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Myles Shane: My Uncle Leonard

by Myles Shane Nov 20, 2023

Leonard's hands moved across an imaginary canvas, painting a vision of his heavenly future – his cherished wife, Linda, and their three children, Jason, Darren, and Jeremy, forever united in a timeless embrace of love and togetherness.

 

Waikiki

Jeremy, the adult son of my late uncle Leonard, fondly recalls his parents' enduring love for vacations "My mom and dad always loved Waikiki and wanted to share that special place with us," he reminisces. "I have cherished memories of family vacations to Waikiki with my mom and dad, alongside my brothers. My dad had an affinity for being there and capturing our moments through photography. Back then, posing for the camera might not have been our favourite activity, but today, those photographs adorn the walls of my parents' house. He understood the profound significance of those moments and sought to preserve them in time."

 

August 2023

August 2023 brought with it a bittersweet farewell. As the world transitioned into a new season, I had the privilege of engaging in a poignant conversation with my uncle Leonard via telephone. His voice bore the weight of frailty, weakened by the relentless challenges posed by cancer and kidney failure. Yet, despite the physical toll, his indomitable spirit remained unbroken—an enduring testament to the strength that defined him.

 

In his final days, Uncle Leonard found solace in the loving embrace of his family, his devoted wife, Linda, and their three sons, Jason, Darren and Jeremy—along with their respective families. It was a poignant reminder of the enduring love that bound this family together, a love that remained unwavering until the very end.

 

The paint laden brush delicately caresseses the canvas, leaving behind a tangible trail of artistic expression. Each stroke possesses a deliberate and purposeful quality, yet an undercurrent of spontaneity flows through the artist's hand. It's as if an unspoken dialogue unfolds between the artist and the canvas, with each brushstroke responding to the one that came before it, akin to a silent conversation.

 

Winnipeg

Uncle Leonard hailed from the heart of Winnipeg, Manitoba, a city steeped in history and diversity. Born as the second eldest among five siblings, he and my father shared a bedroom in their home on Smithfield Avenue in the vibrant North End of Winnipeg.

The North End

In the 1940s and 50s, the North End thrived as a vibrant cultural mosaic, weaving together various ethnic communities like Ukrainian, Jewish, Italian, and Indigenous populations. This neighborhood was a testament to the strength of community bonds and the rich tapestry of heritage. Here, neighbors were more than just acquaintances; they were an extended family, watching out for each other in a place where everyone knew your name. People celebrated their diverse traditions with pride.

 

Leonard and his siblings came of age in a bustling landscape of local businesses that catered to the eclectic tastes of the neighborhood. Kelekis Restaurant tempted with its famous hot dogs and Ukrainian fare, while Rubin's Fine Food delighted with legendary smoked meat sandwiches. "Sals," or Salisbury House, became a beloved hub for burgers and fries. Boryski's Butcher Shop was another local treasure known for its fresh meats and sausages. Red Top Drive-In, served up burgers and other fast-food delights. Nestled within the community was Garwood Grill, a welcoming neighborhood diner that served comforting dishes. Yet, the North End wasn't just about businesses; it housed cultural institutions like synagogues, churches, and community centers that played pivotal roles in residents' lives.

 

One of Leonard's closest childhood friends was Earl Palansky, who vividly remembers moving to Smithfield Avenue. "My father died in 1957, and our family moved onto 392 Smithfield around 1959-60, just three doors west of the Shane family." Quickly the boys became close friends. They were the same age and shared an interest in photography, even setting up a darkroom in the Shane basement. They attended West Kildonan Collegiate and entered university together. They spent time at each other's homes, went on trips to Clear Lake and Minneapolis, and Earl even attended Leonard's wedding.  Over the years, their friendship continued through correspondence and social media.

Amid this vibrant tapestry, love flowed abundantly within the Shane household, nurtured by dedicated parents, Paul and Pauline. Pauline, a passionate piano teacher, invested her heart in her children's well-being. Paul, the steadfast patriarch, provided unwavering guidance to their household. Initially, Pauline envisioned a future for Leonard in the world of piano, but after a few lessons, it was clear that his heart lay elsewhere. He found his calling in art classes, a passion he embraced throughout his life. As he later shared, "Piano lessons lasted only a few months. I didn't like it. Then I began taking art classes, and it worked. I liked it. But I never painted as an adult until I retired."

The Artist's Dynamic Palette

Leonard's creative journey was a unique and harmonious dance with inspiration. It refused to be confined by the constraints of a rigid schedule; instead, it flowed in rhythm with the melody of his soul. There were moments of leisurely respite, and then there were times when he would immerse himself in fervent painting for months on end. His choice of subjects, akin to chapters in a vibrant life narrative, often reflected the tapestry of his daily experiences.

In his early twenties, he embarked on a new chapter in Vancouver, where the breathtaking scenery became a wellspring of inspiration. He found immense joy in capturing the essence of his surroundings. Whether it was the elegant boats gracing the Richmond harbour, the tranquil shores of the Delta, the enchanting local parks, or the picturesque streets of his neighborhood, each canvas became a vessel for preserving a piece of his world. Be it through the careful study of photographs, the vivid recollection of memories, or the boundless expanse of his imagination, every artwork bore the unmistakable imprint of Leonard's deeply personal interpretation.

 

Trains and the Allure of Vancouver

While pursuing his education degree at the University of Manitoba, Leonard spent summers working on trains. It was an experience that led to overnight stays in Vancouver. As his wife Linda recalls, "He worked in the kitchen and hated it, but during these visits, he discovered his deep affection for Vancouver.” Sometimes, Leonard would stay overnight with his Uncle Harry and Auntie Ruth Saltman, connecting with his family roots.

 

The Journey Westward

After four years studying education at the University of Manitoba, Leonard decided he'd had enough of Winnipeg's blizzards and subzero temperatures. He embarked on a cross country journey, accompanied by my parents, to make Vancouver his new home. During this era, he became roommates with a former Winnipegger Jerry Zipursky and met his future bride, Linda.

 

A Grand Wedding and New Beginnings

The union of Leonard and Linda was nothing short of grand. They celebrated their love at the Beth Israel synagogue on August 5, 1969, with  300 guests in attendance. The reception and dinner/dance was held at the Hotel Vancouver (now a Fairmont), setting the stage for a life filled with love and shared adventures.

 

A Memorable Honeymoon and Return Journey

For their honeymoon, Leonard and Linda embarked on an adventure that took them to Victoria and Qualicum on Vancouver Island. The journey back was equally memorable, with a train ride that included a pit stop in Jasper.

 

Return to Winnipeg and Family Gatherings

Their first year of their marriage was spent in East Kildonan, a time when they were surrounded by the warmth of Leonard’s family. Friday night dinners at Baba Paulie's became a cherished tradition, with the entire family gathering in a tiny dining room, a space that had served as one of the kids' bedrooms not too long ago.

 

The colors in the  paintings seemed to come alive, each one more vibrant and intense than the last. They leaped from the palette with boundless energy, eager to make their mark on the canvas. Reds blazed with fiery passion, blues exuded a calming serenity, and yellows radiated warmth like a summer sun.

 

The Journey of a Dedicated Teacher

Leonard's teaching career took him to Norquay Elementary in Winnipeg and later to Delta, British Columbia. His commitment to education extended beyond the classroom, displaying the same eagerness to support his students as he did his own children. Leonard told the Independent, “I chose a profession because I wanted to make a living and I loved teaching. It demands lots of creativity. We worked on many creative projects with my classes – creative writing and art – and then I’d hang the children’s works all over the school.” Fully engaged by teaching, he didn’t have the time to think about painting. “Teaching is an immense responsibility,” he said. “So many kids have personal issues. Some kids are damaged, and you try to help.” For him, teaching was a profound responsibility, and he wholeheartedly embraced it.

 

Life in Kerrisdale and Richmond

Before the arrival of their children, Leonard and Linda resided in Kerrisdale, a vibrant neighborhood in Vancouver. Here, they basked in the city's glorious weather and reveled in outdoor activities. However, in 1973, a significant move marked the beginning of a new chapter as they settled into their brand new home in Richmond, where Linda continues to reside today.

 

Leonard & Linda’s Richmond B.C

Richmond, British Columbia, is an enchanting tapestry of diversity and vitality. Nestled gracefully between the Pacific Ocean and the Fraser River, Richmond stands as a testament to multiculturalism, where a vibrant fusion of cultures and traditions flourishes. Its roots run deep in the history of fishing and agriculture, evolving over time into a thriving metropolis.

This city is celebrated for its culinary kaleidoscope, where residents and visitors alike can indulge in a symphony of international flavors, with a special nod to Asian-inspired cuisine. In Leonard's later years, his artwork found a home in many local restaurants, his vibrant paintings adorning their walls. Richmond's picturesque waterfront areas, notably Steveston Village, beckon with their charm, offering serene strolls, delectable seafood dining, and glimpses into the city's storied past. In many ways, Richmond held echoes of the North End of Winnipeg, where Leonard spent his formative years, a place that left an indelible mark on his heart. Richmond was more than a city to Leonard; it was a canvas of memories, a gallery of inspiration, and a cherished part of his life's narrative.

Leonard's artistic creations also found a second life as postcards, gracing the shelves of gift shops throughout the region, a testament to his enduring impact on the community. Initially, he didn’t think about selling his artwork; it was just a hobby, but that changed. “First time I put my paintings out, some kind of outdoor art sale, I was upset that everyone walked past, nobody bought [one],” he said. “Now, I just enjoy the process. I know that we all have different tastes, but the joy of creating art stays with you forever. And I know that, at some point, someone will come along who will love one of my paintings and buy it. One of my wife’s friends bought my painting recently. She often tells me that seeing it on her wall every day invigorates her. It’s very rewarding.”

 

A Loving Father Remembered

As Jason stood before the assembled crowd of friends and family at the  Beth Tikvah Cemetery, there wasn't a dry eye to be found. His words carried the weight of a lifetime of memories, painting a profound portrait of the boundless love he and his brothers held for their cherished father, Leonard. With tears glistening in his eyes, he began, "Finding words that truly capture the depth of our love for him is an impossible task. The memories of our childhood with Dad are etched in our hearts – from those treasured fishing trips to days at the batting range, from the simple joy of playing catch to the exhilaration of shooting hoops. His warm, loving embrace awaited us every time we arrived, and he ensured our farewells were just as tender."

 

Jason continued, his voice quivering with heartfelt emotion, further delving into his father's remarkable character and the warmth Leonard extended to their spouses, "He welcomed and embraced my wife, Amie, Darren's wife, Masumi, and Jeremy's wife, Shino, with the same affection he reserved for us. This love flowed both ways. Masumi kindly cut Dad's hair at their home every month over the past few years, Shino visited Dad at Vancouver General Hospital during her work breaks, and my wife, Amie, tirelessly ensured Dad received the medical care he needed. My father adored his grandchildren. I recall the countless times he spent painting with my children, Elsa and Aidan.

Perhaps the most profound tribute came as Jason spoke about the remarkable bond his parents shared. "he was a devoted husband. Just this past Saturday, my father and mother celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary. Their love story was marked by cherished meals together, a tradition as old as my memory. In our childhood, every Saturday, Mom and Dad would arrange for a babysitter so they could enjoy a special date night together. When I asked my brother Jeremy to capture the essence of their marriage, he aptly described it as, 'They delighted in long car rides together, and they could often be seen strolling hand in hand, right up until the very end.”

 

Retirement

At 58, Leonard embarked on the journey of retirement. "I pondered, what shall I do with my newfound days?" he reminisced. "That's when I delved into the realms of photography and painting. It allowed me to create art on my terms." He also ventured into the world of Toastmasters for a brief period. "Speaking in front of an audience made me feel truly alive," he mused. "Expressing myself has always been a vital aspect of any artistic pursuit for me. This is the essence of my paintings. Each canvas becomes a conduit for my emotions in the present moment. Some pieces exude a gentle, soft quality, beckoning for the subtlety of watercolors. Others burst forth with vigor and intensity, finding their form in vibrant acrylics. Every stroke of the brush brings forth something from within, a spontaneous flow that cannot be coerced."

Leonard's artistic spirit continually yearned for new horizons. "During a recent trip to Mexico," he shared, "I would often venture to the beach alone, sketchbook in hand. Capturing the essence of a place and painting in the open air are my passions. It's an experience heightened by the embrace of nature."

The Diagnosis

In the year 2019, Jason recalls, "My dad had been under the care of a urologist who noticed a decline in his kidney function." Simultaneously, Leonard had been grappling with a sense of unwellness and persistent back pain. Jason elaborates, "My wife, Amie, accompanied my mom and dad to the hospital ER, where medical professionals determined that he was suffering from kidney failure. Additionally, a CT scan revealed an anomaly on his lumbar spine, which was later diagnosed as multiple myeloma, a type of cancer."

Treatment

As the year 2020 dawned, the world found itself ensnared in the relentless clutches of the Covid-19 pandemic. Leonard, in his battle against cancer, faced the formidable combination of chemotherapy and dialysis to combat his illness. At one juncture, he found himself hospitalized during the peak of a vicious Covid-19 surge, with the virus breaching the very confines of his hospital ward. In those challenging times, visitors were prohibited, and his sole connection to the outside world became his trusty cellphone.

The Conversation

I recall a conversation I shared with my uncle Leonard last winter. I marveled at the daunting prospect of thrice-weekly dialysis for the remainder of his days. His response, nothing short of extraordinary, resonates in my memory: "I'm fortunate. Forty years ago, dialysis did not exist, and I would have died." His ability to unearth silver linings, to transform adversity into opportunity, defined his extraordinary character. To him, every situation held a different perspective, a brighter facet.

 

As the brush dances upon the canvas, colors merge and blend, birthing new hues and textures. The canvas becomes a tapestry of emotions, an embodiment of the artist's inner world. It underscores the art's profound ability to evoke emotions, narrate tales, and encapsulate the human experience. With every brushstroke, the canvas breathes life, narrating a tale uniquely its own. It's a narrative of creativity, ardor, and the boundless possibilities of the artistic journey. As we gaze upon this work in progress, we are reminded of the profound beauty that can emerge from a mere stroke of a brush.

 

His Final Months

Darren, Leonard's second eldest son, reflects on his unwavering support for his father with heartfelt affection, "My father endured a long period of suffering, yet he never ceased to fight for more moments with his beloved wife and children. I made it a daily priority to be by his side, offering assistance whenever possible. Whether it was helping him move, providing emotional support, or being there for him in every way imaginable, I was always ready to step in."

 

"In his final months, as his strength waned and fatigue grew more overpowering, the challenges mounted. But my commitment to him remained unshaken. My father holds a special place in my heart, and his memories and warm smiles continue to radiate within me, reminding me of the profound bond we shared."

 

 

 

HOME

In the early hours of August 9, 2023, a surreal and profound moment unfolded. Leonard had peacefully passed away, leaving behind the physical world to embark on a journey to a better place. It was as though he had transcended the boundaries of time and space.

 

In this ethereal realm, Leonard's hands moved across an imaginary canvas, painting a vision of his heavenly future – his cherished wife, Linda, and their three children, Jason, Darren, and Jeremy, forever united in a timeless embrace of love and togetherness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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