Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Clare Piller

It's always hard when a friend dies, but particularly hard when that friend is much too young. The lively, beautiful blonde Clare Piller and I worked at the Canadian Conference of the Arts in 1972-73, organising conferences with government officials and artists to make sure the arts in Canada were well funded, or simply funded at all. Clare was vastly more mature and worldly-wise than I - she had a husband and small children and wore panty-hose and eyeliner, whereas I - no surprise - lived in a communal house, wore Goodwill sweaters and Converse sneakers and worked with my feet on my desk. We got along famously. Lots of crazy funky wonderful people worked at the CCA then, including Terry, Nancy and Anne-Marie, and before the memorial yesterday, we gathered for lunch nearby, to get caught up with each other and to commemorate Clare. We've all been friends for 35 years and call ourselves the Crones. We believe in Crone Power. One day I'll write about why.

Our friend Clare, with her classy blonde hair and great wardrobe, cared desperately about the fate of the arts in this country and worked to support them her entire adult life, as well as raising 3 children and looking utterly fabulous the entire time. Yesterday, at her memorial service, I found out that she was only 63 when she died - 4 years older than I. In a slide show of her life, the heartbreaking last shot showed her, hair short and grey, hugging one of her grandchildren.

Though I hadn't kept up much of a friendship with Clare, I was deeply affected by the loss of someone so committed to artists, so vital and young. The rest of the day I felt like I'd been smacked with a baseball bat; teaching that night was harder work than usual. I just can't imagine what it would be like to have to say good-bye, in the prime of life, to your children, your brand new grandchildren, your husband of many years and the work you love. Until then, Clare had what looked like a charmed life - a childhood of wealth and privilege, a solid marriage and healthy children, a farm in the Ontario countryside, a house in a Nova Scotia cove, work that mattered. But at the end, Clare, who had given so much, was dealt the worst blow possible. Unfair.

But then, it's never fair, is it? Life.


  1. Thank you Beth for this wonderful entry on your blog. I stumbled upon it will googling my mum's name in attempt to test the video I just posted on youtube. You can find the slideshow you've referenced here:

    Thank you for your kind words, thoughts and attendance to the memorial last month. My mum would have loved to see everyone together as we were that day.

    Christiaan Piller

  2. This afternoon, I was going through my great aunt's papers for our family history and came across an old newspaper cutting from 1933 with details of a concert given by Ettore Mazzoleni in the UK. Why was this there? I then found a photo of a Mrs Mazzoleni and my great aunt and finally a receipt for a party wall payment dated 3 Nov 1928 for 2 properties in Swindon, signed "F Mazzoleni". Now I had the clue - the Mazzolenis lived next door to the Macphersons at 185 and 184 Victoria Rd, Swindon. Later on, I found the passenger list of the RMS Alaunia which sailed from Southampton to Quebec and Montreal on 29 July 1933 with my great aunt and a Mrs C Mazzoleni on board. This piqued my interest and I came across the Mazzoleni family in Canada. My great aunt has been dead for almost 18 years so I can't find out more of the background but what a lovely connection over the years and continents (I live in the Channel islands!) My best wishes to all the Mazzoleni descendants. Robin Kelly

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