Celebrating Paul Almond

By Marilynn Vanderstaay

paul almond

Paul Almond

Former Westmount resident and internationally acclaimed Paul Almond, television and film writer, director, producer and novelist, passed away at 83 on April 9. The community is invited to join with family, friends and fans for a celebration of his life on Thursday, August 6 at 11 a.m. at Trinity Memorial Anglican Church, 5229 Sherbrooke Street West.

Paul left knowing his life’s work was complete. The day before he passed, on April 8 The Inheritor, the final work in his eight-volume Alford Saga series was published. A tribute to Paul and a launch of The Inheritor, his autobiographical novel, was held at the Westmount Public Library on June 10.

If you would like to know more about the man who wrote over 130 television dramas for the CBC, the BBC and a number of US networks, as well as a number of acclaimed motion pictures, check out Paul’s comprehensive website at paulalmond.com

I first heard about Paul Almond in 1970 when he was living in Westmount with his wife Geneviève Bujold and they were filming Act of the Heart with Donald Sutherland, some of it in familiar places in Westmount. WHS classmate Carol Underhill and her boyfriend had audaciously approached the couple for an interview for The Westmount Examiner. And they got it, from a man who would prove over his lifetime that he was as unassuming and gracious as he was talented.

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My next encounter with Paul was when I wrote an article for The Westmount Examiner after he was honoured with the Order of Canada Award in 2001 and he responded with a phone call from his Malibu home to Editor Wayne Larsen to thank him. In 2007, The Directors Guild of Canada gave Paul the Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions to Canadian film and television.

Last October, I had the privilege of speaking with Paul during a lengthy phone conversation about The Alford Saga. This was his 25-year-long “retirement” project exploring his family’s roots in the Gaspé over four generations. His extensive research for his Saga included both oral tradition and documents (including family letters).

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During that memorable conversation I discovered that the secret of Paul’s success was his passion … passion for both the concept of the work and its realization. He was deeply interested in people and their situations, which prompted his original 1964 Granada television program in the acclaimed Seven Up! series that documented a cross-section of British society by profiling a group of seven-year-olds. The children were asked about their feelings about love, family, class and their hopes in life. This program led to the creation of the “Up!” series, which revisited the same “children” every seven years and is still going strong at 56 Up!

During that memorable conversation I discovered that the secret of Paul’s success was his passion… passion for both the concept of the work and its realization.

That passion is the motivation behind his accomplished career, and his unyielding drive to complete the Alford Saga, no matter how many book signings and how many air miles crossing North America and beyond it took to complete it all. In the last five years of his life, Paul did over 100 book launches, often in churches, and many times donating half the proceeds to charity.

A second celebration of Paul Almond’s life will be held in his Gaspé residence of Shigawake, on August 11 at 11 a.m. at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, 201 Route 132. In addition, the community will host a tribute to Paul’s three Gaspé films on August 12, beginning at 6 p.m. at St. Paul’s Parish Centre.

Paul is survived by his wife Joan Almond, his son Matthew, stepsons Trey, Tim and Chris Elkins, stepdaughter Tracy Stoker and eight grandchildren.

For more information, contact Barbara Burgess, who worked with Paul for the last two and a half years and helped him in arranging book launches and copy-editing some of his literature-related correspondence. Go to burgesswrite.com

Images: frame from the original program in the “Up” series — First Run Features
Portrait of Paul Almond — Joan Almond.

marilynn vanderstaay

Long-time Westmount resident Marilynn Vanderstaay has been writing since she could hold a pencil. Marilynn’s writing has been published in national and local magazines including Canadian Living, Readers Digest, Barricades Magazine, and municipal and community newspapers including the Montreal Gazette. Contact Marilynn at marilynn@aroundwestmount.com.

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