June 8, 1950 - Nov. 10, 2006
My brother was born June 8, 1950 in Toronto. After Estonia was shut down in September 1944 our Estonian parents were forced to make a new life for themselves first in Sweden and then in Ontario in 1949. Our family home for 27 years was 2 Strathcona Avenue located in the east end of Toronto close to the downtown core near Danforth and Pape. My little brother was a beautiful-looking child with pale blue eyes, a mass of platinum blond hair, a robust child, outgoing and affectionate. In later life my mother said he was the most beautiful baby she had ever seen.
Together we attended Frankland Public School traipsing through Withrow park, passing the lawn-bowling members in their summer-whites and in the wintertime a large area of the park was flooded for a skating rink. One day as I skated I heard click, click, click, click behind me, the sound of 5 year old Hannes running on his skates. We had no television for the longest time and like most siblings depended on each other for riotous antics. At my parent’s cottage on Lake Simcoe he won a 2 mile swimming race at the age of 11 and years later zoomed the back country dirt roads in a 1966 green MGB sportscar.
As a teenager Hannes worked part-time in a butcher shop and in the evenings hustled pool on the Danforth. He attended Riverdale High School but left after a year remarking "Intelligence is something you’re born with, you either have it or you don’t, schools can’t make you smart." In his late teens he attended George Brown college studying marketing, becoming Vice-President and President of the Student Council. He worked as a printer for Canada Labour Law owned by Tom O’Connor who was once Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s campaign manager.
In 1971 he introduced me to a beautiful young Ukrainian woman, a teacher and talented artist, who had hair down to her waist and brandished big smiles. I loved Marie Kulyk from the start and made these feelings known to my brother advising him not to let this girl slip away. I remember one night sitting with Marie in Union Station; she was wiping tears from her eyes as we had just said goodbye to Hannes who had boarded a train for Labrador to work as a diamond driller. On his return a few months later they headed westward first to Powell River, then Vancouver and finally Victoria. In those early days he worked in construction, hating it, throwing up some mornings before work. In his mid-twenties with Marie they drove the ugliest truck on the face of the earth down to Cuernavaca, a town just south of Mexico City. Two months later the four of us with my first husband ventured over to a spot just north of Acapulco, Pie de la Cuesta, where Hannes had found a trailer park located on the ocean. A plot of sand was all it was, $2.00 a night with showering utilities. He even set up a little kitchenette where we could wash and dry dishes. We spent an idyllic couple of weeks sleeping in hammocks attached to the truck and palm trees, and drank Kahlúa and milk, while watching the sun set each evening.
Back to reality 4 months later in Victoria, Hannes landed his first job on a fishing boat. Now fishing was something he relished. He loved to talk about his sea adventures, describing the beauty of the west coast, its islands, its remote spots, and illustrated the thrill of the fishing boat as it skid, not sailed but skid, down an enormous wave. "Wasn’t that scary?" I asked. He replied "Nooooo, I loved it." Those were the days he caught huge Springs and Sockeyes and had them smoked at the Imperial Salmon House in Vancouver. Toronto relatives were happy to see him arrive with these large sides of smoked salmon which he often gifted. Hannes was a generous guy.
When I think back on my brother’s life, I see a man who did it his way, and for a guy who thought in black and white terms, he was extremely colourful. He worked hard and played hard. Authority was what he created for himself - of course being 6' 4" tall helped. Hannes didn’t put up with any bull. And he wouldn’t let anyone get away with any phoniness. Even a whiff of it. His recourse was humour. He had a lot of that, as well, a great talent for mimic and raconteur. He drove a series of old cars, some of them with almost as much character as himself. Golf was his passion, and he highly valued his 13 year membership at the Royal Colwood Golf Club. In the late 70's he was a founding member of the Greater Victoria 8 Ball Association and went on to become a Victoria snooker champion winning several tournaments. Many knew him as the owner of London Fish & Chips on Cordova Bay Road, a restaurant that burned down on 9/11 and re-opened in Langford where it continues today run by his son. Hannes had a penchant for hiring workers from Estonia so he could keep up his Estonian language skills. But the role he loved best in life was that of husband and father. He deeply loved his wife, Marie, and their spiritual connection was 35 years strong. His love for his children, Andrew, Julia and Hayley, was unconditional and enormous, valuing each one for their own unique abilities.
Hannes is not forgettable and we will remember him for a long, long time. Death does not diminish love. Those that we have loved and lost remain within us. So Hannes, we will miss you. It’s too hard to say good-bye, let’s just say hasta la vista.
In memoriam: Hannes Bernhart Veintrop (6)