(c) Estate of Ivaan Kotulsky
Today is the second anniversary of Ivaan's having left the planet, so I thought I'd use this occasion to write about someone else who left the planet and her enduring legacy.
Connie was a colleague of mine at Old City Hall, which is a courthouse in downtown Toronto, where I worked from 1988 until 1997. She had a lot of style, and I often thought she could have had a successful theatrical career. She had a handsome face, a strong voice, perfect elocution, a large vocabulary and considerable dramatic flair. She was also what used to be called "well bred", a fact which probably mitigated against her taking up a career on the stage. Connie had two young adult daughters, of whom she was justifiably proud. They shared her strong good looks and had clearly inherited her sharp intellect and quick wit.
Connie loved Ivaan's jewellery, and one of the things on her to-do list was to get bracelets by Ivaan for her daughters, Vanessa and Tanya. One of the very funny stories she used to tell was of the time when she decided to go to Ivaan's Queen Street West studio and look at bracelets. Not realizing that Ivaan kept very erratic hours, she showed up one day and found the studio door locked. Thinking he'd be back momentarily, Connie went into the local Greek restaurant to have a cup of tea and read the newspaper while she awaited his return. She was busy doing both when she noticed the previously noisy restaurant had become silent. Looking up, she quickly realized that she was the only female in the restaurant, that all the male customers and staff were watching her intently...and she began to suspect that the coffee cups in front of them may have contained something stronger than coffee. Clearly, it was a case of mistaken identity on two counts: they thought Connie was an undercover cop, and she would cheerfully have joined them in something stronger than coffee if she'd known it was being served!
Connie never got to see any bracelets that day, but she told this story with great glee for months afterwards.
Six years ago, Connie felt that her life was becoming an increasingly uphill struggle, and she made the decision to end it. Fiercely independent, she planned her exit so as to leave the planet with grace, dignity and a sense of purpose. A few days later, Ivaan and I heard the news from another of my colleagues. Ivaan, already quite ill himself, was very moved by her death and asked me to try to contact her daughters. He wanted to offer each of them a piece of his jewellery, as a gift from their mother, to "close the loop" on the bracelet story. The problem was, both daughters were married and I couldn't recall their surnames and didn't know how to reach them.
When Ivaan died in December, 2008, contacting Connie's daughters was still an item on his to-do list. One day, out of the blue, the surname of her younger daughter, Tanya, suddenly came to mind and I was able to reach her through Facebook. Tanya came to see All That Matters, the 40-year retrospective of Ivaan's work at the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, loved his work, and chose a ring which would be her mother's gift to her. She asked her sister, Vanessa, to look at Ivaan's website and choose something for herself. Tanya and Vanessa are very different people. Though they share many of Connie's attributes, they are complete individuals. Yet, incredibly, they both chose exactly the same ring.
I hope that Ivaan and Connie are enjoying something a bit stronger than coffee in The World To Come and I'm sure they are probably still laughing over the bracelet story. Both Tanya and Vanessa feel strongly connected to their rings and to their mother's legacy. They are both fabulous, devoted mothers themselves. They - and I - remember Connie with affection, pride and admiration. Like Ivaan, she was larger than life.
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