My world has shifted. Everything has come awry, and there are many uncertainties, bills, and worries.
But there is also the knowledge of his great love for family, friends, life itself.
Today, we said goodbye to my soul mate, something I had not thought to do for another 25 years--if even then.
I'd like to share part of the service with you.
Prelude, read by our friend Ami McKay:
The fog's just lifting. Throw off your bow line, throw off your stern. You back out around the edge of the wharf, around the Shoe Bridge Rocks. Blow your airhorn and throw a wave to the younger generation of Huntleys, Steeles, Thorpes, Tuppers fishing off the wharf. Picking up steam as we roll past Clam Cove. Past Lady’s Cove where we used to play as kids even as our parents warned us to stay away from the water, watch the tides. Then the birds show up, black backs, herring gulls, cormorants and the occasional eagle, out looking for an opportunistic meal. The sun hits ya, you head west past Cape Split and the voice of the moon. .Open up to 12, steamin' now, wet exhaust thrumming the primeval beat.. The guys are busy, you're in charge. Ya know what? You're a lobster boat captain, fishing the waters of the upper bay of Fundy! Is there any thing better in the world?
Adapted from The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
I knew a man who made up words, to suit his mood each day.
A knotted rope or a useless dope was a Gignoggle, he’d say.
And a Porkus was an animal of body fat and plush.
And I won’t repeat his words for snakes, our Reverend will blush.
And I know he didn’t strictly coin the word “Kadiddlehopper”
It may as well have been his own, he used it good and proper!
He announced his presence loudly, with a big ol’ “Hallo There!”
And a hug from him would make you think of some big friendly bear.
In mornings, he would feed the cats and do the chores as well.
And he’d leave my Mom a little note, and sign it JPL.
Once, I asked him what it stood for, this man of gentle soul.
He shook his head, he smiled and said, it stands for “Just Plain Lowell”.
That’s how he thought about himself, “I’m just a man” he’d say.
This “just a man”, this JPL, the pillar of Scot’s Bay.
Just Plain Lowell helped build a wharf, a fire hall and more.
And if you asked, he’d take you out to Cape Split for a tour.
And strong! This man was so damn strong, I saw him lift with ease,
And place upon his pickup truck- a mostly full deep-freeze.
He always spared a moment for the donkey and the horse.
He shamelessly loved animals- except for snakes, of course.
He loved his mother dearly, and his wife and sons as well.
Kindness, love and loyalty, that’s what made up JPL.
And though he’s gone beyond the sunset, his soul is with the tide.
Fair winds and following seas , JPL. We’ll see you on the other side.
Any room grew warmer when Lowell Warren Huntley walked into it. His smile was huge, his voice joyously bombastic. He filled a room not only with his presence, but with his heart.
Heart. If there’s a single world to describe Lowell, it’s heart. He cared more for others than he ever did for himself. Whether it was the neighbour who had troubles getting enough wood for winter, or the young person undecided about a path to follow in life, or an animal lost, hungry, suffering or in need of love—Lowell was there for them.
The sea ran like lifeblood through Lowell’s veins. His days were conducted by the endless, eternal movements of the mighty Bay of Fundy. In the morning, every morning, regardless of weather, he got up, went to the upstairs windows, and looked down at the water. “I have to make eye contact with the water,” he would say, “Before I can get on with my day.” That was true every day for as long as he lived.
When he worked those waters, he engaged in a graceful, spirited, fearless dance with the tides and the rips and the whirlpools. From those wrestlings, with backbreaking labour and clever consultation of tide and compass, and yes, well, the occasional colourful phrase, Lowell drew forth the largesse of the ocean—the groundfish, haddock and halibut, cod and flounder, the baitfish herring and mackerel, and the jewel in the fisherman’s crown, the coldwater Fundy lobster. Lowell built his boats, built his traps, caught and put down his bait, mended gear. He worked hard to provide for his family, always with joy in his heart.
Not content to be idle during the closed-season months of August to mid-October, Lowell would turn to his other great skill—his affable knowledge of the waters he worked. He charmed young and old, man and woman alike with his enthusiasm as he toured people in his boats. Miss Patty Two. Misty Jade. Misty Jade Two. Lo-Da-Ka-Sh. Wyld Rein. A-Bell. Even his hobby boat, which he had planned to name WRT in honour both of Wyld Rein Too and Warren R Thorpe, his grandfather, has seen its share of sightseers and fishing enthusiasts. Come spring, the boat, which he rebuilt with his own two hands (assisted by a cat or two and threats from his longsuffering gardening spouse to plant it full of flowers) will be officially named by his sons Shawn and Darren, to whom it is bequeathed, “Dad’s Pride”. May it long be their pride as well, and guide them safely over those waters.
But while Lowell loved the sea and the fishing and the boats, his real pride was in his family. His sons and their wives—Darren and Misty, Shawn and Michell. His grandchildren Tyler, Tanisha, Britney, and little Kaleb. His sister Liz, her husband Bobby, nephew Blaine and his precious and brave mother Irene. His once and future loves, Elaine, Kathleen, and Jodi. All who loved him as much as he did them.
A complicated man, Lowell had eyes that took him beyond the horizons normally bounded by the cool waters of the bay. He wanted to experience more than the Bay offered, which is why he took training in a trade that took him away for months at a time when he went to sea, but also led him eventually back to work in his home community. He travelled and asked questions and explored and made friends everywhere he went.
Lowell’s mum Irene likes to recount the story of his buying five duck eggs for a dollar, and carefully natching them out, and how they always followed him about. Like his sister Liz, Lowell was tenderheartedly fond of animals, lived happily with a family of cats, a cranky donkey and a horse, fed a huge passel of wild birds, attempted to tame a baby skunk, and otherwise tolerated wildlife except for snakes, which he believed were always sneaking up on him with ill intentions. When he saw a snake he would break into a hilarious but incoherent rant of colourful epithets, and he made up his own words to suit himself. We referred to those as Lowellish—how many in this room have heard him mutter about untangling a gignoggle of rope, or heard him mutter at being flussterpated by those darn Angry Birds again? If there wasn’t a word that suited him, he would make it up, If he didn’t have a tool or a piece of gear to suit him, he’d make it, from a fid for mending his lobster gear to a means to tricking the horse to stay in the pasture.
An ordinary man perhaps in many ways, but Lowell was passionate about nature and the wondrous world around him. He took many ocean scientists out on research expeditions—they loved to go out with him because his boat was so clean they could have eaten off the deck. He was included in several books about life on the Fundy written by his late friend Stanley Spicer, and in more recent years had two gardening books written by and dedicated to him by Jodi, to whom he was everything: her rock, her strong north Mountain heartblood. He was thrilled to host several weddings on board his various vessels, the most important one being of his friends Greg and Karen McLellan. He loved nothing more than sitting around yarning after a hard day working in the woodlot. As one friend said, “He was a man’s man.”But in everything, he was a kind and loving man, who loved and cared for all who were his family, his friends, with everything in that huge, wondrous heart of his. Until the sad day earlier this week when that great heart, worn out perhaps by his labours, gave up on him.
We who are left to mourn his loss are also able to celebrate—that this was a man who would stop to make sure a man hitchhiking had a ride safely to his destination—who enjoyed a practical joke as much as the next person, and was definitely the king of the water fights. Lowell rejoiced to come into the house announcing the first snowdrops, the first red trillium, how many flower buds were on his favourite horse-chestnut tree, a tree that he had loved since he’d helped his grandfather plant one when he was a child. He loved his cats, especially the very naughty Mungus who delighted in escaping into the yard so Lowell would chase him.
Lowell may not have said it in words as often as he might have, but he was so very proud of his sons Darren and Shawn, their partners and their children, his stepson Ryan, and especially was looking forward to taking his smallest grandson Kaleb out fishing with his own rod and reel when spring came. Lowell mourned at the passing of friends, family, relatives, acquaintances, and was so very happy to see the healing of old rifts and the renewal of family ties.
So now we bid adieu to Lowell as he moves from this world to another. He was a father, a son; a brother, an uncle, a grandfather; a father in law; a stepfather, a husband, a loving and beloved partner. A friend to so many, and enemy to none. This marks the measure of a man, that he had friends that ranged across age, class, generation. He treated all as he would be treated—with respect and kindness. We could all take a little of Lowell’s light forward into this world.
Fair winds and following seas to you, dearest Lowell, beloved of so many. There's no goodbyes - there's only love, only love.