsules as it were. And, whenever I want, I’ll open one of those time capsules, and he and I will share a laughter that will never end. We will reminisce as though it were yesterday.
It is the small things that make the difference: the years we watched Siskel and Ebert in the basement, the Swiss Chalet dinners, the Nino D’Aversa pizzas, the Open Window Bakery on Finch, the Condo tours, the racetrack, the movies…and of course, the slipper collection. My uncle and I may be one of the few people who can genuinely claim to have seen a movie in every theatre in what was then Metropolitan Toronto, many of which have long since closed.
Many years ago, we saw “The Gods Must Be Crazy” at the Capitol on Yonge St. Including us, there were 12 people in the theatre. For those of you not familiar with the Capitol, it is, was, perhaps the most steeply raked movie theatre in Toronto. Wayne and I would usually sit high up in the back. On this particular occasion, I purchased the largest box of Smarties imaginable, only to drop the opened box before the credits rolled. Slowly, imperceptibly, the tiny chocolate orbs began their randomly mad descent down the steeply raked floor of the theatre, initially, only a handful, but then they were joined by the others, and eventually, the entire box began their musical dance across the floor spreading outwardly to cover the entire width of the theatre. The sound of these marching and rolling chocolate disks was more than the audience and Wayne and I could bear. Quiet snickers, chuckles, and laughs grew as more and more of the Smarties began their demented descent, eventually triggering a cacophony of laughter from the dozen or so of us seated in the theatre that evening. It was… truly priceless. I do not recall the movie, only the laughter and the Smarties.
Another particularly humourous incident was our visit to million dollar condominium models on Bloor St. We were dressed in long winter overcoats, and, for reasons unknown to us, we began dancing like the bears dancing to The Bear Necessities in The Jungle Book, as we descended in the elevator. Unbeknownst to us was the security camera recording our every move. To see the look on the faces of the security staff as we exited the elevator was worth the proverbial thousand words. We laughed at that day a hundred times over – all just from a goofy dance in an elevator.
Despite my focus on my uncle’s gregariousness, and sense of humour, I must address the influence Johanna has had on his growth as an individual. Wayne MacPherson was truly a person who grew to be a better person with each year. Is there a more noble achievement? And, as a retired Catholic Principal, is there a more noble Christian ethic? What intangible positive influence do you suppose he had on the thousands of children he taught that we may never be able to measure?
I can partially answer that by describing the reaction of children we would meet in malls and movie theatre lobbies year after year after year. Their faces would light up with respect, admiration, and uninhibited affection.
My uncle has a wisdom that, if I am fortunate, will have imparted on me. That wisdom is a seemingly effortless grasp to view the world and its myriad of cultures from an objective perspective that escapes most of us most of the time. Its value is unsurpassed; it is an understanding that inspires compassion, gratitude, humility, tolerance, appreciation, and knowledge to name a few of our most sought after personal and altruistic attributes. How can you not love someone so dearly who so effortlessly makes you a better person just by being in their presence? Is their a better measure of a person?
I know I speak for the rest of you seated here today that we had the good fortune to count him as one of our friends and, we have the good fortune to know, that when the time calls for it, we can open a time capsule of memories, and each share a laugh with Wayne as though he were sitting across from us.
Many of you may recall the Dodge Dart automobile. Wayne owned the Plymouth version, the Scamp. The Scamp was not a paragon of automotive excellence. Indeed, it foreshadowed the demise of pre Lee Iacocca Chrysler. The Scamp was to automotive culture what Fruit of the Loom is to haute couture.
It had steel interior doors, leaves and other debris that regularly blew out of the air vents, ghastly plaid seat fabric, and gauges that fogged up. The paint, for no discernible reason, took a leave of absence, but, strangely enough, the car did no rust…well, not the exterior. The engine consumed oil like you and I consume water, and a full case remained in the trunk at all times, a K-Mart brand I cannot recall. Your cooking oil in the kitchen probably had better lubricating properties. It cornered like a hippopotamus in a puddle of WD40 on its way to a Jennie Craig meeting. For all its misgivings, I don’t think I ever enjoyed life so much, as the times when my uncle and I were in that car…even when the rains made their way inside.
I am willing to wager, that many of you feel your life has been diminished with Wayne’s passing. On the contrary, it has been enriched by the privilege of having known him.
Dear Johanna, and all of you seated here today, I am not so naive as to believe that the memories of Wayne will thoroughly lighten your sorrow at this time. But, it is my hope, that having borne witness to his unabashed love and affection for you, his warmth and generosity for his fellow man, the respect and love of his fellow man, the admiration of his peers and students, his wacky sense of humour and enthusiasm for living, will comfort you now, and in the days to come. Uncle Wayne, it’s time to pass every one a pair of slippers one final time.
Do not despair over why we are here today.
It is an honour to call Wayne my Uncle.
In closing, I would like to recall the words of Major Malcolm Boyle who gave his life on D-Day, 1944.
If I should never see the Moon again
If I should never taste the salt sea spray
If I should never hear the thrushes wake
If I have said goodbye to stream and wood,
This I bear witness with my latest breath,