A really decent human being passed away a few days ago in Ottawa at the age of 77, Bill Conrod. Bill spent his adult life as an educator and when he was in his younger years taught at schools in Montreal including Westmount High, in California where I believe he was driving a Volkswagen Bug at the time, (To me there seemed to be a bit of hippy in Bill), and in Prince George, British Columbia. Along the way, Bill jumped from teaching high school to teaching at colleges and universities. Moving around Canada and the US must have been a challenge for Bill and his wife Jill, considering they had 4 kids in tow.
In the mid 1950s Bill and his twin brother Scott were summer lifeguards at the swimming pool at West Hill High School in Montreal. I can still recall the strong chlorine odor and the sound of the buzzer indicating the end of the swimming session, also the cacophony of excited young swimmers in the background.
I got to know Bill in his later years. He was 6 years older than me. I considered him a friend. We had a continued correspondence via e-mail for close to 6 years. We exchanged hundreds of e-mails over that time. He talked about his health struggles, his dog Buck, his family, sports, and of course politics. I’m not 100% sure but I think Bill was mostly a “Lefty’.
We connected through 2 of his books about the Montreal district of Snowden. He used a couple of e-mail things I wrote in his 2nd book. He clearly loved his growing up years in Snowden and the memories, including some mischief. It was a different time back then, the streetcars, Peggy’s Nut’s, MacDonald Park across the street from where Bill lived so very long ago.
Bill was often complimentary about my own writings and very supportive over the past several years. It was always appreciated. After I wrote a story about the Montreal community of Hampstead Bill sent me a wonderful photo of Hampstead Park in the early 1950s. The photo blew me away. I added it to my story. To me the photo was “idyllic” and captured a pure simple moment in time that reminded me of a French painting by George Seurat that was painted in 1886 and called La Grande Jatte.
It was very clear that Bill was struggling with his health issues over the last several years but he never let it diminish his curiosity about the world around him. He always kept his sense of humour. Sometimes Bill would recommend a current book he was reading, including one called North Country, which is about a Vermont author travelling along the 49th parallel between Vermont and Washington State. Other times Bill would e-mail things like an article on a survival kit for skiers. He also passed along some funny stuff.
Bill once told me that he was totally fed up with almost any talk about Donald Trump. I knew exactly where he was coming from on that. Bill was a get along with people type and it must have deeply disappointed him that the US ended up in its current state of affairs.
I also knew that Bill had a keen interest in the outdoor life and I loved sending him photos of my own exploits in that area including kayaking and fishing. He once told me about a canoe trip he took out here in BC. He would have been a great guy to share a campfire with.
Bill’s “stache” never went away. In the last year his hair got a bit longer. Was he making a statement? Had he become the quiet renegade? In the photos of Bill and his grandkids it was clear to me that he was enjoying himself thoroughly. Nice family.
Time catches up with all of us eventually. Bill had mostly a good life. Glad I got to know him a bit and I’ll miss him. I respected him. Wherever his soul has gone I hope he is taking some of his own advice, “always keep your stick on the ice”.
My condolences to Bill’s family.