A Tribute To Gerald Obre (1952 – 2014)

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A Balinesian feast! Gerald Obre (L)

Following is the Eulogy I gave for Gerald Obre at the memorial services held for him at Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday, August 23, presided over by our good friend Peter Elliott, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral:

I’m a friend of Gerald Obre and it’s good to see so many friends and family of Gerald here today.

There are no words adequate to describe the sense of loss we all feel; or to express those last thoughts we wish we’d had a chance to share with Gerald. There is no way now to hug him one last time, and there is nothing I can say that will call his infectious laugh forth once more to ring out, that we might laugh with him one more time.

And yet, all I could think about this last week was how lucky we all are – and I mean everyone here in this magnificent cathedral – lucky beyond measure to have lived in a world large enough to contain a Gerald Obre!

All of us who knew him, those of us on the earth fortunate to call him uncle, or friend or brother or lover are a very privileged few.

Because I think the only reason we all really know what true exultation is, is because we’ve seen Gerald ranting away happily at us about the amazing flavor of spot prawns! Or smoked sea salt! Or that stunning new cashmere sweater he just happened to find half-price on sale at Holts!

We all know what true unadulterated joy is because we saw his delight when we roared our approval for the irresistibly delicious, pomegranate molasses-glazed, maple-smoked bacon he served to us on skewers as a nibbly with our drinks!

And we know what true dedication to perfection is, because of all the friends contributing courses to a Millennium New Year’s dinner, only Gerald actually brought a plating diagram along to ensure he and his partner Glen got every single element of the complex dish they’d prepared onto each plate perfectly in place.

But that is not all or even the half of Gerald, even though that alone would be enough to laud him and honor his passing here today.

Gerald sometimes seemed so open to the world and so vulnerable that we all, I think, felt a bit protective towards him. Yet he was made of stronger stuff than any of us realized! Just think for a moment of what he’s overcome to make this long journey with us. Think too of how often you ever heard him complain? Never, in my experience. Not once, even in the darkest hours.

When he was first diagnosed with cancer, Reverend Elliott and Thomas Roach — who have been true angels throughout Gerald’s battle with illness — organized a group of friends to drive Gerald back and forth to chemo treatments.

I spent a number of mornings with Gerald in this way, and grew to know his fearless honesty and courage during those trips together.

It sometimes took him a long time to walk the short distance from the front door of his building to the car, his body was so exhausted. And even longer to sit down and get buckled in, he was in so much pain. But once the pain subsided and he caught his breath again, the first words inevitably out of his mouth were: “Hi Mr. Sean. Now tell me how you and Tom are doing.”

I guess what I admired most about Gerald was his extraordinary creativity. He was truly a self-made, self-actualized and self-realized individual, a true Renaissance man.

Tom, his sister Diane, Sean, Gerald & Glen up at Sakinaw
Tom, his sister Diane, Sean, Gerald & Glen up at Sakinaw

He was an amazingly inventive artist in his own right, and one of the most knowledgable collectors we knew. He loved beauty and surrounded himself with it. Almost as much as he loved men, and he could wax as poetic about their beauty as his latest acquisition of art.

In the summer of 2000, Gerald and Glen spent a few days with Tom and me up at a cabin on Sakinaw Lake. After they’d gone I wrote a poem and I would like to share it with you today, dedicating it to Gerald’s memory. The poem is called “Summer Days”

Summer Days

There comes a point some summer days
When balance calms Time’s ebb and flow,
When quiet falls, and resplendent rays
make ripples, waves and rivulets glow.

Eyelids grow heavy in somnambulant shade,
And gentled winds die down in mute homage;
Day’s end preceding, Day’s light begins to fade,
Sun’s last embrace of it’s earthly paradisic Raj.

The lake grows still, looks back in sad farewell,
Narcissus’ loss too painful here to tell.

Gerald Obre was magnificent, larger than life, and we are right to mourn him, but I urge you to honor his memory by embracing the beauty of life for which every waking moment of his time on this earth was a joyous celebration!

When I think of Gerald, it is of him smiling, exuberant, feisty, surrounded by his friends, good-naturedly enduring our teasing about his latest enthusiasm.

And if just one or two of us could walk out into the sunshine when we leave here today resolved to demonstrate even a modicum of Gerald’s unbridled enthusiasm for life, for its flavor and texture and color and light and beauty, the world will be a better place. And perhaps in this small way, others too might come to know what it means to have someone as wonderful as Gerald Obre in their lives!

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Gerald Obre was born on December 8, 1952 to William Applin and Alma Obre in Wells, BC, and raised in Vancouver, BC. He completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts at UBC. His love of fine cuisine led to a career in management in some of the country’s finest restaurants, and he finished his career as the demonstration chef at Whole Foods Caper’s store on Robson Street.

Gerald loved art, took many courses in jewelry-making, and he and his partner, Glen Hillson were sophisticated collectors of ceramics, glass and paintings. But his greatest passion was cooking.

He is survived by his brother Harold Applin and Harold’s wife Jeannie, nephews Ben (and Ben’s wife Stephanie) and Cody, and grand-nieces Ryanne and Addyson, and by many friends who loved him, not least of whom is Robert Strayer, who was closest to him and a crucial support to him throughout his illness.