Farewell dear, old friend 

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I once wrote that my pal Marc Chouinard embodied the indelibly optimistic spirit of Greater Moncton. I now think that the Hub City embodied his.

We met in 1997, when we both maintained separate work bivouacs at a successful marketing and communications firm on Lutz Street. His first words of advice to me, as the only anglophone in the office recently relocated from Halifax, was: “Give everything you’ve got; accept everything they give; most importantly, never give up.”

Of course, “never give up” was Marc’s raison d’etre. And his various biographers have managed to convey this truth in predictably warm fashion.

“Marc Chouinard, originally from Campbellton, New Brunswick, has been involved professionally in the cultural sector since 1976,” reads the blurb on the 2013 Ideas Festival website. “He has worked (on) a variety of projects across Canada and Europe, including the Francophonie Summits (six editions), the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the East Coast Music Awards (Chair of the Board of Directors in 2005 and 2006) and the Brunswick Arts Board, (on) which he served as co-chair.

“Currently General Manager of the Capitol Theatre in Moncton (and director of the Capitol’s art gallery), he presents each year hundreds of artists on the two stages of this important cultural space in Atlantic Canada.

“In 2002, he was named to the Canada Music Council by the Minister of Canadian Heritage. The ECMA presented him with it’s Industry Builder of the Year Award in 2008. In 2009, his curriculum vitae was included in Canada Who’s Who at the University of Toronto and at the end of December 2010 Governor General David Johnston named him to the Order of Canada”.

As for New Brunswick Premier Gallant, he had this to say upon learning of Marc’s passing, after a short bout with cancer, at the age age of 62, earlier this week: “(He) was one of my closest confidantes and a friend. Marc’s accomplishments are an example for us all. He worked behind the scenes to support and mentor others, helping artists reveal their talents to our communities.

“He was also a steadfast promoter of Acadian culture thanks to his work with the FrancoFête en Acadie and the Sommet de la Francophonie. On behalf of the province, I offer my sincere condolences to Marc’s friends and family. As Marc’s life is celebrated, let us all remember the man he was and his commitment to his community.”

As for me, I knew Marc as an irascible, demanding, frequently annoying SOB whose laser-like ability to burn away the detritus of my own neurotic tendencies in the interest of revealing whatever broader truth I happened know (but was determined to keep hidden) was almost preternatural.

And for this, I loved him like a brother. His counsel and advice made me a better writer and, no small part, a better person.

Once, some years ago, Marc and I collaborated on a project (with Janice Goguen, then a public servant, now a Moncton businesswoman) designed to unite the cultural export industries of New Brunswick’s francophone and anglophone communities. I remember telling him that it was impossible; never the twain shall meet.

All he replied through that trademark Cheshire-cat smile of his was this: “Give everything you’ve got.”

He was right, of course.

I gave an hour-long speech before an audience of 200 touchy cultural types at the Delta Beausejour in downtown Moncton, not minutes on foot from Marc’s beloved Capitol Theatre, in late March 2006.

At the end, to my astonishment, most faces were smiling.

I ducked out to the cold, early spring for a smoke.

I bent my head to peer at the pavement and to thank God for getting me through what I feared most: public speaking.

Behind me, alone, the Cheshire Cat spoke: “So that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

It was Marc telling me, once again: Never give up.

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