Obituary of Jim Lanthier
January 11, 1940 – June 23, 2021
The day before Jim Lanthier died, a doctor asked him if there was anything more he needed. Parkinson’s disease had robbed Jim of the easy eloquence he’d enjoyed for most of his 81 years and the physician had to strain to make out his whispered reply: “More poetry.”
For Jim’s beloved wife Cathy, who had taken their home apart searching for his favourite book of Philip Larkin poems and had been reading aloud beside his hospital bed from volumes of Jim’s own poetry, it was the perfect response. Jim’s life had never lacked for poetry – and he always wanted more.
Jim (Jacques Paul) Lanthier was born in 1940 to Eleanor and Edwin (Ned) Lanthier. He was predeceased by his first wife, Jane McDougall Lanthier, and his younger sister Sheila Lanthier. He is survived by his children Kateri (Greg Sinclair), Jennifer (Stephen Rogers) and James (Kelci Gershon) and grandchildren Nicola, Trucy, Buzz, Nicholas, Julia, Lyla, Will and Sam – of whom he was very proud – as well as his brother Philip (Louise Setlakwe) of West Bolton, Quebec and sister Paddy of Montreal, along with nieces and nephews across Canada and around the world.
Lucky in love a second time, Jim leaves his devoted wife Cathy Lanthier, who married him in 2008 following his determined courtship, her children Michael (Michelle), Sarah and Nicholas and their children Zach, Kassie and Becca to whom he was “Grandpa Jim.”
Cathy describes Jim as someone who “loved unconditionally” – and his wry, dry sense of humour embraced the fact that people could be a bundle of contradictions. Terrified by spiders, Jim could spend hours trapped in a room if one appeared between him and the door – but he was swift to act when anyone threatened women or children. A lifelong Habs fan, Jim maintained he could only watch the game in French, despite his near-total lack of comprehension, and although he had hiked the length of the Bruce Trail, its flora and fauna remained mainly a mystery. He could not carry a tune but was a fan of many singers, from Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez to Abba and The Aldeburgh Connection, as well as jazz and classical music – particularly the work of his guitarist nephew Gregoire Gagnon. The New Yorker stubbornly refused to publish his work but his bedtime stories, from Col. Koolaid and the teenagers in dog costumes, to James and the big green chair in the red room, were the stuff of legend.
Jim graduated from Loyola College in Montreal. He began his graduate work in English at the University of Toronto with Northrop Frye and finished it with Hugh Kenner at SUNY Buffalo. He taught high school English briefly in St. Catharines but spent most of his career as public servant in education and skills development, based in Sudbury, Kingston and Toronto. After retirement, he worked as a consultant and he and Jane lived for a time in Malta. A lifelong athlete, he was a former president of the North Toronto Tennis Association and, thanks to Cathy, had the chance to enjoy golf before Parkinson’s took that away.
Throughout his life, Jim remained a critical reader who could call on a vast trove of Shakespeare, Blake, Beckett, Eliot or Yeats for any occasion. In retirement, he focused on his own writing, co-founding The Renaissance Conspiracy with whom he published an eponymous collection of poetry in 2004, followed by Renaissance Reloaded. Following Jane’s death from cancer in 2006, his lament Wife in Winter was set to music by Matthew Larkin in a commission for the Ottawa Choral Society and performed in churches in Ottawa and Toronto. His sensual anthology Book of Thighs, in which poems that celebrate his love for Cathy appear next to work by Renaissance Conspiracy members, was released in 2008.
A formal gathering will need to wait until more people are fully vaccinated but, in the meantime, remembrances of Jim can be shared at: www.humphreymiles.com. Please refer to the website for an update on future details. A memorial donation may be made either to Parkinson Canada or the Bruce Trail Conservancy. And if you would like to honour his memory in another way, please consider writing and sharing with your family and friends what Larkin called “a verbal device that would preserve an experience indefinitely by reproducing it in whoever read the poem.” Or as Jim would say, “More poetry.”
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