Florence dressed in a boiler suit and standing in the doorway of a train caboose while on a writing assignment in the 1940's.
It was with great sadness that we learned that writer Florence Weekes passed away. She was 86, and she left this world on Nov. 29.You, our audience, will recall her work Come Share the Bird -- the hilarious tale of eating far too much turkey at Christmas.Winter Harp narrator Alan Woodland discovered the poem years ago when he was researching Christmas writings.
In 1999, Alan and Lori Pappajohn decided to record the poem and so went on a search for its author Florence Weekes. Was she still alive? Did she live in Britain? Perhaps she was American. We were curious whether we’d find her and where she’d be living.It turned out that, much to our surprise, she was close at hand in Victoria. Florence was taken aback by our request -- mainly because no one had ever asked her permission before even though many had used her poem. Florence was quite correct in her frustration.
More often than not, artists’ works are taken for granted. How many times have people copied CDs for their friends, or downloaded them for free off the Internet? The numbers of free downloads are in the trillions. An artists’ work is how they pay for their groceries, their rent, their gas, and the many other bills that assail us all. Florence, rightly so, was asking for respect for her creation. And we were happy to give her that. We came to an agreement, and her poem became an integral part of Winter Harp.
A number of years ago, Florence was in the audience when her poem was read at our Victoria concert. It was a high point in her life -- and a great honor for us.
Florence was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Ontario. During the war, when there was a shortage of men for local jobs, she became a reporter. She was in her early 20s, young and adventurous. She recalled being taken up in a bomber over the Great Lakes to do a story. She also recalls the challenge of a young woman entering what was then a man’s world -- journalism.
Photo of Florence taken by the London Free Press and ran with an article Florence wrote in 1944.
In her later years Florence moved to Victoria because of the mild winters. She loved nature and she loved to walk -- year ’round no matter the weather. Even in her later years, she would don her rain gear, take her walker and head out into the misty west coast weather. During the course of her life Florence wrote numerous poems, essays and articles which were published in newspapers and magazines. Even up until 10 years ago, she was still being published in newspapers. And when the Internet came along, she found a whole new way to write and communicate her works, right up until her death. Florence and Lori Pappajohn identified with each other as both started as reporters at a young age and both had a great passion for writing.Upon her death, Florence willed the copyright of her poem Come Share the Bird to Lori Pappajohn. “I can’t say how honored I am,” said Lori. “When you think about it -- it is so Victorian, pre-Raphaelite -- writers willing poems to each other. Other people are willed money, diamonds and estates -- but who do you know who is willed a poem? How wonderfully unique. I am truly humbled.”This Winter Harp tour is dedicated to the memory of Florence Weekes and her dedication to writing and art. Thank you Florence for a poem that has brought so much joy and mirth to so many.