A Celebration of the Life of
Clarence A. S. Fiske
May 19, 1922 - February 14th, 2000
Jesus said "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." (John 11: 25, 26a)
The Apostle Paul affirmed his faith saying, "For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)
We are here to celebrate a life, to affirm the importance of life itself, and to hold close the memories that made Clarence Fiske a special person for each of us. Sadness is part of any loss, yet God calls us to lift up the joy of loving relationships above the sorrow of their passing.
Let us enter into a service of thanksgiving for the life and work of Clarence. Let us worship God.
Prayer of Approach
O God, you who are present with us in times of grief and pain, as you are in joy, be with us now as we gather to pay tribute to the memory of Clarence Fiske, who lived among us with dignity, wit, and wisdom, and whose death brings with it a deep and painful sense of loss.
Help us to remember your love, which surrounds us and bears us up; hold our memories of love shared and given, making life a gift to be treasured; and as we share sadness over the loss of one who was so close to us, and whose passing leaves an empty and aching space within us, let that sharing of loss bring with it the healing of your spirit, the assurance that the love we have known as Clarence lived and moved among us will continue to enrich and bless our lives.
So may this time of remembering together, enable us to take up our lives once again with a sense of peace and assurance that the life we have loved has been returned to the one who gave it, and that its gentle and warming influence will continue to be felt among us. Amen.
Hymn: "Unto the Hills"
Unto the hills around do I lift up
My longing eyes;
O whence for me shall my salvation come,
|From whence arise?
From God the Lord doth come my certain aid,
From God the Lord who heaven and earth hath made
He will not suffer that that foot be moved:
Safe shalt thou be.
No careless slumber shall His eyelids close,
Who keepeth thee.
Behold, He sleepeth not, He slumbereth ne’er,
Who keepeth Israel in His holy care.
Jehovah is Himself thy keeper true,
Thy changeless shade.
Jehovah thy defence on they right hand
Himself hath made.
And thee no sun by day shall ever smite;
No moon shall harm thee in the silent night.
From every evil shall He keep thy soul,
From every sin:
Jehovah shall preserve thy going out,
Thy coming in.
Above thee watching, He whom we adore
Shall keep thee henceforth, yea, for evermore.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
Reflection by Rev. Andrea Harrison
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
This is the beginning, not only of the first Psalm, but it is the beginning of the whole book of Psalms, a book of instruction on how to live in God’s way.
I would have liked to talk with Clarence about this Psalm, about what it meant to him. He certainly considered it important enough to ask his children to memorize it.
Now, of course there is the reference to the "law of the LORD" – perhaps this appealed to the lawyer in Clarence. But "law" in this psalm is more than a set of legal rules and stipulations. The law, or "Torah", as it would be called in Hebrew, was instruction, God’s instruction. This instruction wasn’t just to be learned and spoken, it was to be lived. In the New Testament, we hear Jesus saying, "Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it." It was also more than just a matter of obedience. Living in God’s way brings delight to the human, because living in God’s way keeps one in relationship with God.
Perhaps this was at the heart of Clarence’s passion for social justice. God, very clearly, has a passion for justice. This is reflected in Hebrew Scriptures, such as the Psalms, it is also at the core of Jesus’ life.
God’s law of social justice was also at the core of Clarence’s being.
If we imagine Clarence now residing in God’s home, that place that Jesus described, one can’t help but wonder if there is something akin to a library there, with some kind of records that describe the ordering of the universe. Perhaps Clarence is debating some of the finer points of existence with God, pressing God to bring about justice. Surely Clarence’s passion for social justice, for the underdog, can’t end with his death. Perhaps too, that is a legacy Clarence leaves for those following after him.
Clarence has walked through the valley of the shadow of death and shall now dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. He is physically gone from us, but something of him remains with us.
Love does not end when a person dies. Love lives on in spirit, and love lives on in the hearts and minds of each of us. So let us celebrate love and the gift of life that God gives us. Let us continue to laugh and smile at the fond memories, and know that the tears we shed are little symbols of the love we have shared. And let us know too, that God is with us in all of our laughter and tears, loving us in this life and in the next. Amen.
Eulogy by David Anderson
His grandfather, the Rev Daniel Fiske of Florenceville, New Brunswick, was of a longtime New England Yankee family then recently come up from the state of Maine. His grandmother, a McLeod, had the pride of relation to Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A Macdonald. His father Stuart Fiske and mother Jessie MacNaughton established themselves on the present farm on the Fourth of Charlottenburgh once owned by the Ossian McDonells of Williamstown. Clarence's first public notice was to have been named "best baby" at the Williamstown Fair when the prize was five dollars.
At the onset of the Great Depression he was still in grade school when his father's crippling arthritis threw the weight of farm operations onto the shoulders of the boy and his even younger brother Rolland and sister Leslie. That adversity should come upon us is not in itself remarkable but the manner in which each person faces it is. Clarence was to bear up under the burden to the point of earning his degree from McGill while attending alternate years in order that his brother might do the same.
Do not we each in the spring of life come into habits and abilities which predispose us to certain things? Often a simple event, of little consequence at the time, causes a swerve in our course. It happened that the Glengarry farm boy found a copy of Boswell's Life of Johnson in the flooded basement of the school and perhaps remembering the fact that his grandfather had been adopted by a Presbyterian reverend of the same name he made the book his.
To read Boswell closely is to enter with two legs into the spirit and life of 18th century London and to see life in its moments through the eyes of all-too-human men of letters; moments captured, as it were, in a sunbeam. When Boswell informs Dr Johnson that he was keeping a journal of his life, "fair and undisguised," into which he "put down all sorts of little incidents" the good doctor replies, "Sir, there is nothing too little for so little a creature as man. It is by studying little things that we attain the great knowledge of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible."
So long as the language of the English-speaking peoples is spoken Boswell shall remain the prince of biographers. Biographers must be fascinated by their subjects. Boswell perfected the craft of capturing and immortalizing both the speaker and the moment by assiduously catching their words as they were formed, so to speak. It was in this, as an observer and recorder of his fellow man in all his freak, folly and philosophy that Clarence Fiske also excelled. But rather than putting pen to paper he refined his points by calling them forth to suit out the circumstances, uttering them in tones so modest and low that one was obliged to give full attention to him lest a phrase be lost. At times the keen blade of his wit had been thrust and withdrawn before we were aware we had been skewered.
His friend Roy Calder was an endless source of country Calderisms: "Clarence, I've met men and I've met monkeys but I've met more monkeys than men!" Another local stalwart who worked at times with Clarence on the farm was asked anxiously if the new tractor were to catch on fire exactly what he would do. The disarming reply was "Well, Mr Fiske, I would do my very best." Or, the time that he was counseling a dear old client on the necessity of updating her will only to have the suggestion rejected with the observation that "Up to now it has served me very well!" Clarence collected and preserved such moments much as a collector of butterflies or stamps seeks new species and issues.
Winston Churchill, on having completed a tour of the wretched slums of Glasgow, after reflected on his impression of the poverty within in these words: "Imagine living all one's life here without ever having said anything clever or witty." Surely there is a part of the human spirit that renders us impervious to poverty; this ability to see beyond the immediate while taking joy in the present saves us all. Clarence's firm resolve to higher education meant, for instance, that when the motorcar had begun to take over the concession roads of Glengarry he was one of the last to put aside the horse and buggy, a circumstance he was known to have resented but was, like all other adversity, able to rise above.
He did what all young lads do in the country. As a Glengarry farmer he husbanded his bush: one who plants trees must believe in the future, wouldn't you say? Even after he was no longer able to vault directly onto a horse he made straight fences -- especially relishing the task of blasting rock with dynamite. He raised a type of hybrid buffalo. During milktime he confessed to using time and rhyme to memorize poetry. With his young family he did the things we all are free to do but may let pass: waking the children early to see (and feel) the coming of the dawn; going to gaze at spawning fish in the stream down in the valley; seeking out the first of the trilliums and wild onions; or taking the young ones astride the horse to a favourite picnic spot.
As a young lawyer-to-be he worked with the legendary politician Ozzie Villeneuve and could claim as did most of his generation to have been present in 1948 at the first of the Glengarry Highland Games at Maxville, except that his job was to put certain finishing touches on the sanitary facilities for which Villeneuve was responsible. He entered the Montreal law firm of Senator J T Hackett after losing a year over the death of his father, not to mention the earlier death of his younger brother Rolland.
It was around this time that a young Ans Perk, only recently from Holland, had been invited by a friend to a meeting of the McGill Progressive Conservative Club where she in bewilderment received the position of "social convener." This office led to another called "wife of young lawyer and mother of five." But Ans will always hold the office of social convener of the new dining wing at the farm where she presides over a harvest table that is at its best when animated by Stuart, Jessie, Mary Lynn, Jane and Christa, together with their spouses and children.
Clarence was thirty-seven years a member of the Montreal West Rotary Club and, later in life, a Freemason. At the time when the Glengarry Historical Society undertook to create the Nor'Westers and Loyalist Museum he was financial advisor of the founding committee. For short time he was a publisher under the imprimateur of Chateau Books in the then-vibrant literary life of English-language Montreal.
Here in St Andrew's United Church he was for ten years secretary of the session and always paid the most particular attention to the selection of biblical texts which adorned the annual reports. His regular pew allowed him a constant view of an open knothole in the floor which he pointed out to children of all ages, insisting that it was a mousehole. His practice of bringing his own copy of the King James Version disguised in a colourful protective jacket gave rise to the rumour that Mr Fiske read novels during the sermon an impression that he was only too pleased, in his puckish way, to leave stand. But, having myself received edification from this his copy of the Bible I recall him pointing out one of the lesser proofs for Shakespeare's involvement in the translation and revisions of that mighty work. In the 46th Psalm we count forward 46 words from the beginning to the word "shake" and backwards 46 words from the end to the word "spear."
He gave our house a wee grace attributed to the Reverend Doctor McLure, once moderator of the church:
"Lord, bless the food upon these dishes,
As thou didst bless the loaves and fishes;
And, as the sugar in our tea,
Let us, O Lord, be stirred by thee."
In that very pew there is inscribed the name of another member of the congregation who was of a local family raised here and was certainly present enough to have carved his name clearly. Enquiring about the person I was told that he had a tender spot for his home town for, as Dr Johnson put it, all men -- however famous -- desire most to be thought well of in their native village. This man would (as Clarence put it) "return to Glengarry to participate in commemorative events where he spoke well, renewed acquaintances, and upon returning to Montreal would send a handsome donation." Clarence then, fixing us with his steady penetrating eyes and drawing us closer with his low tones, would say, "What more can one ask of a man?"
The ashes of Clarence Fiske will be interred here in the churchyard he loved, amidst the people he loved and delighted in. There he joins his father Stuart, his mother Jessie, his brother Rolland, and his sister Leslie. As the brilliant white of winter gives way to the green grass of spring his monument will appear. Here, as long as sun shines down on our village, Williamstown's Boswell will lie beneath spreading trees close by the very characters that animated his wit. Those who are favoured to amble nearby will catch a convivial memory of him.
To have given to the world such family as his, to have left such friends as his, and to bring forth smiles in death as in life: what more, indeed, can one ask of a man?
David G Anderson
Reading from Shakespeare’s "Cybeline"
read by Curzon Dobell
Eulogy by Caroline R. Maria
In trying to find words to express my thoughts and feelings about Clarence Fiske, my former law firm associate -I was one of the "Ass's" in Fiske, Emery and Associates over the years- I found myself turning to the English literary genius of the eighteenth century Dr. Samuel Johnson, an author and thinker I was fortunate to often havequoted to me by Me Fiske, most often with a glass of scotch in one hand and his pipe in the other.
This is how Samuel Johnson is described:
He was an incomparable critic and scholar, a brilliant conversationalist, a dedicated moralist, and a paradoxical mixture of reason and idiosyncrasy. Ahead of his time in many ways, Dr. Johnson was one of the few to deny the image of women as inferior, championing their cause through his literary creations. In his life he appreciated intelligent women and generously helped female authors. He rejected the narrow ideals of conventionals of his day -the "good sort of woman" whose merit consists of freedom from faults, or the model housewife whose highest concern is "preserving the whiteness of pickled mushrooms".
Johnson never indulged in the dishonesty of glib generalization: he examined general statements for himself and made sure that they matched the facts as he knew them.
If you knew Clarence Fiske, you know how closely that describes who HE was too. And why Ans was HIS lady. I remember my job interview with him. I don't remember the details of how and when I found out I had the job, all I remember is laughing at that interview. And him laughing in return. And being fascinated with a man who spoke and listened according to different, far more appealing set of rules and observations than most.
He often spoke in a murmur, in short phrases. But I developed an ear for him almost from our first meeting. I found that in that practically inaudible murmur, there was a clarity of thought, a steady flow of intelligence, wit and irrefutable common sense lacking in the loudest, most resounding diatribe I was daily subjected to at the court house. If you think Ally McBeal is a one crazy offbeat gang of lawyers and clients, you never did time at Fiske, Emery and Associates. And if you think those TV stories are too weird to be true, I got news for you. Fiske Emery was a veritable safe house for nuts, crackpots, freaks and weirdos. And the clients were pretty strange too.
Ms. S - the perpetually outraged hysteric of whom Fiske once said "she's lucky she's good-looking or someone would have killed her long ago".
Mr. R - the inexplicably fortunate social parasite whose ridiculously lame excuse for arriving late at Court for one of his many trials would serve as an endlessly delightful reflection for Fiske: "I was waiting for my suit to dry".
or Mr. S - who provided us with one of the greatest client quotes of all time. Locked in his garage by a strange twist of misfortune, Mr. S. was first relieved then horrified by the appearance on the scene of his psychopathic neighbor who took great pains (and pleasure no doubt) in boarding up the single window in the garage door with a piece of sturdy plywood and fistful of 4 inch nails snickering: "That'll keep you in for the week-end". Mr. S exclaimed to the perpetrator of the crime as he approached, with exhibit "A" -the piece of plywood- and exhibit "B" the hammer and nails: "why David! That's a most unchristian thing to do!"
In fact, it was the seemingly inexhaustible treasure-trove of stories that each one of those clients brought to the firm that I think, most delighted and engaged Me Fiske in his long, endlessly inspired conversation with life.
I was one of the fortunate souls to have partaken of that conversation with him, and I'm grateful, to this day, for the chance to have shared those spirited hours with Clarence Fiske.
It's not Friday. And it's not quite 4 o'clock, but were it so, he would be slowly walking through the firm, softly, but deliberately beating on a little Indian drum with the back of his pipe. Emery and I knew what it meant. And so did Jane, his daughter, who shared our office and for whom to this day, I have immense respect and fondness. And who often joined us in a scotch -though she made Emery nervous. And rightly so.. That beating of the drum, was the "call to the bar". A stylish end to the week, a reflection on the myriad stories and characters that walked through our doors since our last call to the bar..
Fiske showed me that Scotch is a drink to be shared with like minds. I haven't had a drink of the stuff for quite some time. But I've always kept a bottle in my office since I left Fiske Emery to create my own stories and characters. This bottle has been in my new office since I moved there. For some reason, maybe because of a shortage of like minds, at just the right time, I haven't so much as pulled out the cork yet. But I will. And when I do, I will drink to Clarence Fiske. To his spirit and his memory.
A final quote from Dr. Johnson:
Anatomists have often remarked that though our diseases are sufficiently numerous and severe, yet when we enquire into the structure of the body, the tenderness of some parts, the minuteness of others, and the immense multiplicity of animal functions that must concur to the healthful and vigorous exercise of all our powers, there appears reason to wonder rather that we are preserved for so long, than that we perish so soon, and that our frame subsists for a single day, or hour, without disorder, rather than that it should be broken or obstructed by violence of accidents, or length of time.
Fiske was not preserved in this life for long enough. But that I had the ineffably good fortune to work with him and enjoy his character for a few wonderful years, will be preserved in my memory, and cherished for the rest of my life.
Caroline R. Maria
Prayers of the People
Great Giver of Life, we are thankful that you are the God not only of our days of confident certainty, when we feel secure and firmly in control, but also the God of our times of distress and pain.
When we encounter sickness, when we come face to face with death, we need the assurance that you are with us, and that "neither death nor life: nor anything else in all creation" can put us beyond the circle of your loving care.
We remember with special thanks at this time the life and gifts of Clarence Fiske with all that his life means to those who make up his family and friends.
We thank you that for Clarence, death is past and pain is ended, and that he has now entered into the joy of heaven and the place that you have prepared for him.
For the wit and wisdom that were so much a part of him and for the social justice action that made his life a blessing, we are filled with gratitude, O God.
We pray for Clarence’s family and friends: for their pain, for their loss. Help them to find ways of seeking consolation and healing. May they be strengthened as they face the future.
May this time of remembering together all that Clarence’s life was, and all that it still means to those who loved him, enable those who experience his loss most deeply to surrender his life with thanksgiving into the hands of God who gave it.
God of all time and all places, we remember with thanksgiving your faithful ones of all generations, and those whom we love but see no longer. Grant them your peace. May your light shine on them forever, and in your loving kindness fulfill in them your perfect will, through Jesus Christ!
And hear us now as together we pray the prayer that Jesus taught:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil; For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.
Choir: "Sweet By-and-By"
Hymn: Great is Thy Faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee:
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As thou has been, Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided,
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth;
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow:
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Holy God, by your creative power you gave us the gift of life, and in your redeeming love you have promised to be with us in life, in death, and in life beyond death.
You only are immortal, Creator of all.
We are mortal, formed of the earth, and to the earth shall we return. This you ordained when you created us, saying, "You are dust, and to dust you shall return."
We now commend Clarence to your merciful keeping; his mortal body to be returned to the ground; earth to earth ashes to ashes, dust to dust; and we entrust his soul to your everlasting care.
Go peacefully into that abiding place prepared for us.
Go gently into God’s deeper presence.
Go confidently into that communion of saints surrounding us all;
and may they hold you precious until we meet again.
Piper: "Amazing Grace" played by Bob Kitts
The Lord bless thee and keep thee.
The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace.
Sung Benediction: "Go Now In Peace"
Go now in peace.
Never be afraid.
God will go with you each hour of every day.
Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true.
Know he will guide you in all you do.
Go now in love, and show you believe.
Reach out to others so all the world can see.
God will be there watching from above.
Go now in peace, in faith, and in love.