Olivia called; reason enough put down my hammer and take a break from the mundane task of pulling crooked nails from a pile of 2x4s. She immediately let me know that Vince Fontaine had passed away. Good thing I had sat down, I felt light-headed from the shock of the news. Vince and I are the same age.
I had seen Vince only a month ago, December 9th to be exact, sitting with one of his daughters in the Grant Park Mall. I’d been having coffee with my mom, across the cluster of booths by Tim Horton’s. I thought to wave them over, but after clearing off the seats beside us I looked up and they were gone.
Some years ago I was introduced to Vince, either by his wife Dorothy, or brother-in-law Steve, I don’t recall. I saw him in church occasionally, and he would offer a shy wave or smile, and a “Hi Bill”. Our kids knew each other through youth or Sunday school. I might see him at one of Steve’s concerts. Always a nod of recognition, and a “Hi Bill”.
In the days since Olivia’s call, Facebook has exploded with tributes to Vince; recognition for his leadership and service to his culture and community, his humble nature despite winning acclaim as a prominent First Nations songwriter and musician. A Go Fund Me in support of his family and costs associated with a celebration of life, planned for Sunday at the Forks’ Oodena Celebration Circle. No doubt hundreds will attend, and he will be remembered for all who he was, though he was just Vince to me.
I must admit that, sadly, I never saw Vince play. Never heard him sing. Somehow, our musical paths never crossed. This saddens me now.
But I will remember Vince, mostly because he always made the effort to remember me, by name.
Miigwech, Vince. Chi-miigwech.