By Jeff Parkinson
He was the hero in every Western, & I don’t mean those half assed Acid or Spaghetti Westerns, but real horse riding, varmint wrangling, ass kicking men. The kind of rare mix of the best characters portrayed by John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Gary Cooper rolled into one, but with far more style.
On October 6, 2012 Merlyn lost a valiant 12 year battle with cancer & we lost a friend, colleague, mentor, inspiration, & without question one of the most unique people our society has ever seen.
When a person dies there tends to be a lot of hyperbole about them because nobody wants to remember any flaws that their loved one may have had. In this case however you’ll find none of that because Merlyn Kinrade was a character that no writer in history could have dreamed up.
A socialite at heart, Merlyn loved to entertain, but he was never afraid to put the so called upper class in their place. Be it the mayor, the OPP commissioner, his local council, or a room full of negotiators, Merlyn always had the time and the fortitude to sit down and tell them why they’re wrong and he’s right. I don’t phrase that in the past tense because it remains true that they’re wrong & he’s right.
There are far too many stories of this occurrence to be told in one sitting, but one of my favorites is the night he walked in the back door of a closed meeting of federal negotiators at the Caledonia arena.
Not knowing he wasn’t supposed to be there, he made himself at home and spent hours taking everyone to task for failing his family and his community. They tried to feed him from their lavish tax payer funded buffet but he refused to touch it. They tried to calm him with platitudes but he refused to waver.
After exhausting everyone in the room and making one council member cry, he decided it was time to go home. He walked out front to a crowd of residents who had been denied entry and wondered with surprise why they hadn’t come in to join the fun.
During his time in the Royal Canadian Navy, Merlyn travelled the world to bring peace to other Nations and picked up a vocabulary in the process that few of us will ever forget. No matter the situation you never knew what he was going to say, but you knew it was going to be good.
“He’s busier than a cat covering shit on a marble floor dragging dirt from half a mile away.” – Merlyn Kinrade.
The first time I met him was during a January 20, 2007 rally in Caledonia. Through the course of the day we ended up talking about cigarettes. I was just getting started with what would become CANACE and at the time was smoking Native “rollies” which I knew nothing about except that they cost $10 for a bag of 200 & tasted like crap.
Let me tell you, Merlyn gave me an education that day. He told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to stop smoking those and laid out why. They contain very little actual tobacco, they support the organized crime behind the DCE occupation, the profits are used to smuggle guns in on Reserves, the list went on but I got the picture, & I never again smoked that trash.
“The sharpest thing in the world is a fart. It can go through your pants without cutting them” – Merlyn Kinrade.
He welcomed our motley crew of misfits into his home & allowed us the pleasure of getting to know his family. That may not sound like a big deal to some but we truly did invade their space often enough that we should probably have been charged rent
There is not enough good that can be said about his family. He married the love of his life & unquestionable soul mate Patricia & he positively beamed with pride & joy when it came to their daughter Olivia. Both have by no fault of their own been forced to pay a tremendous price for the fight to return law & order to their town.
On behalf of CANACE thank you both so very much for allowing us into your home & into your lives.
Watching the 3 of them together was always heartwarming & inspiring in this day & age where traditional family values often take a back seat to convenience & the pursuit of money & power. They simply enjoyed being together.
“I’ve got no use for the likes of you” – Haldimand Mayor Dalton Ken McGuinty Hewitt speaking to Merlyn Kinrade.
“He’s not a lion tamer, he’s a lyin bastard” – Merlyn Kinrade
Quick side note to the Mayor, Merlyn understood that your word meant absolutely nothing long before you had your little tantrum.
While treating the crisis in his town with the utmost seriousness, Merlyn liked to have fun, had an extraordinary sense of humor, & was without question the funniest person I’ve ever known.
He loved playing practical jokes & was able to do so with a straight enough face that it was impossible to tell when you were being had.
A couple of my favorite examples:
For a long time after we met him, Merlyn had Mark Vandermaas convinced that he was on some kind of medication that caused flatulence. The truth was he thought farting was one of the funniest things in the world & personally I agree, but we’ll cover that topic shortly. Anyway, Mark was 100% convinced until one day Merlyn’s lovely wife Patricia overheard something about it & told Mark quite simply “there’s no medication”.
I too fell victim to one of his better pranks. I often had the good fortune to dine with Merlyn & his family. Every meal was exceptionally good & each time he would take credit for it but never in front of Patricia or Olivia which should have made me suspicious, but I was a guest & I had no reason to believe that Merlyn was pulling my leg so I thought nothing of it.
One day around Thanks Giving we had pumpkin pie for desert which Merlyn proudly told me he made from scratch. It was an awesome pie without question. A few days later at a family gathering we had a Farmer’s Market pumpkin pie which tasted exactly like the one Merlyn made from scratch. Interestingly it was the same size too.
I asked him about the similarity & he adamantly denied it with a completely straight face, but I was suspicious & he knew it. The next time I was there he said he had to do something upstairs & would be right back. For the next 5 minutes or so I heard the sounds of pots & pans banging around & shortly after he came downstairs wearing an apron. We sat around chatting until an oven timer went off some time later. He disappeared to deal with it in his apron & again I could hear the pots & pans banging around.
By this time I had seen him pull many practical jokes on many other people but I had little reason to doubt him as he went through elaborate motions to keep me from figuring it out.
He later developed an exceptionally painful case of Shingles & told me that as a result he was going to “let Patricia handle the cooking for a little while”. The whole thing (except the Shingles) was an elaborate house of cards & it didn’t take long to fold after that day, but to his credit Merlyn refused to abandon ship.
It certainly was not the last time I would be had by Merlyn, but it’s my favorite.
His sense of comedic timing was nothing short of brilliant & he knew that people his age don’t generally have the appreciation for sophomoric humor that he always did, so he used it to his advantage. To this day there are things he has told me that I’m not 100% sure are true because trying to figure out how he came up with some of these things is comparable to trying to figure out how David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty vanish in 1983.
“More nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs” – Merlyn Kinrade
Patricia blew the whistle on him many times over the years but she did it in such a way that it was almost as funny as whatever the prank may have been. The fact that Merlyn would often continue trying to keep the ruse going with a straight face was funnier yet & I still wonder if they were in cahoots at times. The fact that I’m still uncertain about it would undoubtedly make Merlyn laugh if he were here so I’m never going to try to find out.
“It was spread around like a wild man’s shit” – Merlyn Kinrade
If I were to add up the number of minutes.. actually the number of hours that he & I spent discussing the finer points of flatulence the number would be astounding. It’s another great example of his playful nature which is a huge part of the essence of Merlyn Kinrade. When it was time to work he was exceptionally serious, but once we went off the clock it was a different story. He saw humor all around him & he missed absolutely nothing that was potentially funny. Then he managed to file it away until the exact right time to use it.
“The cashier said you’ve got a big one, and I said I didn’t know my pants had fallen down.” – Merlyn Kinrade
I realize we’re treading into semi juvenile territory but I learned a lot from Merlyn & this is worth sharing. If you put your arse up against a hollow core door or an interior wall without insulation, it amplifies the sound of a fart considerably & can in fact frighten unsuspecting (or sleeping) people (or pets) on the other side.
Speaking of farts & humor I’ve got a classic story that to this day I can’t tell without cracking up.
When we ran Gary in the 2008 Federal Election, it was a truly exhausting experience. This could easily be a very long story but I’ll skip all of the details leading up to this night because it’s really not relevant. After a series of debates it was time for the televised final debate in Simcoe. We all came out dressed in our finest. Around the time the debate began a couple of people I know showed up to check it out & sat down beside me to watch.
Somewhere around the hour mark someone farted loudly. My buddies started laughing & I tried very hard not to, but you have to understand that the weeks leading up to this moment were exceptionally busy & not much sleep was had. I tried every trick I had to keep myself from laughing & wait them out, but instead of stopping they just kept laughing louder. I thought I could shoot a look at them that would make them shut up so I turned to do that but both had turned beat red & were nearly doubled over.
I did everything I possibly could but by this point it was growing beyond my control & I started laughing too. This went on for what felt like an hour but was probably more like 10 long seconds. I knew I had to stop but when you’re exhausted & sitting with people you know who are in hysterics it’s not that easy. We were more than far enough away from any microphone to have picked it up but this was a televised debate & I could see the camera starting to turn from the candidates toward us. The moment I saw that coming I stopped laughing immediately & kicked the guy beside me to get his attention, but it was too late.
A couple of days later I went over to Merlyn’s & the topic of what had happened came up which I was pretty sure it would. He gave me a spiel about how it was rude & uncalled for given the circumstances & asked me sternly what could possibly have been THAT funny. I told him someone farted & before I could utter another word he broke down laughing almost as hard as my buddies at the debate. In the midst of that he managed to get the words out, “I know… it was me”
That may sound undignified to some, but he was the most dignified person I’ve ever known. He loved life & never missed an opportunity to enrich his own or ours with an unexpected punch line.
“They’re not worth the powder to blow them to hell” – Merlyn Kinrade
He had a never ending list of great stories to tell & very few people could have told them as well as Merlyn. With a mischievous grin & a twinkle in his eye he would happily regale us with tales of his experiences.
There were some however that were not funny. He lived through his share of grief & then some, but he always found a way to keep going. As a child he lost his father to an industrial accident & had to move to Caledonia. His only request was to be able to play baseball & while it was granted, it ultimately brought about the 110% fearless principled wise man we had the good fortune to meet so many years later.
In order to put Merlyn on the local team, someone else had to be cut. The much older brother of the kid Merlyn beat out to get on the team had a big problem with young Mr. Kinrade & took every opportunity he could to ridicule, threaten, bully, & badger the 11 year old.
One day Merlyn had had enough & decided to take a stand. He grabbed a glass bottle (remember those?) smashed it against the wall, & made it abundantly clear to his soon to be former tormentor that any further effort to bully him would be met with serious resistance involving the broken bottle & certain body parts of his flabbergasted foe. That was the last time he ever allowed himself to be bent by fear to someone else’s will & was truly the beginning of a life lived to the fullest.
One of the most remarkable things I’ll never forget is that I never ever saw him with a single stitch or hair out of place.
Merlyn was very much a 2nd father to me & I learned a great deal not only from listening to what he had to say but by watching him in action. Absolutely no one & nothing would intimidate him, he would never sacrifice his principles to anyone for any reason & when he set his sights on someone there was absolutely nothing they could do to prevent the tongue lashing he doled out to those indifferent to our battle to end race based policing in Haldimand County.
“It just goes on until you’ve got a beard down to your balls” – Merlyn Kinrade
He could & should have written a book about his life but he was far too busy making things happen, holding people to account for their actions, & more importantly he was too humble to have believed that his life was any more interesting than yours or mine.
There is a nearly endless supply of stories to be told about him, but I’ll finish with my absolute favorite.
During one of our many rallies the OPP brought out their helicopter to keep an eye on us at who knows how many thousands of dollars per hour & with at least 100 officers on the ground. When the rally was finished we went back to Merlyn’s place for a nice relaxing dinner on the patio on a gorgeous summer evening. The helicopter followed us & hovered over his yard the entire time.
We were having fun laughing at how ridiculous the situation was, & after a while Merlyn excused himself for a fairly short time. When he came back to the table he had a mischievous grin on his face & was clearly trying hard to hold something in. I didn’t ask because frankly it was fun watching him almost vibrate in his chair with excitement & I was sure it would be worth the wait. I was not wrong.
When dinner was finished & his girls had left the table he started laughing. When I asked him what he had done he tried to tell me but he was laughing so hard that he could barely speak & with tears running down his face he told me. “I mooned the bastards”.
Merlyn will be missed by many & forgotten by none. It’s difficult to find the right words to sum up a person as truly awe inspiring as Merlyn, but I believe the term Cult of Personality fits him quite nicely, so I’ll finish with this video tribute to the finest man I’ve ever known & say not goodbye, but farewell for now my friend.