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Grant Crabtree

Passed on: October 14th, 2008

Margaree/Sydney, N.S. Reluctantly, in his 96th year, smothered with love and enjoying it to the last possible second, our dearest Grant departed Tuesday evening, Oct.14, as the clouds flew past that perfect full moon, within view, and while a cu mor glas wandered beneath his windows. Ti amo per sempre. One of Canada’s pioneer filmmakers, director and cinematographer. A mighty heart with a personality to match, he survived over four months in ICU, in a heroic struggle to overcome multiple hospital infections. He just didn’t have time to be the good patient, too many things beckoned: eagles and hummingbirds, chanterelles, his asparagus and crabapple jelly, lunch at the Cedar House, entertaining His Girls. Grant grew up in Rockliffe, Ottawa, in a boisterous, creative family with both parents being artists, from a long line of artists. His mother, Ella Greenham studied at the Royal Academy with John Singer Sargent; her father was Queen Victoria’s Chief of Security. Her family had three lines of descent from Edward I through the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire they ran the port of Trieste, partied with the Bonapartes and had portraits painted. His father was art director at Notman’s in Montreal and then ran his own engraving business in Ottawa. Grant’s first film job was an offer from John Grierson of the NFB in 1939. His career spanned six decades and his films won many awards. He filmed in Quebec with Palardy and Barbeau and A.Y. Jackson; in Emily Carr country for Klee Wyck; on the Columbian icefield, in Resolute and Pond Inlet; in logging camps and national parks; with wheat scientists and marine biologists, Ukrainian farmers and new immigrants, the Saguenay, the South Saskatchewan; with Helen Creighton for Songs of Nova Scotia and on the last of the Grand Banks schooners. He made the classic “Loon’s Necklace “and “Morning on the Lievre” and films for children and about children; Scandinavia, Britain, U.S.A. He went everywhere where there was a story to be told about the promise of a youthful Canada. His life was lived in the outdoors: a championship rower at the Edinburgh Canoe Club, hockey, building backyard rinks and log cabins and ski runs in the Gatineau; evenings of screening rushes and broomball and hilarity at Meech Lake; making maple syrup every spring until he was 94; countless canoe trips, hikes, picnics and stopping in for tea. He could identify every tree, wildflower and mushroom. But the love of his life was Cape Breton, begun in 1942, never diminished, especially for the Margaree and its people. He taught himself woodworking and learned to make ladderback chairs with his beloved Ernest Hart at the Northeast. He adored his neighbours, Albert Polycarp fiddling at sunset, Levi the superb artist in wood, John Joe the master sheep shearer and storyteller. He was always along the river and shore with camera, searching for the perfect light. Grant had a superb ‘eye’ and his passion was nature photography. He made many films here and never wanted to be very far from his home high above the River at East Margaree. In old age, when he couldn’t fish and climb his hill and go to the beach, he looked after his roses, made marmalade and maple liqueur and pursued his Red Green projects, enchanting and inspiring his grandchildren with stories and full of humour. He has left a wonderful library of photos and donations to the National Archives. His last film, Song of Seasons (1977) is a love song to an innis aigh, his own piece of heaven. He was married for 50 years to his beautiful wife, Marjorie Morse (2000) of Toronto. He is survived by daughters, Lauren (Kenzie) MacNeil, Ankerville Street, Sydney (his other home), and by Carla Kalberlah, Halifax; grandchildren, Caitriana, Christie, Mary, Anna MacNeil and Kyle, Vanessa, Andrea and Ryan Tingley; great-grandchildren, Marcos Alej, Nicholas and Alexandra. The family will be at home at 839 East Margaree Rd., Saturday, Nov. 1, 12-6. All welcome. Donations appreciated to the Margaree Salmon Association: margareesalmon.ca. Lord of the mountains, dark with pine Lord of the fields of smoking snow Grant to this vagrant heart of mine A path of wood where my feet may go . . . From Song of the Ski -W. MacDonald


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