I never met Urban Carmichael. We once sat at different tables in the same restaurant, but that’s as close as I ever came. I never even heard him perform, save for a couple of snippets on the CBC here and there.
But our lives intersected in innumerable ways.
Urban’s sister lives just over our back fence, and her kids say hello to us every time we walk by (one of them comes over to the house to work for Catherine every Sunday afternoon, another walks Johnny and Jodi’s dog for them).
I worked with another sister during my time with the Legislative Assembly.
Mix another way, and add another couple of sisters, and you get The Carmichael Sisters — I bought their first CD soon after arriving on the Island, and I listen to it often.
We spent our first Christmas on PEI with Urban’s nephew, hunkered down in Catherine Hennessey’s old place on Dorchester St., and he’s since become a friend.
And of course almost all of our friends, acquaintances and co-workers here on PEI have regaled us with stories about working and playing with Urban over the years.
So although I never met Urban, I feel as though I know him through reflection in the eyes and hearts of others.
When last summer I made a little post about a benefit for Urban, I suddenly became, according to Google, an authority. And so I started to receive email messages. Like this one:
I hope you wont think my request is intruding on you. My wife and I only learned today about Urban Carmichael’s health while listening to CBC radio. We, my wife Anne and I, met Urban in 1986 in Saint John NB during ‘Festival by the Sea’ when Urban was representing PEI and we were part of a contingent from the Yukon. Because of the small numbers of both contingents, PEI and Yukon shared a common dormitory at the performers village. Urban kept us entertained 24/7 for the whole two weeks.
A dozen others followed, from all over North America. With the help of Urban’s friends and family, I managed to steer people in the right direction, and many of the correspondents wrote back to thank me, letting me know they’d made contact with Urban.
Urban died last night, at the age of 53. CBC Radio is reporting that he died surrounded by members of his family — they called him a “legendary Island entertainer” — and said he was born into a family of 10 (which means there are still more Carmichaels for me to meet).
This morning, picking up a cup of tea at Timothy’s, I ran into my friend, Urban’s nephew. And again I saw Urban in reflection, this time in a deep sadness in his eyes.