Casey Smith: 1959-1998
Jack Shadbolt: 1909-1998
Don Wells was a longtime UBC colleague of Casey Smith in Athletics and Recreation.
My memories of UBC football coach Casey Smith range from the time we were a pair of late-twenties lads, staring into a massive hole in the ground on Toronto's Front Street prior to the 1987 Vanier Cup, to the chat we had at Thunderbird Stadium just six weeks before his recent death.
Ironically, the hole on Front was eventually filled by the concrete foundations of SkyDome, the site of Casey's finest hour just over one year ago, when he led UBC to its third national university football championship.
It was a sight which most people who knew Casey will remember best -- a nationally televised image of him thrusting the Vanier Cup skyward, surrounded by his players, all delirious over an experience which would be indelibly etched in their memories.
We spent considerable time together in various Western Canadian cities where the T-Birds played. The quirky ways that life unfolded, often mirrored on the football field, were the subject of many late-night conversations.
I remember one in particular, in an Edmonton restaurant, where we were joined by one of his former teammates. Casey had just excused himself to use the washroom, when his friend turned to me with the kind of smile people wear when they recall old friends.
"You know, we used to call him the gladiator."
"Why the gladiator?" I asked, already fairly sure of the reason.
"Because he looks like one! Especially right after a game, sitting in front of his locker, mud from head to toe, a bloody nose and tape hanging all over him."
We laughed. It's an easy image to conjure. Casey did have stereotype roman features -- square jaw and a build like St. Peter's Basilica. More importantly, he had the gladiator's courage, dedication and loyalty, particularly to UBC and the student athletes whose lives he so profoundly influenced.
As head coach from 1995 to 1997, Casey led the T-Birds into a total of 32 battles. He won 17 of them. Last May, however, he was introduced to an opponent he could not overcome, and on Nov. 24, the cancer that had invaded his liver finally won out.
Prior to last August's training camp, he sent a gut-wrenching letter to his players telling them of his illness. He also promised that he would be in the stands to cheer them on as they defended their national title.
The players dedicated the 1998 campaign to him, affixing decals onto each helmet with the words "Courage for Casey" and the number 51, his jersey number in his playing days.
Though his health declined steadily, he kept his promise and gamely attended three of UBC's five home dates. Despite extreme discomfort, he contributed what he could from the UBC spotters' booth.
He was well respected in the coaching world for his knowledge, his commitment and for tirelessly promoting the sport as a tool for the development of healthy, responsible and intelligent young people.
Indeed, it is quite remarkable how many young lives Casey touched through the UBC summer football camps he ran, as a community speaker, as a coach and as a loyal friend.
Or as UBC President Martha Piper said in a eulogy at Casey's memorial service, "there is no need to erect a monument to Casey; there are already hundreds of them."
Scott Watson is a widely respected art critic and the director and curator of UBC's Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, which holds an impressive collection of Shadbolt's work. He is the author of Jack Shadbolt, the first full published study of the artist's work.
Jack Shadbolt died in his studio on Sunday, Nov. 22. Thus closed one of the most important and prolific careers in modern Canadian art.
Shadbolt grew up in Victoria, B.C. and in his youth was inspired by the local landscape of southern Vancouver Island.
As a teenager he read Fred Housser's book on the Group of Seven and determined that his art would do for B.C. what the group had done for northern Ontario.
At the age of 21 he encountered the work of Emily Carr and the artist who would serve as a kind of spiritual guide to his own exploration of the places where culture and nature interact.
In the years leading up to and during the Second World War, Shadbolt aspired to a socially responsible, realist art that most frequently addressed urban subject matter. He became Canada's most penetrating social realist during these years.
At the end of the war, moved by the photographs of concentration camps that crossed his desk in the War Records Office and by the bombed buildings of London where he was stationed, he turned to abstraction as the vocabulary he needed to express the psychological stresses of his era. The abstract works carried him to national and international renown.
He believed of his work that, however abstract, it was a commentary on the historical contradictions of his time and place for he saw a necessary social role for the artist.
He was tireless in the promotion of this ideal as a teacher, artist, activist and benefactor. He was very much involved in the circle around Hunter Lewis at UBC in the late '40s and early '50s and was an important voice urging that the university include the fine arts in the academic curriculum.