Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Sean Rossiter - 1946-2015

Just a couple of days ago I found myself having coffee with a Vancouver Sun columnist and with a Sun editor. I accompanied the Sun editor to Sikora’s where we chatted with an LP Record seller. We were joined by a bookseller. At that point seeing myself as a magazine photographer I realized that this was a reunion of a dying breed.
The journalism that I knew as journalism and when magazines and newspapers competed to have the best photographs and illustration is all but moribund. Citizen journalism and selfies now rule this world where the people I used to work with and for are disappearing.

One of the best, journalist, writer, hockey goalie, English car enthusiast and airplane nut, Sean Rossiter died last night. In the last few months the Rossiter I knew was rarely in evidence. Just a year ago the mention of an airplane, perhaps an obscure fighter jet of a foreign air force brought the Rossiter I knew to me if only for a few moments of lucidity.

He had a radio voice. I would have bought from him a used MG with a notorious Lucas electrical system without a second thought.

Driving with him within the city was to learn the story of our buildings through their architects and developers. If there was anybody that could have explained our city politics it was Rossiter. Mike Harcourt would have agreed.
Rossiter had a love (a defect in this 21st century) for beautiful women. He would never say, “She is gorgeous or beautiful.” His choice of word was that Rossiterian “sensational”.

Quite a few years ago I noticed the tremors in his hands. When Rossiter finally accepted his malady he told me that he could build his elaborate and intricate model airplanes with no problem. It was three years ago that I took him to the Abbotsford Air Show and just the sight of a Phantom Jet on the tarmac was enough to bring back that joy for life that was Rossiter’s almost constant companion even though Rossiter could in the presence of strangers not crack a smile. He would look at you through those glasses, seriously, and you knew that it was all show and that there was warmth underneath that brought to mind all those hamburgers we ate at The Five while watching the sensational.
I learned lots from Rossiter. I learned the whys of architecture. I learned to admire and ultimately become a friend of his friends, Arthur Erickson and Abraham Rogatnick. I learned about hockey (a sport that as an Argentine I disdain). I learned about Pratt & Whitney radial engines for De Havilland Beavers.  I learned about Austin Healeys. But best of all given manuscripts of his columns for Vancouver Magazine or his essays on architecture for the Georgia Straight I learned, if only superficially, the workings of his elaborate but orderly mind.

I will have always many memories of our time together but there is one that is paramount to any other. That is standing on the tarmac of the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, watching an A-6B Intruder with its turbo jet engines roaring at take-off while we chomped on sensational American hot dogs.

Missing the living

The Last Intruders

Model Citizen