Celebrating David T. Nicholson’s Life

Written by  //  April 29, 2018  //  Absent Friends, Messages From Friends, Wednesday Nights, Wednesday Nights Meta  //  Comments Off on Celebrating David T. Nicholson’s Life

A full house and very engaged audience 27 April 2018 3-4pm

27 April

This is a rare occasion in this family. I get to have the last word.
Thank you all for coming en si grand nombre to celebrate David’s life at this Wednesday Night on Friday afternoon with Fiona Nicholson,Marc Nicholson, Jean Low, James Nicholson and me.
In the words of Clare Schapiro, who launched Marc’s theatrical career, it was a day filled with fond memories, laughter and eyes wet with tears of admiration. David T. Nicholson would have been thrilled to see so many friends from near and far and from every era and aspect of his life. He would have been as  thrilled by some of the “retrouvailles” and unexpected connections that were made in true Wednesday Night tradition.
I want to thank all the friends who have so generously helped to organize today’s event. And those who offered help when we couldn’t even think of what to ask them to do.
In addition, to all those people who came from afar especially Jean and Jamie, Antony Besso , Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone, Cleo Paskal, Ellen Brackstone, Michael Meighen, John Moore, Brett House, Désirée McGraw, Dan Hurley, Genevieve Martel Kinder and Linda Forbes. as well as to those who could not be with us, but have sent heartfelt messages.
In particular, to Samuel Stein for the beautiful program that he designed and executed; to Brian Morel for the herculean task of assembling the wonderful video; to Susanna Eyton-Jones, David’s beloved Diva, and Claudette for the music;  to Wanda and Alan Hustak for their eloquent tributes to David; and to Laszlo Montreal for an iconic picture!
The speakers were magnificent. Speed eulogies – thanks, John Moore, for a new entry into our vocabulary – is the way to go!
Chair/MC/speaker Marc Nicholson carried on his father’s tradition with grace and élan!
I know that David is as proud of Fiona, Marc and Jamie today as I am.
In David’s politically incorrect words, the reception was an amazing occasion to “Drink, flirt and exchange cards”, catching up with old friends, while making new ones.
Merci à tous! Mouse

Pictures by Sam Totah

Marc Nicholson: Toasting our Guest of Honour  (video)
Wow…so many wonderful people here – it’s a party Dad would not have wanted to miss… So on behalf of my sister Fiona, my brothers Jamie, and David who could not be here…and Jeannette, Joel, Ryan, Maya and Bo, and most importantly, Dad’s beloved Mouse, Mum, I’d like to thank you all for being here to toast our Guest of Honour, this truly unique, irreverent and wonderful man.
I’m just going to soak this in for minute … it’s the first time I can speak to Dad without interruption.
There was nothing conventional about Dad, our house, or our upbringing…Dad was always elegant, and instilled us with manners, he loved traditions, discipline, and often ran the house with a military code of justice.
Rules however, were for the common people…which he did not consider himself.
The country house in Murray Bay was a favourite retreat where Dad had all the things he loved so much. Mum’s parents, The Admiral and Tiggy, the dogs, and good friends to engage in deep fireside conversations. The long drive to Murray Bay was always exciting. With cats and dogs and rabbits and kids in the back of Dad’s beautiful old jag, Dad would drive at great speeds down the highway.
On one such occasion, Fi and I were quite young, maybe 8 and 6. We had just dropped mum off at the airport, and we were driving through the Eastern Townships, and not for the first time, police sirens pulled us over. This time Dad was immediately arrested and thrown in jail. I think he’d ignored too many speeding tickets. Fiona and I were taken to a quaint Bed and breakfast. The following morning Fi and I were engaged in a high stakes poker game with a few of the elderly residents. Dad walked in and asked “what are you guys doing? And Fi deadpanned , “we’re raising money to Bail you out of jail”
Mouse was not amused.
Dad was happiest surrounded by friends and family. And loved bringing people together from all walks of life. And The house at 33 meant a lot to many people. In the early days Parties in the basement were legendary, with the glowing waterbed, the stream, the swings and strobe lights. Dad sitting at Command Central, and loving to surprise and delight with his latest experiments in photography, collages and music videos.
He loved the house, which makes this all the more surprising…when I was 9, I came very close to burning the whole house down. As flames billowed out of the top floor, fire trucks lined up on Mount Pleasant and Rosemount, all over Mum’s garden. I was put in a police car, and Dad came walking up the street towards us… I asked the policeman to lock the car…eventually Dad sat me down and spoke to me in the calmest, most concerned way. He wasn’t mad…he was gentle and understanding and gave me the greatest hug of my life. And then, with smoke and water damage, the roof burnt off, Dad held a party.
He greeted people with a disarming grace and charm, and a generosity of heart. He wanted to know about you, how he could help you, who he could connect you with. His enjoyment in life came from your enjoyment.
In the coming years, the basement parties moved upstairs, becoming more cerebral, and blossoming into the great tradition that is Wednesday Night, and Dad grew into the role he was meant for, that of our Chairman.
I didn’t truly understand Wednesday Nights until recently. There was a time years ago, when Dad and I had the serious chat about the meaning of life and for a brief minute he questioned what his contribution was…and this is what I’ve come to understand.
Yes, we come to share ideas, to engage in civil discourse, to challenge great minds, and to dull our own dogma, to understand the views of others and respect how they arrived there. Wednesday Nights made us better people. And to me, they contributed to world peace.
With the news of Dad’s passing, as the tributes from friends from our childhood, from Murray Bay, from the basement parties to Wednesday Nights, I grew to understand something more profound.
Dad loved people…he loved each and every one of you, and each of us.
Dear Dad. I love you for all you wanted to be, and I love you for all you wanted us to be,
Wednesday Night always began with Dad ringing the ship’s bell. Let me leave you with the words of John Dunne from No Man is an Island:
Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee….

Peter F. Trent
In spite of his bluster, David was a dependable and trusted friend;
He asked about you with genuine interest.
There are thing people and people people. David was both.
And insatiably curious about things and people.
He was genuinely interested in what one actually said.
To understand David, [one] must remember, above all, he was a pilot.
He just loved to fly and slip the surly bonds of earth.
He was never happier than when piloting Wednesday Night,
With banks of monitors around him,
Handling his joystick of chairman like a maestro,
Swooping, climbing, and wheeling around.
Wednesday Night always took off – in any weather.
It used Instrument Flight Rules. David’s instruments.
David’s destination was set, but his route varied,
Sometimes, it soared: WN’s intellectual altitude made your head swim.
But we always had confidence in our pilot.
No one was allowed in David’s cockpit.
But ground control was in charge:
The Mouse who never roared.
In closing, only one stanza of my poem I wrote for his 70th b’day:

Our chairman’s a disciplinarian;
Yet also an egalitarian.
So fairness results,
Since David insults
Both the toff and the pure proletarian

Goodbye, David.
Thank you for making me a better person.
For, by discovering you, I discovered me.

Margaret Lefebvre: In 1982 I was introduced to Wednesday Night by Karen Hamilton, the gravel voiced Convener of the early years of Wednesday Night.
Affectionately known as Lady Hamilton, she presented David as a life changing experience and Wednesday Night as the magnetic center of, this and any other week.
From the moment we met, I was swept away in the warmth and intensity with which David greeted a newbie. His curiosity was unbridled, he had to know what his guests were thinking about. what were their interests, their knowledge base and what did they need to make their lives better, more interesting, more exciting and how could he facilitate the process?
The potential recipient of this eclectic interest may not have perceived themselves to be in such need, but David never let details get in his way.
Celebratory by nature, David delighted in showcasing the talents and achievements of Wednesday Nighters.
While many of us may have a shelf set aside for Books by Friends, David had a whole library of them. Books, Articles, Essays and of course, long before we wore computers on our wrists, David had tapes, and websites, and photographs, recording our appointments, elections and achievements.
David had a passion for expanding the limits of the possible. One memorable evening, upon learning of a friend whose health was suffering from severe alcoholism, David invited leading experts in the field to challenge the then-accepted orthodoxy that only after the person had hit bottom, could one begin to help them towards recovery.
David stormed that night, insisting that the experts stretch their thinking and find a better solution. This was in the late 80s. Intervention was not yet recognized as an option. I believe that evening was a catalyst for a beginning of a change that we still see evolving today.
David was a man of many passions, but none greater than his love for Diana. From their beginning to his last days, she was his best friend, his constantly sought companion, his sounding board, his pride and his blessing.
Thank you David, for all you have brought into our life and times.

Ron Meisels: The Research Analyst’s Report
Since 1982, my contribution to WN was a weekly summary of the market. Here are the comments I presented just two days ago.
The bull market that started in early-2009 is getting tired, but still has one more Leg to go.
To compare the bull market to a trip from Montreal to Toronto, then it has gone past Cornwall and Kingston and stopped at Oshawa for lunch in January and it is just about to embark on its last LEG to Toronto, which will probably not be fueled by those stocks that drove it to Oshawa, namely the FAANG stocks like Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google, but new names.
In Canada, the last LEG is usually driven by Energy stocks like Suncor, and Material stocks such as Domtar and Norbord.
Speaking about the market, I know how David loved the market, spent hours watching the tape, but he loved even more to read Annual research reports.  So I would like to tell you how a Research Analyst would report on the life of David.
David T. Nicholson was listed on the Montreal Stock-Exchange in 1932 and he recently held his 86th Annual Meeting.
Initially in the Airline pilot business, he switched to investments, specializing and writing about options.
He met Diana during the Expo years; they immediately bonded and soon merged.  They created a subsidiary named Wednesday Night, and many of you here became shareholders in this venture. In fact, WN had its 1,885th consecutive weekly board meeting just two days ago, now under the very able new Chairperson.
Another subsidiary concentrated in match-making (with numerous positive results, including a recent one), which received a life-time trade-mark on a product called “breakfast material”.
WN prospered, but recently a dissident shareholder named Mr. Alzheimer began to interfere in the company’s affairs, unfortunately successfully.
I am sure that as soon as David arrived up there, he created a new organization called “heavenly Wednesday Night”.  I can just see the table surrounded by people he always wanted to meet, such as Mr. Dow and Mr. Standard and Mr. Poor, and Elliott, Kondratieff, and Adam Smith, Joseph Schumpeter, Milton Freeman, Paul Samuelson among others.
Bless you David, and enjoy your new group of friends.

Cleo Paskal: I do some work with the military and so, in that context, I’d like to say we are the combined Wednesday Night Forces, created by David and Diana.
David was very much an Air Force man. He flew over the room and occasionally dropped bombs into the conversation; occasionally there was friendly fire.
Diana is very much Navy. She makes sure all the various conversational ports of call are visited, and all the cocktails are served.
And we are, of course, the infantry. We are on the ground, trying to fight out the good fights that David picked for us, which are the fights against ignorance, division, and a lack of market knowledge – a big one for David.
And so all I’d like to say is, this Wednesday night, and every Wednesday night, and hopefully every day, we will go once more unto the breach – for David.

John Moore: It is honour to be speaking at the first ever memorial featuring speed eulogies. I have fantasized this week about Diana standing close by with an air horn to blast at the two minute mark.
But in my business we can sell a Mercedes Benz in thirty seconds.. so here.. for David… perhaps fittingly are four Mercedes Benzs.
If I end up seeming a little sentimental… know that these words are somewhat infused with single malt scotch.
When I was still a teenager I read an article in the Montreal Gazette about a rambling mansion in the flats of Westmount with a swing in the basement where every Wednesday night they convened a salon to talk about current events, economics and ideas. I dreamed I might one day be invited; it was like the golden ticket from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory… and then one day I was. I arrived with a bottle of Bombay Safire because I knew it was a known reserve currency for WASPS.
I talk for a living, but in my private life I’m more of a listener. So imagine my terror when David introduced a topic and then not only asked me for my opinion but decided to spontaneously declare a debate between me and another participant. He moderated it with a sly grin on his face… knowing he was pushing people’s buttons as only he could… up until he always reached a point at which Diana could be heard from somewhere around the table saying “oh David”.
The characteristic that has kept coming to mind again and again since David’s passing is mischief. He decanted a gentle kind of trouble like a finely mixed cocktail.
David was elegant, clever, relentlessly curious. The photograph Diana chose for his obituary makes him look like a character from the League of Extraordinary Gentleman. Poised, impeccably styled, at ease in the world and firmly in command.
At the heart of David’s life is a love story. David and Diana. David and his children Marc and Fiona. David and the life of the mind. David and Wednesday Night Club
And what more fitting tribute than today. Look at this room full of people living full vivid lives… passionate about ideas, seized with curiosity about all things. The only thing David would hate about today…is he’s not here to run it.

Sam Stein: I would like to talk a bit about David as an artist – and as a friend and supporter of artists: his often-overlooked creative side.
He didn’t exhibit his works in galleries – although his photography could certainly hold its own with that of any number of professionals. He didn’t affect the pose of the poor, starving, misunderstood artiste living in a garret (far from it) – although in many ways his modesty as a creator masked the fact that he was, in reality, a true original.
Despite his elegance and style, David was very much a hands-on creator – developing his own photographs in his darkroom and editing his own video and film loops and soundscapes in his basement atelier at 33 Rosemount.
And what about the multi-media theatrical environment he created in the basement there? The simulated rain-forest and stream; the multiple screens and projectors; the swings and platforms and lounging areas; the sound-and-lighting effects…..he was ahead of his time. And it was David who was the guiding spirit, the visionary who imagined and commissioned that magical space. It was David’s inspiration and ideas and his talent for collaboration, working closely with the architect (our dear departed friend John Schreiber), that made it possible. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have experienced that place will never forget it.
But it was not only as a creator of the physical that David was an artist: he was also an artist in creating a unique social environment – something that he, with the indefatigable collaboration and complicity of Diana, did in a way that made so many events so memorable. There is an almost culinary art to bringing people together and setting the stage for them to interact in interesting ways. Or maybe the talent of an orchestra conductor. David, with Diana at his side, had no equals in this. Perhaps the best way to think of Wednesday Night is as a work of art.
David was also a great friend, appreciator and supporter of artists of all sorts: painters, photographers, cartoonists, poets, writers, sculptors, actors and musicians. Not to mention a certain glass artist, my dear late wife Astri, who recognized this aspect of David before I did – at a time when I saw David as more of a financial market aficionado. She would often remind me of his visual perceptiveness and sensitivity, of his ability to recognize and appreciate beauty of all sorts. He (and Diana) collected and displayed the art of friends in their home, could be counted on to attend vernissages (and to invite their many other friends), featured numerous artists (and their creations) at Wednesday Night, posted them on his website and promoted them tirelessly by word of mouth.
David had the innate curiosity and independence of mind of the true artist, as well as the artist’s love – compulsion, perhaps – for disrupting the status quo. Like a true artist, David asked often difficult questions and made you think a little harder about what was happening around you.
Like so many artists, David was also profoundly unselfish in his desire to share with others his observations and appreciation of the world and the people around him. I am truly fortunate and thankful to have had David – the artist – as a friend for these many years.

Désirée McGraw: Dear friends and especially Diana, Fiona and Marc,
I feel honored to be among those asked to speak today in memory of David. Diana has asked me to highlight David’s genuine interest in young people – their ideas, their opinions, their take on the world. I first met David and Diana when I was a young person myself. I attended my first Wednesday Night Salon 25 years ago almost to the day – as part of the Model UN group at their son Marc’s university. I recall their Rosemount dining room was overflowing with people from all walks of life – economists, politicians, experts, academics, authors, activists and artists…. Televisions were perched around the room – with David masterfully chairing heated debates, prompting new rounds of discussion with each news item – carefully curated since the last Wednesday Night.
David did not hesitate to put the newbies right on the spot – compelling us to share our opinions on the issues of the day. It was sink or swim. The experience was daunting, but it was also empowering. I could see that Diana and David were genuinely interested in our views and experiences. As with all of their guests, they made us feel special and unique.
As I went on to pursue my own career working with young people – at McGill, the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation and now Pearson College – David and Diana have been there every step of the way. They have hosted countless young people in their home, supported them in their studies, counseled them in their careers and life choices.
David has made a real difference in the lives of so many of us – including as young people at a formative time in our lives: helping to shape our worldview and the contribution we could make. I believe his affinity for young people reflected in part his own active mind, his own sense of irreverence, his own unconventionality.
David’s legacy lives on in all of us – and in particular those of  us who carry on his commitment to and cultivation of novel ideas and divergent opinions.
Personally, I try to emulate his example as head of Canada’s most diverse international college with young people from every corner of the world. David’s life-long passion for diverse people, perspectives and positions made him a maverick – a man ahead of his time. He will be greatly missed.

Rick Schultz (video)

Please also see David T. Nicholson R.I.P. for more

I am still in the afterglow of one of most remarkable final goodbyes I have ever witnessed. I went away yesterday with a profound nostalgia for David. It brought back so many memories of unforgettable moments that I had managed somehow to forget.   All of us present owe David for so many good times; and we owe you three for staging a unique panorama reflecting such a special man’s life. Peter (Trent) & Kathryn (Stephenson)

Today was a lovely and fitting celebration of David’s life, as he lived it, and as he will be remembered.   All present were happy to have been given the opportunity to grieve and celebrate together, and I think that David must be honoured and pleased. Thank you all, it was truly well done.  Margaret Lefebvre

Dear Diana, I was unable to reach you through the mob following the funeral service, but I wanted to tell you how great an event it was and what a tribute to David that so many friends from past and present were on hand to witness it. Michael Meighen was his usually classy self. Peter Trent made a point that I assumed others would, but didn’t: that David was truly interested in each person’s point of view and what they had to say. Today that is a rarity. I always appreciated that about him, even if he sometimes put you “on the spot” and under pressure. Too many people today ask a question and by the time you start answering, they are looking behind your shoulder to see who the next person coming along is. David was never like that. He was a real character and there are too few people like that today. Funerals aren’t my thing — I have always liked Meyer Wolfsheim’s line from the Great Gatsby that we should show our admiration for a man when he is alive, not after he is dead – but this was one I’m glad I didn’t miss. Best personal regards, Adam Daifallah

Chère Diana,
Ce fut une très belle cérémonie et un magnifique hommage qui m ont permis de beaucoup mieux connaître votre tendre et impressionnante moitié .
Un grand vide assurément qui va requérir beaucoup de courage .
Très affectueusement , Diane (Sauvé)

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