Appeared in the North Shore News – July 4, 2014
Considering its typically annoying inconvenience, Olga Kotelko’s death was as near to perfection as one can hope for.
Not for her the long lingering in death’s waiting room. Olga died at the high noon of life aged 95.
She was much too young to retire. She had begun serious track and field at age 77 and collected 750-odd awards, many world records. She was scheduled for more competitions and doubtless more records. North Vancouver writer Bruce Grierson wrote a hit book about her. She wrote her own too, published only in May. Death, June 24, was by intracranial hemorrhage. She died as all legends should. Swiftly, too quickly to reflect on life’s meaning.
Olga talked and looked as if decades younger. When my Agent M55je4 told me about her a year or two ago she was just entering the international spotlight. She was not boastful but not bashful either. Scientists poked and prodded her, fascinated by the mystery of her strength and endurance. She was five feet tall and weighed 125 pounds.
Short weeks ago she told Agent M55je4: “I want to live to 105.” A single disappointment after so many triumphs.
I have given up trying to illuminate the Capilano University dispute. I solicited the views of Pierre Coupey, who modestly declined the mantle that one old colleague would have bestowed on him, that of (perhaps spiritual?) leader of the restive faculty.
Coupey, fully retired only two years ago, believes: “As long as the administration fails to consult meaningfully with the Cap community, budget issues will continue to burn. As long as Capilano University continues to be underfunded and not treated equitably by the ministry of advanced education and the government, budget issues will continue to burn.
“And these are further burning questions: Does the current president (Kris Bulcroft) have the confidence of the faculty? Does the current administration and board believe in academic freedom?” “Consult meaningfully” … “treated equitably” … what makes me feel that I made a wrong turn into the aboriginal rights quagmire? The faculty effectively demand sharing power. Imagine academics peacefully deciding who/which department would honourably fall on its budgetary sword.
I interviewed Bulcroft.
An unlikely villain. She’s a gerontologist by training, an American in the pipeline to Canadian citizenship, former Fulbright scholar, taught here and there with her academic husband including a stint at UBC. Sometimes brings her dog to work. This not meant hurtfully – grandmotherly, nice. At 62 and two years into Cap’s presidency, this might be her last assignment.
Background. Cap is a child of rebellion, born in 1968, heady days of fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants spontaneity, cobbled together disproportionately by partly-credentialled young Vietnam-protesting Americans teaching and learning in numerous borrowed classrooms and old warehouses. Stuff of romance. Academic resemblance to Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney teen films: “Let’s put on a show!” A new insta-book, The Dialogue Continues, collects their poignant memories of giddy youth – many now are just north or south of 70 – and slapdash innovation.
Much more to say, but for now there’s that issue of George Rammell’s widely publicized sculpture of Bulcroft, seized by the administration and risen to the lofty level of a Canadian Association of University Teachers cause (it was returned to Rammel Wednesday). Coupey responds: “A president worthy of being called a leader would not take personal offence to such a satirical comment, but would understand how it goes with the territory. A really smart president would have purchased the piece from Rammell and displayed it with pride on his/her front porch.”
My view: It’s brilliant, technically skilful, constitutionally protected, freedom-tested and unkindly insensitive.
My old eyes blinked twice on seeing, in a list of people to be prayed for at West Van’s St. Francis-in-the-Wood Church, the name of broadcaster and columnist Rafe Mair.
I yearned to discover whether this prayer was urged by an indignant parishioner seeking heavenly intervention for something outrageous Rafe had advised. No, Rafe has always been outrageously on the side of righteousness.
Oh, just jesting. Rafe has a record of outraging this or that pooh-bah or faction – in CKNW days some politicians refused to be interviewed on his show because of his “where were you at 10.26 on the night of the 26th of July?” cross-examination style. The call for prayer at St. Frank’s, as intimates call it, more likely flowed from Rafe’s bad fall, breaking a cervical vertebra, last December in his Lions Bay home.
No joke: His recovery has been slow. On May 1 he emailed fans that he was home from 4 ½ months in hospital “where I had three brushes with death.”
Last month he was back in full writing stride, thundering: “The Northern Gateway pipeline is a terrible idea, and in my opinion must be opposed with every sinew in our fibre, starting now. This must include massive civil disobedience. We must fully support First Nations in their struggles.”
Is this conciliatory tone permanent, Rafe?
© Trevor Lautens, 2014