Since the passing of Crown Point resident Chris Parkinson on May 30th, there has been an outpouring of grief within the community, as with his family. Hundreds attended his visitation and funeral including members of council, the entire board of the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), family, and many, many others.
Through his roles as a trustee, with Erich’s Cupboard, Hamilton Blue Dot, SafeTalk, Children’s International Learning Centre (CILC), and as a volunteer and friend, Chris had established deep and enduring roots in Crown Point. Flags outside schools flew at half-mast while friends and neighbours gathered at Merk’s to commiserate, and share in the grief. Chris poured a lot of his energy into where he lived. His personality was larger than life and he won people over to his friendship through humour, warmth, and a genuine generosity.
The loss of Chris was sudden and for many there is a lack of closure. We expect to be able to say goodbye. To say that goodbye to Chris, a community sendoff is being planned for July 13th at the Crown Point Community Church on Ottawa Street North. Details are still in the works but the date and place is set, so please stay tuned.
Published with permission, below is the service and comments made by some of the participants at the funeral held on June 5th, at the Markey-Dermody Funeral Home.
“Don’t ask me why something can’t be done. Show me how it can.” ~ Christopher Robin Parkinson
Before we begin, I’d like to read a passage from the Book of David, submitted by Chris’s father and Step Mother, Bob and Jan Parkinson.
Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits–who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love.
Good morning everyone. Thank you all for coming to celebrate Chris’s life, share your stories as we gather to say our final goodbyes to a partner, son, step-son, brother, uncle (both in blood and in an unofficial capacity), friend, Trustee, inventor, colleague, fellow community sleeve roller-upper, and Crown Point, Ward 3, Hamilton, and Canada booster.
First, I would just like to take a quick moment to thank Markey-Dermody for all of their support for Chris’s family and friends this past week during this difficult time including helping me feel comfortable in this role as officiant for today’s service.
What can I say about Chris that hasn’t already been said through the stories I have heard this past week in person, read on social media and in the news. Words from family, friends, community members, coworkers, fellow Game of Thrones fanatics, and partners in humorous crimes. How you met him. The impact he had on you. How he changed you. How he inspired you to be better. Do more.
I was deeply honored when Catherine asked me to officiate today’s service for although I cherished him as a friend, I also don’t feel anymore his compadre than any single person in this room whether you knew him for 38 years, 5 minutes, a lifetime, or only through conversation on social media, because he never treated anyone any more or less than the other.
Chris loved us all. He needed us all. Each and every one of you in this room or out there who couldn’t be with us today, meant a great deal to him because above all else, he wanted us to be closer, more supportive of one another, understanding of different opinions, values, beliefs whether spiritual, political, or otherwise.
Today you are going to hear from some of the people who were impacted by Chris throughout his life.
Of course we have our own memories, Tara and I, about how he affected our lives, surprising us at our camping trip last summer, jumping in our pool with all his clothes on, grabbing our nerf guns and making a mess after a wild game of shoot him up (as it seemed he had at many homes including his own), and then leaving it for the ‘adults’ to clean up, sitting around our dining room table in full mask, uncontrollable laughter over a game of Cards Against Humanity, New Years Eve parties, birthday’s, attending baseball tournaments, helping one another with Pumpkin Prowl and Spooktacular.
My favorite memories however, are watching him with our three girls. Helping them with homework, talking to them about something they were struggling with knowing Chris knew just what to say, teaching a new Scout how to use an ax and knife, teaching the girls to gut a fish, and scaring them around the campfire and along a late night scare walk through the forest. He bonded quickly with children and they to him and it really spoke so much about his character and his ability to truly make a difference in the education and mental health of the youth of our city.
Our kids who all called him Uncle Chris (Chris-topher, Christopher Robin, Unc), are all devastated. He got them. They got him. My eldest didn’t want to touch an ax or knife – a good thing you would think for a parent, but I told her you can now teach others what he has taught you. Inspire them in the way he inspired you. He taught us all so much about one another and about ourselves, and we can remember him by passing on those lessons.
Chris was a playmate, a storyteller, a teacher, and a friend. All the kids in his life loved him like family. This is how he made all the kids (and all the grown-ups) in his life feel- like they were the most important person in the world.
In preparation for this day, I reached out to family, friends, and the community to ask if they wanted to share stories about Chris.
Fatima and Magda, who now live in North-ish Quebec, were such an important part of our community when they lived in Hamilton. They talked about how Chris was a constant in their lives during the 8 years they lived in Crown Point. He was always around and ready to help. He is someone impossible to forget and is already missed very much as a friend and as community powerhouse — his voice will be forever echoing in their minds. His laugh will be forever engraved in their ears.
Sean Hurley, dear friend, volunteer extraordinaire, and community advocate, said:
So much of what we come to take for granted in our communities is the fruit of the endless, and often unrecognized, work of volunteers like Chris Parkinson. Volunteers are people who give of their time, their energy, and their talents selflessly.
Chris gave not only of his time, his many talents, and his seemingly inexhaustible energy, but also of his deep well of good humour. He always arrived and left with a smile as large as his personality.
The loss of Chris will be felt deeply by the Crown Point community, but also by Hamilton as a city. When people ask what they can do to honour Chris’ memory, the answer is volunteer.
Join with your neighbours and friends and continue the work not only to help to make Crown Point and Hamilton the very best place to raise a child and age successfully, but that touches individual lives in small but significant ways. There is no greater legacy.
Hamilton Blue Dot Lead, Grant Linney, had this to say about Chris:
The very first meeting of Hamilton Blue Dot was on Tuesday December 2, 2014. There were six of us present, and Chris was there. Right from the start, it was clear that this intelligent and gregarious fellow was totally on board with the idea of every Canadian having the right to a healthy environment — to clean air, fresh water, healthy food, and easy access to nearby nature.
Chris met with Mayor Fred. He met with Matthew Green and Aidan Johnson, two rookie city councillors who immediately caught Chris’ enthusiasm and took up the cause. On February 25, 2015, the City of Hamilton became the first Ontario city to issue a Municipal Declaration of its Citizens’ Right to a Healthy Environment. I haven’t compared this time frame to other municipalities, but it must have been something of a record: it was less than 3 months from when the idea first came up to Hamilton’s actual declaration … that speed was in large measure due to Chris’ drive though, as always, he was most generous in sharing the accolades with a growing group of Hamilton Blue Dot supporters.
Since that time, Chris has continued to selflessly champion Blue Dot on both the provincial and federal fronts. And, of course, Chris’ community commitments extend well beyond Blue Dot.
Chris was a total heart and soul guy, and an instant friend to all he met.
We shall dearly miss him.
Ute Schmid Jones, writes: Even though Chris was a strong advocate for the Green Party, he never let his politics interfere with forming a friendship or helping a community partner.
Christine Gordon talked to her kids about their favorite memory with their Unc:
Their son Jack, wanted us to know that his favourite memory is when he came to their home for the first time and he sat in the living room with Jack to eat dinner. He asked him about what he was into and they discovered they both loved science.
Their daughter Sadie thought he was the funniest and kindest man ever and their youngest child Ben loved his visits and nerf fights.
The love of Chris’ life was Catherine Johnston, I spoke to Catherine in depth about how her and Chris began their lives together.
Interestingly, Catherine and Chris met in high school when they attended Scott Park, where Bernie Custis High School now stands. Although they didn’t know each other well at first, Chris would often say hi to a very shy young Catherine. When Catherine was in Grade 11 and Chris was in Grade 12, he started to talk to her more, and unbeknownst to her, he had a big crush. At Chris’s graduation, Catherine volunteered on the grad committee and helped the graduating class with their gowns. As she was helping Chris get his on, he asked her to go to the prom with him. We now know how excited they both were.
They attended the prom together, and as many high school relationships go, they lost track of each other over the years. They married other partners, with weddings a week apart. Many years later, they connected again through the website Classmates. They started talking again over email, and Catherine asked why he had not sought her out earlier. He explained that indeed he had tried, but alas there were too many Catherine Johnstons out there in the world and she was too hard to find. Chris supported her as she went through her divorce, talked her through it, and made her feel better about her decisions.
They spoke daily and their online friendship turned into love. When Catherine moved back to Ontario from Montreal, Chris said to her “you are going to move in with me anyway down the road, so why not just move in with me now”. So Catherine moved in with her son Matthew (Erich was living and working in Toronto), and they became a family.
I asked Catherine what was it about Chris that drew her to him. She smiled and responded that it was his commitment and love of his family and friends, that he always kept his word, if he said he would do something he always did, but most of all, it was his sense of humour. Chris made her laugh. He was a ridiculous big goof. Their favourite times together were camping, canoeing with Mobi, listening to Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe podcasts, and just being together in the wilderness.
Their life, as everyone here knows, was not always easy. When tragedy struck and took Erich from them, Catherine didn’t know if she could go on. Chris did everything in his power to lift her up, and they eventually decided to honour Erich by giving back to the community. They started Erich’s Cupboard and devoted their lives to serving others. This is how many of us in this room came to know these two. Chris and Catherine and Matthew, through Erich’s Cupboard, were a catalyst of community. It is through you that we are inspired to do more, to be more, and to give more. To our beautiful Catherine today we share your pain and your loss. And we love you.
At this time, I’d like to welcome members of Chris’s family, his friends – both long standing and recent community connections, to say a few words about Chris’ affect on them.
Order of Speakers
- Sister, Katie Lipscombe
- Friend of 38 years, Jon Wolstenholme
- Marta (his friend Marc’s partner who was a long-time friend of Chris)
- Alex Johnstone, Chris’ colleague at HWDSB and Chair of the Board
- Alex Bishop, friend and local politico
- Matthew Green, Former Ward 3 Councillor and friend
- Lynn Watkins, Never met but inspired by his work
- Jim Watts, Friend and booster of so many things
Chris didn’t like notoriety or to be the center of attention but in this moment, he would want all these stories shared so that we knew what his passions were, what people and animals and the earth meant to him, how he would want us to carry his torch based on how he lived his life and affected others, and what he dreamed of accomplishing so that we might all collectively carry on his work together as an even more connected Hamilton, to ensure what he was so passionate about accomplishing and changing, is carried through.
As we come to the end of our service, I wanted to share a beautiful, untraced poem by Chris’ brother Kent.
Not, how did he die? But, how did he live?
Not, what did he gain? But, what did he give?
These are the merits to measure the worth
Of a man as a man regardless of birth.
Not, what was his station? But, had a heart?
And how did he play his God given part?
Was he ever ready with word or good cheer?
To bring a smile, to banish a tear?
Not, what was his church? Nor, what was his creed?
But had he befriended those really in need?
Not, what the sketch in the newspapers say?
But, how many were sorry when he passed away?
In closing, I wanted to share a little something that was passed on to me yesterday morning by Chris’ friend Teddy. As you may or may not have known, among Chris’ many initiatives was to see the youth from Bernie Custis involved in the 2021 Grey Cup here in Hamilton. Teddy talked with the Tiger-Cats and together, they will make this happen.
I truly believe with the wonderful community and the great friends that Chris had, that there will be someone who says ‘I’ve got this’ for everything he wished to accomplish.
Thank you Chris, for caring and giving so much. You made a great impact in life and in passing, that legacy will always continue.
We love you. We miss you. We’ve got your back.
We would like to leave you this afternoon with his unforgettable voice, his smile, his laughter, his dreams, his passions, and the look of two people who adored one another for longer than life gave them as one.
(play Stuart McLean Vinyl Cafe clip)
At this time I’d like to extend an invitation to all family, friends, and community members to join the family for a luncheon immediately following at Crown Point Community Church at 92 Ottawa St North.
This concludes our service.