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facts & arguments

Brian Gerald Segal

Father, husband, musician, forest firefighter, astronomer, potter, entrepreneur, cartoonist, Renaissance man. Born Sept. 14, 1948, in Montreal. Died Feb. 14 in Antigonish, N.S., of heart failure, aged 62.

For most of his 62 years, Brian Segal lived his life like a kid who didn't know what he wanted to be when he grew up.

This uncertainty revealed itself when he ditched his general-arts studies at McGill University for music, flute and conducting. He became a good enough player, but 18 months later he switched to drawing illustrations for the Montreal Star.

His life became a series of passions into which he hurled himself as though his life depended on each. He dropped illustration, married and lit out for Vancouver, where he worked with difficult children. It wasn't long before he changed coasts to study forestry at the University of New Brunswick. He graduated in 1973 and moved to Antigonish, N.S., where daily he climbed a tower near Guysborough to scour the horizon for smoke.

He built a log cabin, fathered two daughters, Emma and Sarah, and launched himself as a potter. It was the longest single profession he ever had, specializing in unique and elegant porcelain dinnerware and art pieces.

He divorced, and in 1982, Julia Redgrave joined him in pottery as a partner and, later, as his wife. He eventually became president of the Canadian Crafts Council and president of the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council.

Still a potter, he embraced computers and the Internet, and set himself up as a spare-time Web and graphics designer. He fell in love with photography, then astronomy, becoming a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, for which he designed and produced its bimonthly Journal. He also found time to become president of the Bergengren Credit Union in Antigonish.

Throwing pots proved punishing to his health, so he returned to cartooning, drawing a weekly strip called Eb 'n Flo for The Casket, the Antigonish newspaper. He also taught cartooning at St. Francis Xavier University.

His knowledge of computers, finance and banking revealed a new talent for mining data from government and corporate reports, and he astounded his peers with his grasp of big-picture economics. His last great passion was the Antigonish Area Partnership, combining corporate and political interests to promote the area.

He could have been dismissed as a dilettante if not for one thing: He had an unerring instinct for learning from masters. In music, it was Mozart and Beethoven; in photography, Niépce, Daguerre and Ansel Adams; in pottery, ancient Japanese and Chinese craftsmen; in astronomy, James Gleick; in cartoons, Saul Steinberg, Walt Kelly and Sergio Aragones.

In the end, it was too great a burden. Eventually, his heart couldn't hold all those passions and gave out, appropriately on Valentine's Day.

By Jack Kapica, Brian's friend