Famed author William Patrick Kinsella passed away Sept. 16 at the Fraser Canyon Hospital.
The Yale-resident spent his final moments in the hospital, where he invoked Bill C-14’s assisted dying provisions.
He passed away five minutes after noon.
“He was a dedicated storyteller, performer, curmudgeon, an irascible and difficult man,” said Kinsella’s literary agent Carolyn Swayze in a statement. “His fiction has made people laugh, cry, and think for decades and will do so for decades to come.”
While some would note his challenging personality, Fraser Valley Regional District Area B director Dennis Adamson challenges that.
Adamson first met Kinsella when Adamson moved to Yale, around 2004.
He said he had read some of Kinsella’s works and wanted to meet him.
“He talked to me for 20 minutes [in] that first time meeting him,” said Adamson. “I was a total stranger, just introduced myself and I didn’t find him, ever, to be standoffish.”
Adamson noted that Yale had many positive experiences with Kinsella, noting that he has always participated in the community.
Kinsella would attend events such as pig roasts, Christmas dinners and also read stories to the community.
“There’s a sadness over the town,” said Adamson. “But we understand that nobody wants him to stay and suffer.”
Adamson also considered Kinsella a funny person. He shared a moment when Bravo TV came to do a biography with him.
Adamson said Kinsella joked that Bravo TV’s coming signalled to Kinsella that he was reaching the end of his life.
This happened several years ago when, according to Adamson, Kinsella was healthy.
Kinsella’s presence in Yale also brought benefits.
“One of his friends passed away,” said Adamson. “W.P. and four other winners of the Stephen Leacock Award for humour came over to Yale to spread the ashes of their fellow writer, and then they gave a reading at the community centre for the town.
“It was just amazing afternoon. You never get that in a place like Yale.”
Still, Adamson sees a silver lining.
“My personal opinion is that him being of the stature that he is in Canadian establishment, by taking his action in a new assisted death, that he’s probably helped other Canadians make their choice,” he said.
Nat Baker of Baker’s Books also remembered Kinsella poignantly.
“He used to come down quite a bit to the bookstore, actually.” said Baker. “He’s a good friend. He came down, played Scrabble quite a bit. Big Scrabble player.”
Baker said when Kinsella came to the bookstore, Kinsella would mind his own business.
“He just does his own thing,” said Baker. “He’s just a funny guy. Just enjoys himself. He spends his time by himself. He didn’t really mind people too much.”
Baker enjoyed Kinsella’s works.
“I mean, he’s a huge writer,” said Baker. “He’s probably top-10 Canadian writers of all time. He’s legendary. He’s celebrity status.
“He has a huge influence on not just Canadian writing but writing internationally.”
Baker noted that Kinsella had a special skill in public speaking. Since Baker moved to Hope, he has done three to four public story readings.
“When he got in front of a crowd, he could hold them in the palm of his hand and play with them as he wanted,” said Baker. “He could make them laugh, make them cry. He’s a genius storyteller.”
When Kinsella released his anthology The Essential W.P. Kinsella last year, he rated his success as moderate in comparison with his contemporaries such as Stephen King and Danielle Steele.
Born in Edmonton in 1935, Kinsella’s had published over 30 works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, as well as three plays.
His most renowned work was Shoeless Joe, which was adapted into the film Field of Dreams.
“The mid-list author is long gone,” said Kinsella last year to The Hope Standard, referring to his time in the limelight.
While some authors — or artists of any stripe — might bristle at the idea of being remembered for just one piece of work, Kinsella once told the White Rock-based Peace Arch News that he was happy to be associated with Field of Dreams.
“They couldn’t have done a better job with it than that,” he said. “I’m one of the only writers I know who has liked a major movie made from one of their novels. Usually movie-makers screw it up.”
He was equally proud of his entire body of work, he added.
“Many writers say that when they go back they want to change things,” he said. “I’m happy with what I wrote. I laugh out loud when I read them. I don’t want to change anything.”
Kinsella spent 15 years living in White Rock before moving in the late 1990s to a house on a 150-year-old orchard in the Fraser Canyon.
But despite not living on the Semiahmoo Peninsula for years, the prolific writer has always been considered part of the city’s history — something that, in an 2009 interview with Peace Arch News, he chalked up to poorly researched online biographies that continued to list White Rock as his home long after he left.
“People still think Bill is sitting there in his apartment over Cosmos Restaurant, tapping away on his 1957 Royal typewriter,” his spouse, Barbara Turner Kinsella, once told Peace Arch News .
And in 2009, he was honoured in Vancouver with the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I’m very pleased,” he told Peace Arch News at the time. “It’s nice to have your work recognized, especially a body of work over the years.”
Kinsella was also named in 1993 to the Order of Canada.
His final fictional work, Russian Dolls, will be a “collection of linked stories,” set for publication next year.
– with files from Nick Greenizan, Peace Arch News.