As this summer rolls in, I am becoming acutely aware of the absence of my dear, long-time friend Huntley.
Around this time of year, my husband Paul and I would get a phone call or e-mail from “The Hunt” wondering if we could get together to see some plays at the Shaw Festival. He always wanted to see as many plays in the shortest time possible–and if we could be there for some of them, all the better!!
In the end, after considerable consultation, we would rendezvous for one or two plays followed by a delicious meal, conversation, and laughter lasting hours, late into the night. I have a feeling that many of you had similar experiences with our voracious friend! No question about it, Huntley lived life large.
Huntley and I go way back. We met in high school when I was fifteen and he was thirteen. He was new to Regina and Campbell Collegiate and was looking for teenage friends. His age—younger than his peers because he skipped Grade 8—intellect, unique fashion sense—orange pants—and acne didn’t make it easy.
But he found friends at the high school newspaper, where we were both volunteers, and at the “underground” newspaper that we established with other students when we ran up against censorship printing articles and editorials about racism and topics such as “It’s OK to be gay.”
Our little group came up with the original name of our newspaper “The Pariah” after randomly searching through a dictionary in my parents’ basement rec room. I still remember the huge black beanbag we all sat on as we did our brainstorming. Very sixties / early seventies!
We had many adventures/misadventures as idealistic teenagers that we would joke and talk about later in life when we got together.
Our group put out three issues of the newspaper and sold it on the street corners in downtown Regina on some pretty bitterly cold spring, winter, and fall days. Several U. of R. profs also helped us with contributions towards the printing costs, even when local Regina personality/lawyer Tony Merchant denounced our dreadful “commie” publication on his radio talk show.
I was part of NDP youth and roped Huntley into getting involved with that organization as well. From there Huntley connected with students at other schools throughout the city and across the province and country who were part of the student movement. It was indirectly through the NDY [New Democratic Youth] that he met Shirley, who ultimately played an important role in his life.
I believe that the challenges Huntley had making friends in those early days and the difficulties some of his good friends had with mental health issues—through psychedelic drug use—helped him develop the compassionate side of his personality that ultimately led him to become the youngest executive director of the Saskatchewan Mental Health Association.
We went our separate ways after high school, but kept in touch over the years and continued to get together, having many wide-ranging and animated discussions whenever he came to Toronto or when we visited him in Ottawa.
Huntley had a great thirst for knowledge and a genuine interest in people. Rather than being intimidated by the barriers life threw at him, he faced them and triumphed to become the person he was.
We will miss you, Hunt!