farewell to JJ

I am writing to let you know that my partner JJ (John Johnston) died suddenly on Friday 25 May, of a heart attack.  He was 74 years old.
 He is survived by his sister Margaret Thomson and brothers James (Jim) and David Johnston in Scotland, his son John and son-in-law John Cunningham in London, England, his former wife Mary Goss Johnston of Toronto, his two cats Cleo and Patch…
…and me.
John was both a proud Scot and a proud Canadian.  He moved to Toronto from Cumbernauld, Scotland in the early 1990s having retired from the Royal Mail (U.K. post office) after 38 years there.  Once in Toronto, he worked with the Corps of Commissionaire until he retired four years ago.
Everyone who met him will remember his good humour and wit… I remember one landlord representative at the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal when John was working the desk there saying, “How is it that you always get the last word, and that it’s always funny?”
One of JJ’s wishes was that his ashes be scattered in three locations, which reflect his love of both his homeland and his adopted country:
… the ravine between St. Clair and Eglinton off Bathurst in Toronto (next to the Valleyview apartment building where JJ lived for 4 years)…

JJ gave me one of the recipes represented in this photo, and he also liked the “horiatiki salata in a jar”.

… the Atlantic Ocean at Inverness, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia…

Inverness is reputed to have the best sunsets in Canada (by the locals, at least!). JJ, after seeing a few of them, stopped arguing with the locals about where the world’s best sunsets actually were.

… and Loch Lomond in Scotland (just north of where he was born and raised).
There will also be future celebrations of his life held in both Toronto and Scotland – trust him to want not one but two drinking fests in his memory!

One of JJ’s pilgrimages to the only single-malt whisky distillery in Canada, located at Cape Breton, NS.

For those friends who knew JJ and me personally, it was JJ’s wish that flowers not be sent.  If friends chose to make a gesture, he would have appreciated a donation to the Canadian Cancer Society (JJ had lost two wives to cancer.  He would have wanted donations to be made in the memory of Jean Johnston, his first wife and the mother of his son John.)
Another wish that he had was that when people learned of his death, they listen to his favourite song: “Loch Lomond” as sung by Runrig in a live version.  Here is the YouTube link to the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzQ1pNfbe3Q (please note that it is 7:34 minutes long but it is well worth the listen.  While you listen, picture JJ prancing and dancing around the apartment while it was blasting – one of the only noise complaints we ever got from the landlord resulted from his footfalls from jumping up and down during the song, which the downstairs neighbour did not appreciate.)   Please note that that song was also a tribute of his to Jean, the first true love of his life and the mother of John.  I believe that if he hasn’t joined her already, they will soon meet up again.
I would like to leave you with a quote from one of JJ’s favourite songs/poems by Rabbie Burns (web reference is here: http://poetry.about.com/od/poems/l/blburnsfarewellhighlands.htm). Although he was not from the Highlands, he loved this one stanza in particular:
Farewell to the mountains, high-cover’d with snow,
Farewell to the straths and green vallies below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.
He first quoted this to me when we visited Cape Breton and he showed me this scenery on the Cabot trail:

Αἰωνία ἡ μνήμη σου, JJ.  (Aionia i mnymi sou/May your memory be eternal.) And, ready aye ready!!  You were loved, liked and respected by many people and brought a lot of good into many people’s lives, including my own.  You will be missed.
PS.  click here for a comic I made up about JJ a few years back – you should get a kick out of it.  http://sites.google.com/site/bespokebybrouhaha/comics
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