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Donald (James) Newlands

Photographer, journalist, ham radio operator, amateur pianist, husband. Born March 24, 1927, in Montreal. Died March 26 in Toronto of cancer, aged 84.

When the award-winning photojournalist Donald Newlands sold his home in Colborne, Ont., a few years ago to move back to Toronto, he sold its contents and kept only what he could fit in the back seat of his car. He shut the door and didn't look back, closing a chapter on his life. He had done so before.

All his life, Donald was quick to opinion and relentlessly focused. He studied journalism at Columbia University in New York in the 1950s. In the sixties, he worked as the managing editor of The Star Weekly Magazine, as a photojournalist for Canadian Magazine, as photo editor of Maclean's magazine and, finally, in the seventies and early eighties as a radio announcer on CFMX-FM in Cobourg, Ont.

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In conversation, on radio and in numerous magazines and newspaper columns, latterly in The Brighton Independent, Donald relentlessly criticized American aggression in the world, and celebrated the madness of artists. He sought adventure while living later as a virtual hermit in Colborne, and did few things by half measure. He shot 16mm film from a motorboat as a young Pierre Trudeau attempted to row from Florida to Cuba (Trudeau abandoned the quest). He hung off the side of the world's fastest speedboat in 1961 to take pictures of Bob Hayward. And, through constant ham radio contact, he pointed the intrepid Dutch sailor Willy de Roos away from disaster when his planned circumnavigation of half the globe was almost undone after his compass and tracking tools failed him.

Donald lived his life near the edge. He owned racing cars and drove them fast but not recklessly. One was a rare D-type Jaguar that, had he not sold it to buy another car, could have made him a millionaire later in life. Life on the edge had a mystical quality, a search perhaps for the place where perfection lay.

He was tied to notions of perfection in every aspect of his life, and it was his cross, preventing him as a teenager from pursuing a concert career as a pianist because he couldn't be as good as his idol, Vladimir Horowitz. Recalling his experience as a young boy hearing Mr. Horowitz play in Montreal, he once wrote that "each note lived out its life fully and completely… creating the quality of irrepressible excitement."

Donald believed there was no higher art than that of playing the piano in public, for in performance there was no hiding, or "fakery" as he liked to call it. He listened for the personal and the particular in pianists, as he did in character throughout his life.

Donald was a singular fellow, his life bookended with great and deep pleasure by his marriage to Pauline from 1960 to 1975, and companionship with her in later years. She was with him when he died in Toronto.

By Matthew Teitelbaum, Donald's friend

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