Painter, accountant, husband, grandfather, narcolept. Born Oct. 30, 1943, in London, England, died Nov. 12, 2012, in Kingston of liver failure, aged 69.
Chris was a narcolept. When he was young he fell asleep everywhere, suddenly, with no warning – in class, in the middle of a sentence, even at recess.
The drugs he needed to keep him awake eventually took his life, breaking down his liver over the long term.
His career as an accountant may have been described as hugely dull and boring by the Monty Python gang, but Chris saw it as the way to provide major support for struggling artists in all disciplines.
He was an after-hours artist himself, painting the vivid, full-colour dreams of his narcolepsy.
After running into many fellow artists whose careers had stalled due to their inability to handle money, especially the annual paperwork for Revenue Canada – many had simply given up filing – Chris set up a small business called Art in Taxes.
His memory for tax law and the allowable deductions for artists was infallible. He often quoted back to Revenue Canada obscure points they had overlooked in their own booklets. Consequently, his artist clients found themselves free to work once more. The world of Canadian art still owes Chris a debt of gratitude.
In the 1980s, Chris’s home town of Kingston was the place where Revenue Canada trained its rookies. The agency had audited a bookshop Chris frequented and claimed that the proprietors owed a large sum, which they were unable to pay.
Chris took over the store’s accounts and discovered that the inventory had been overvalued. Revenue Canada reversed its decision, and in the years that followed the grateful owners forwarded every book that could possibly be of interest to Chris.
Born during an air raid in the Second World War, Chris immigrated to Canada with his Cockney parents, who were fed up with the class system. Somewhat of a wild teenager, he managed to smash up the only new car his tool-and-dye maker father ever owned.
In the 1960s, he enrolled in teachers’ college. Though he didn’t take his degree, he fell in love with a fellow student, Diane Flindall, a young poet with whom he had two sons, Michael and Matthew.
After Chris dropped out of college and launched an accounting career with Nortel/Norcom, he gave his wife his full support while she wrote seven books and founded the Health Pursuits Reading and Research Group. The last project of Chris’s life was paperwork that enabled her group to receive a grant from the Trillium Foundation.
After taking early retirement when business practices at Nortel became the stuff that eventually made headlines, Chris did his painting behind the house in what he called the Bear and Jackal Studio.
His eye began to take on characteristics of the raven as he inserted shiny things into the fantasy landscapes of his narcoleptic dreams – silver, gold and gems bubbling in the molten lava of his accountant-artist’s mind.
Dick and Rose DeShaw were friends of Chris.