Jack Whyte, champion of this conference from the very beginning, and friend to all who took part, died last night, in his adopted hometown of Kelowna, BC. There is a brief, lovely piece marking his passing here in The Daily Courier, his local newspaper.
I have been awash in sadness, and memories, since I heard the news this afternoon. He’s been ill for some time, and this shouldn’t be a shock, but somehow, it still is. I can hear his voice right now. “Christ, darlin’. I’m eighty — what did’ye expect?”
I expected you to last forever, Jack.
In order to cope, I have been, of course, writing everything down. How we first met, his unerring kindness, all our shared adventures — and mis-adventures! — over the years. His willingness to lift other writers up. How both he and Diana dropped everything — every single year — to judge the contest. The first time I heard him tell the story of Excalibur… Goosebumps!
These memories will stay with me forever — but what about you? Did Jack sit with you in a Blue Pencil session, and offer a word of advice? Did he read your story aloud in Idol? Did you share a laugh in the hotel bar? Did you find yourself singing along with him, at the top of your lungs, about young hippopotimi love?
In the more than twenty years of our friendship, I cannot count the number of acts of kindness I watched Jack offer to other writers. If you have a memory you’d like to share, please feel free to add your thoughts down below.
I miss him so much already. We all will miss him. But Jack’s kindness and generosity helped shape SiWC into what it is today. He was Our Jack, and so much of who he was lives on in the spirit of this wonderful group of people. A legacy we can hold close to our hearts.
March 16th. Editing to add:
Canada’s Globe and Mail has run a lovely obituary for Jack in the Arts section that you might enjoy.