Gerrard Alexander L’Orange: Book designer. Wordsmith. F1 enthusiast. Funny man. Born Nov. 3, 1947, in Mexico City; died Aug. 15, 2018, in Montreal, of prostate cancer; aged 70.
An excellent joke teller, a prankster and with a wonderfully dry sense of humour, Gerry liked to shock.
One night, while we were still dating, dining at a fine restaurant in Old Quebec, he singed a wine cork over a candle and drew an elegant black mustache on his upper lip to make me laugh and annoy the snooty waiters. His sense of fun was a hallmark and a mainstay of his life.
After the Second World War, Gerry’s British mother and Canadian father would move to Mexico City for work – and this is where he and his brother, Kirk, were born 17 months apart. They were like twins.
The Loranges (Gerry added the apostrophe later on) would spend 10 years living in Mexico, Venezuela and Cuba. In Havana, with the Castro revolution unfolding, the family was swiftly evacuated and moved to a new posting in Spa, Belgium. Gerry’s sister, Patti, was born in Belgium and it was here that 10-year-old Gerry became an avid Formula One fan – his dad’s connections meant he could attend the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps every year.
Gerry’s family moved back to Montreal when he was 16. After high school, he worked as a bartender and in an art gallery, and met many creative people. It was then he realized that design and communication were his real passions, and worked at advertising firms Vickers and Benson Montreal, and Scali, McCabe, Sloves, amongst others.
Gerry and I met over an art-director position – one he was leaving and I was thinking of taking. A mutual colleague suggested we talk about it at a restaurant in Old Montreal. We fell in love the night we met – it was the quintessential coup de foudre. Within seven weeks, he asked me to marry him, only waiting that long “so I wouldn’t think him an idiot,” he said.
Gerry was a stickler for bringing neatness and perfection to anything he touched. He would go around the house aligning anything askew. He was the chef in our house and every meal was an art-directed masterpiece. I loved him for it. A friend, Michel Choquette, once said, ”Gerry is so neat he even polishes the silverfish.”
Gerry had a passion and a talent for typography – he could name any typeface, however nuanced – and it earned him membership in the prestigious Type Directors Club of New York. He also insisted on a Canadian font (Cartier Book) when writing and designing the non-fiction bestseller Trans Canada Trail: The 16,000 Kilometre Dream. It would be one of several acclaimed books he designed.
During his illness, Gerry bravely ignored the many indignities as much as possible. He wore his lucky socks for chemo sessions, and lived in the now, enjoying time with friends and being behind the wheel of his V6 Honda coupe, his favourite place.
In the last days, when asked by a nurse if he was “passing gas mostly from his rectum,” he looked at her scathingly and answered drily, ”Mostly.”
His indomitable will, sense of humour and love of life endured until the very end. Many will miss him. I will love him forever.
Caroline Jarvis L’Orange is Gerry’s wife.
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