Super 8 Filmmaker John Porter, Toronto, Canada
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Marion in Peggy's Cove
In Toronto at an early age, Marion Johnston was encouraged by painter who was a friend of her family, a student of Canadian artists the , and an art instructor at in Toronto. Marion studied art there (another of her instructors was ), graduating in Spring 1937.
That summer, she and her friend Grace Whiten opened a public art gallery and shop in the east coast fishing village of , Nova Scotia, renting an abandoned shack in the village centre that Marion had found on an earlier visit with her parents. The shack already had a noble and dramatic history. It was the General Store built in 1850, but after being both moved across the street and cut in half by a great storm in 1898, it just survived as the village's occasional meeting place referred to as Parliament House, and the store's original wooden counter inside was used to mend fishing nets.
Marion and Grace not only gave the shack a new
life, even sleeping there, but were the first to open a public art
gallery or studio in Peggy's Cove, which artists had been visiting
and painting for years for its picturesque landscapes and buildings.
In addition to Marion's and Grace's paintings, their Peggy's Cove
Tea Room and Craft Shop also offered their home-made clam chowder,
for which they harvested local clams.
When Marion and Grace tried to rent the shack again the following summer, it had already been rented by painter from the nearby city of Halifax. A regular visitor to Peggy's Cove, he had obviously been inspired by Marion's and Grace's shop to use it for his public Marine Studio. He became the Cove's resident artist, documenting its history and culture in paintings, sculptures and books. His Fisherman's Monument was declared an official Provincial Park in 1985, and in 1994 the Province transformed his Peggy's Cove home into the William deGarthe Gallery for many of his works.
His Marine Studio shack was destroyed in another storm in 1964, but when he moved into a larger building he salvaged the original General Store's wooden counter. He died in 1983, but his widow Agnes at age 94 was still running the studio in 2000 when Marion's son John visited and photographed Agnes posing with the old wooden counter.
You’re all wonderful! I love you! Marion said that often, to anybody and everybody!
Marion Johnston was born in Hamilton, Ontario on January 29, 1916 and lived there until age 12 with her parents Benson and Margaret and her older brother George. To the end, she adored and admired her parents and brother and her many nieces and nephews and their families.
Marion moved with her family to Toronto, and she studied art at Central Technical School, just a few blocks north of here. She really wanted to be a professional artist, so the summer after graduating in 1937 she and a friend opened the first tearoom and art gallery in the fishing village of Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, launching that village’s future reputation as a tourist attraction that continues today. I’m very proud of her for that.
Then she moved to New York City looking for a job in commercial art, but she was only offered a job as a model, she was so beautiful. Discouraged, she returned to Toronto and married Larry Porter and they raised three beautiful children - Susan, then Nancy, then me. I was born at Toronto Western Hospital, just a few blocks south of here. She adored all four of us to the end. Nancy and her husband Rick Kauffmann bore Marion two beautiful grandsons - Anthony and Andrew, who in turn bore Marion beautiful great grandchildren, some of whom she's met. And Marion adored all the Kauffmanns to the end.
And she continued to paint, often taking Susan, Nancy
and I out to the country with her, producing many excellent works that
she would frame and hang on our walls or give away to family or friends.
If you’re lucky to have one of her framed paintings, I hope it’s
hanging were people see it.
Sadly, she also suffered from depression and had a very angry side, maybe the frustrated artist in her. But after she got Alzheimer’s Disease eight years ago, she forgot everything that she had been angry about all her life, and became deliriously happy, with unconditional love for everyone, the first time in her adult life. And she did NOT forget how to paint and draw with skill.
Another frequent statement of hers in recent years was “I’m soooo lucky!” Part of her good luck was living here at Kensington Gardens for the last six years. It’s just six blocks from me so I visited every day, and it’s one of the best nursing homes in the city, with very good front-line staff - the care-givers, nurses, doctors, chaplains, activity co-ordinators, kitchen staff (Marion loved the food), cleaners, and maintenance staff.
On behalf of Marion and all who loved her, thankyou to
all the front-line staff, especially her primary care-giver for all
six years, Diki Doma, an excellent and loving care-giver who
makes all of her residents feel like they’re living in a hotel.
And special thanks to activity co-ordinators Enid French and
Caitlin Reidy for encouraging Marion to paint and draw often,
when Marion would sometimes say “I’m in heaven!”
>>> New Book of Marion's brother George Johnston's Poems.
>>> Marion's brother George's Memoir of their Parents, w/ Photos.
>>> Catalogue of George Johnston's 8mm & Super 8 Home Movies.
>>> John Porter's "Lost Porter Cousins", and Father's Physics Theory.