Patricia Anne Salmon: Mother. Artist’s agent. Catholic. Contrarian. Born Sept. 6, 1937, in Victoria; died Dec. 16, 2019, in Duncan, B.C., of Parkinson’s disease, aged 82.
Most of Pat Champion’s fateful decisions were made early. She had classical education at St. Ann’s Academy in Victoria, where she developed an abiding interest in art and literature. She also made many lifelong friends and learned a strong faith that lasted her lifetime. In another era, Pat would have gone into academia or business, and would have excelled at either. But it was the 1950s, and what she wanted most was to get married and have children, lots of them. While ice skating at Victoria’s Memorial Arena, she met Martin Salmon, whom she married at the age of 21, and immediately proceeded to have seven children in 10 years, four girls and three boys.
When the youngest child was a toddler, Pat shifted gears and took two courses in art history at the University of Victoria, where she amazed her professor that a woman with seven children could be at the top of the class. She was soon given a part-time job as the slide librarian for the department.
One summer evening at the family cottage in Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island, Pat took a break from the children and walked along the quiet lakeside road to meet Martin on his way home from work. Her sandal broke. A passing couple noticed her hobbling along and offered her a ride. Next came another fateful decision: Pat gratefully accepted. She immediately recognized the artist E.J. Hughes and his wife Fern. Although he lived in the area, the reclusive Mr. Hughes was not widely known, and he seemed delighted to be recognized.
A friendship soon developed that lasted more than 40 years. Pat became his trusted assistant, agent and biographer. She handled all the details as he became one of Canada’s most highly regarded artists.
Pat’s sense of humour was legendary. She enjoyed sharing it with her grandchildren, who eventually numbered 29. She took a keen interest and asked each grandchild shortly after he or she began first grade, “Is your teacher nice?” Regardless of the answer, she would say “Well, if you have any problems at all, you tell me right away and I’ll march right in there and sock them on the nose.” Pat reported that only one grandchild actually laughed, but some seemed worried that she might actually follow through.
Pat was a fine conversationalist and genuinely interested in both adults and children. Friends of her own children would refer many years later to memorable conversations with Pat, noting both her humour and thoughtful responses. She had a strong belief in justice and fairness, which she passed on to her family. Yet she was not afraid to be politically incorrect when she felt like it, and her adult children became expert at breezily changing the subject.
In her later years, Pat suffered from Parkinson’s disease but was never far from friends and family. She would sometimes say how lucky she was in life, and with five of her seven children living nearby, there were many hands to help her and Martin. During one of her sons’ last visits, he pushed Pat in her wheelchair through the fall colours. She was very frail but admired the display. When she spoke, she probably didn’t realize her comment also summed up her approach to life: “You have no idea how much I’m enjoying this.”
Blaise Salmon is Pat’s oldest son.
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