Moth Fairy: R.I.P. Sally Lamare

Introduction:

Although it’s a commonplace that once we pass a certain age, death becomes “the new normal” as we watch dear friends and family pass away one by one, it never gets the least bit easier. Just this Sunday in our little community of New Denver we lost one such dear soul, Sally Lamare. One of many charming “characters” who made the Slocan Valley what it is—or was—Sally was known to virtually everyone. She had a way of making everyone feel like family.

Lamare family @ 50th anniversary

Happier Days: The Lamare family at Barry and Sally’s 50th anniversary party, Bosun Hall, New Denver BC, 2008. L to R: Diana, Barry, Sally, Joey and Steve.

She was generous to a fault, often buying out the day’s stock of chocolate chip cookies or blueberry muffins at New Denver’s Apple Tree Sandwich Shop just so she could give most of them away. She made sure to give you a phone call precisely on the day of your anniversary or birthday and never once forgot. She made her visiting rounds of the elderly and shut-in. A true child of the “flower power” phenomenon of the 1960s, she embodied in her actions what others only sang or talked about. Certainly it took some fortitude to be the one buttonholed by Sally on the street, since you could be in for a very long conversation. For that reason, some avoided her, but were ultimately the poorer for it, just as our society is the poorer for expecting everyone to look and behave the same.

Our Christmas with Barry and Sally, 2007, New Denver

In some ways I’m not sure she ever got over the death of her beloved husband Barry Lamare, who died suddenly in 2009 of a heart attack. As deaths go, it was as fine as could be hoped, with the two of them holding hands at the head of crystalline Slocan Lake. In a millisecond, it was all over. They had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary the year before, one of those rare couples who fell in love during high school and never fell out of love. The common, good-natured joke was “When Barry Met Sally,” which seemed to go a lot more smoothly than the couple depicted in the popular movie When Harry Met Sally.

Barry and Sally were among the very best of the American expatriates who decided to build a new life in Canada during the Vietnam War era, following thousands of war resisters and homesteaders to the then virtually unknown Slocan Valley. Their story is mentioned in Katherine Gordon’s history, The Slocan: Portrait of a Valley. Like so many did, they arrived in a Volkswagen van, that stalwart of personal transportation that has since become an icon of the era. Their eldest son Joey would later make VW restoration a major part of his car business. Sally’s death in her sleep is a fitting bookend to Barry’s gentle passing.

Joey Lamare at Barry and Sally’s 50th anniversary, New Denver 2008.

Losing Joey prematurely four years ago was another blow to Sally. Just as she did with all our birthdays and anniversaries, she marked the date of his passing every year with a phone call to ease her loneliness over his loss. We were glad to share her sadness in the vain hope that it might ease her pain. For me it was a stark reminder of my own mortality: Joey and I were both born in 1959, just months apart. Because of this—and the friendship Barry and I had cultivated—Sally said she felt I was another of her sons. I often felt unworthy of the honour, but Anne and I had spent more than one Christmas dinner with Barry and Sally in our home and we felt very much like family. Both Barry and Sally never seemed “old” to me at any age. When she turned 80 last fall she remarked to me that she couldn’t believe she was really that age. Her final years were eased by her companionship with Tommy Gillies, a family friend for decades.

Barry had been a high school teacher in California in the great musical heyday of the Sixties and was probably among the first to include the lyrics of songwriters like Bob Dylan in his poetry classes. It doesn’t get any cooler than that! And with me being a poet we always had plenty to talk about. Barry and Sally both worked as teachers after moving to the Slocan Valley in the mid ’70s and she could point to any number of successful adults as her former students, including sax player extraordinaire Clinton Swanson.

Barry and Sally at their 50th anniversary celebration in Bosun Hall, New Denver, 2008. Sally is wearing her original wedding dress.

She and Barry established the highly successful What Knot Woodworks, producing classic wooden toys and name lettering for nurseries. I wonder how many adults here today can recall growing up with these childhood treasures in their bedrooms, lovingly handmade and sold at Nelson’s Craft Connection and Raven’s Nest Gifts in New Denver. Understandably, after Barry’s passing, Sally seemed unable to sell the business—after all, it represented a good part of their lives together. She continued making the toys and letters until just a few years ago.

Given Sally’s highly social nature, I wonder if the “social distancing” protocols of the coronavirus lockdown were especially hard on her. Clearly she was someone who thrived on social contact, and the more of it the better. She was an ardent supporter of arts and culture and faithfully appeared at nearly every gallery opening, concert or other community event, busily snapping pictures to capture the memory. I’m not sure she was someone who really knew how to be alone, and let’s face it—one of the hardest things in life to cope with is loneliness, especially after losing a life partner. Luckily her irrepressibly cheerful nature got her through it somehow. To me she will always be that perennial “flower child,” with a bright sprig of petals in her long, still-dark hair, reluctant to leave the “Summer of Love” behind. If only our culture had stayed right there with her, imagine what a different world we’d now live in.

Sally, you were among the best of us—the memory of your ready smile and laugh will be an antidote to the dark times we must now endure without you. Let’s hope the world returns to sanity soon so we can celebrate your life, all of us together in one place and sharing the generous hugs that were one of your trademarks.

Godspeed, Sally.

Moth Fairy

—for Sally Lamare, 1939–2020

 

Bathed in Nag Champa incense,

we approach her beeswax candle,

wilderness beacon on a windowsill

for souls lost in the night and

wanting warm, wanting home.

Just then, a moth the size

of my pinky fingernail leaps

from its cliff of air straight

into the flame, sputtering out

like a shot-down plane, wings

become one with hot wax.

 

Later, when we return to say

goodnight and godspeed,

a skipper moth skates the glass—

busy backyard socialite—

before melting back into the dark,

a “social distancing” too far

for us to reach. She is the moth fairy

we all knew, camellia in her hair,

dispensing chocolate chip cookies,

blueberry muffins, and O,

so, so much to say!

 

And what I want to know is:

Who but her will remember

every birthday and anniversary

without fail? Who will stop traffic

to share her news? Who is left

to carry the dream that dawned

on Yasgur’s farm and Topanga Canyon

just once before the music died

in our semi-automatic arms?

How many candles must we light

to match the stars in her eyes?

 

©2020 Sean Arthur Joyce

About seanarthurjoyce

I am a poet, journalist and author with a strong commitment to the environment and social justice. If anything, I have too many interests and too little time in a day to pursue them all. Film, poetry, literature, music, mythology, and history probably top the list. My musical interests lie firmly in rock and blues with a smattering of folk and world music. I consider myself lucky to have lived during the great flowering of modern rock music during its Golden Age in the late 1960s/early '70s. In poetry my major inspirations are Dylan Thomas, Rilke, Neruda and the early 20th century British/American poets: Auden, Eliot, Cummings. My preferred cinema includes the great French auteurs, Kirosawa, Orson Welles, and Film Noir. My preferred social causes are too numerous to mention but include banning GMOs, eliminating poverty (ha-ha), and a sane approach to forest conservation and resource extraction. Wish me—wish us all—luck on that one!
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24 Responses to Moth Fairy: R.I.P. Sally Lamare

  1. Shawn says:

    Beautiful words. I am so sad to hear that Sally has passed. I am shocked to be honest. Sally and I share the love of VWs and this is how we met. I will never forget the day Sally ran into the middle of the road to stop me as I was driving around New Denver in my VW. She was so charismatic and full of life and energy. She always had a smile on her face and something positive to say. I will miss chatting with her the next time I go to New Denver, as I make a point of either knocking on her door or running into her around the village. My summer stays will not be the same anymore and the village has lost a great soul. My condolences go out to her remaining family and close friends. It is especially hard during this time when we cannot gather to share the life of Sally, or lean into a shoulder to express our sorrow. May your hearts be full of the memories Sally has made for you.
    With deepest sympathies,
    Shawn

  2. ralphfriesen says:

    Thank you Arthur. A beautiful and big-hearted tribute. I appreciate the opportunity to know more about the lady who used to call us when we were on air with our bluegrass show on co-op radio. She often spoke of her husband and cautioned us to appreciate each other while we still had the opportunity.

  3. This is such a lovely tribute to that lovely woman, Art. I was speaking with Judy Wapp today and she mentioned you’d written a good one. Thanks and be well, you and Anne.

  4. Aline Winje says:

    What a beautiful tribute to this beautiful woman Art. Sally will be missed by all who knew her. May she RIP. ❤️

  5. Margaret Parker says:

    Such beautiful remembrances Art. Thank you for writing this and sharing some precious insights into Sally’s unique and wonderful nature. Our world will miss her.

  6. Nancylee Smith says:

    Beautifully written with love and joy for the woman she was and always be in our hearts.

  7. Heather says:

    Thank you for writing and sharing this Art. Beautifully written!I only had 7 months of getting to know Sally, so this brought me so much closer. I wish I had been more patient and stopped to listen with her, it’s a good teaching to let go of the things we think we should be doing and just hang out with what is ~ I’m grateful that I did get this opportunity to chat and know her, and I won’t forget ~ the Moth Fairy

  8. Julian Ross says:

    What a beautiful tribute to a dear friend of ours for over 35 years. Thank you so much for writing this. Julian

  9. David Hodsall says:

    Thanks for that, Art.
    Sally will always be remembered with a smile, that’s a testament to such a generous, and oh so genuine, being.
    Take care.

  10. Diana Lamare says:

    Oh my goodness, Art. You have captured my mom and dad so beautifully with your words, I have no words to say other than thank you from the depths of my aching heart. Mom and dad would have been completely humbled by this tribute, as am I. With much love and gratitude, Diana.

    • Dave Chambers says:

      Diana I have met your mother. I met at the house way back in 2015, a lovely person. It is a little complicated. There is a publication called Seniorsskiing in which I have written a story about your mother.( it will be published this week 18th or 19th December 2020) Perhaps you could respond to this and we can connect I am happy for you to have my email address also. BTW I live in Australia.
      Cheers Dave

      • Diana Lamare says:

        Thank you, Dave. I have received your email address from Art (author of the Moth Fairy) and mine will appear with this post.
        Looking forward to connecting with you,
        Diana

    • Dave Chambers says:

      Hi Diana
      You need to reply to my private email that Art sent you.
      Cheers Dave

  11. Jim Lamare says:

    Your words graced Sally and my brother with elegance and respect — attributes that they earned while with us. Many thanks!.

    Jim Lamare

  12. Kimberley Belton says:

    Thank you for this. Sally was an avid listener to CJLY and has called in to my show so many times through the years. I finally got to meet her at the Vallican Whole back in February. She complimented me on my over the top makeup and we got to chatting, without realizing who the other was. Finally we put two and two together and greeted each other like old friends, which, I think, in a way we were. My heart is broken, and the world is a little bit darker today.

  13. Lorna Visser says:

    Nicely done, Art! A perfect tribute to our one-of-a-kind Sally, the fairy godmother of New Denver and indeed of the whole Slocan Valley, she was known and loved by many. A lovely tribute.

  14. Erica Konrad says:

    Thank you Art. Beautifully written, for two beautiful souls. Sally was so special to our family, and we will miss her dearly. You have done a wonderful job of capturing her loving, generous spirit. Thank you and much love to you and Anne.

  15. Gaby says:

    What a loving beautiful tribute to a woman who was a treat to spend time chatting with whenever we crossed paths- which was often because we shared a love of art, gardening, singing and dancing. I didn’t know her for a long time but I will miss her.

  16. Julia Greenlaw says:

    A beautiful piece for a beautiful spirit. Thank you Art.

  17. Tom Perry says:

    We will miss Sally too. Thank you, Art, for writing so beautifully of Sally.

    Tom Perry and Beth Chambers
    Vancouver

  18. arabrab40 says:

    I am so moved by this tribute, Art, especially by the poem. Your beautifully articulated insights recaptured all my experiences with Sally….a truly unique and enviable spirit. Barb

  19. Diehl McKay says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful tribute for Sally. Your words carry much kindness Art.
    I first met this beautiful couple just after moving to the valley 34 years ago and every encounter with them always left me filled with happiness.

  20. Patti Sebben says:

    Art
    Thank you for the touching tribute to Sally. She was a special person in our community will be greatly missed. She impacted so many lives with her joy and sharing.

  21. mark christensen says:

    Loved watching this nulcear family age, a very hartfelt goodbey to another as we survive to meet again.

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