One of the great forces of social discourse, political commentary, songwriting, and creative living in everything from log salvage to master gardening, John Marian, has passed away at the young age of 73 after a long and complicated conversation with cancer.
People either loved John or were challenged by him, ambivalence being the least familiar take on his fierce intellectualism, love of long and last words, impatience with those he felt did not fully apply themselves to their work to the best of their abilities, and a deep distrust of systems - corporate, government, and at times societal. Those who loved him acknowledge / respected his sharp edges but also found the diamond underneath captivating and soul-enriching.
John grew up with a stint at boarding school in England, a tribal place where being foreign and shorter/slighter than most made for a hard education, one that led to a lifetime of proving competence and skill as his introduction everywhere he went. He was feisty and fearless and learned to protect himself from an early age.
Later he grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the son of a highly principled physician mistreated by the provincial medical establishment for an ethical stand taken around a patient (a life lesson for John) who was aloof and preoccupied, but with a mother and sister who taught him love and gentleness, two other traits that led as often in his life as his intellectual fortitude and drive to be the best at everything he did.
After a stint as a newspaper writer/sports writer, he and the love of his life, Aus, packed up back east and headed to the wilds of the West Coast, where they homesteaded first in Sooke, and then through a serendipitous meeting while hitchhiking on the island they met a couple who would introduce them to Herbert Arm. There they eschewed the conveniences of suburban life for one of deeply spiritual connection with the physical and unseen world, self-taught off-gridders who grew together in both skills and love in this idyllic yet challenging setting.
John and Aus lived in many places on BC's coast: Chamberlain Road in Gibsons, Nelson Island, North Trail Island, and Halfmoon Bay, every time creating a life out of rocks, and soil, and creativity and their own boundless labors of love in their prodigious gardens.
John was long a well known log salvager on the Coast, while Aus was a midwife in high demand. Their own two girls, Megin and Maughan grew up home schooled for their early years, as embedded into the natural environment as their parents until their teen years.
John entered into local politics in the early 2000s, becoming the Area Director for Halfmoon Bay for two terms, where he read every report, document, comment and even between the lines for the duration of his term, and was known for a directness that could wander into bluntness and impatience but was always backed up by a deep knowledge in the subject at hand. He also wrote part time for the Sechelt Slant, sparking many letters to the editor in rebuttal to one of his many op-ed pieces, which sparked further rebuttals on his part. Trying to get the last word over John was either impossible or too frustrating to sustain. Forgettable he was not.
While he and Aus eventually grew apart, they remained close until Aus' death in 2017, a sudden passing which affected John greatly for the remainder of his life.
A prodigious songwriter and active musician at coffee houses and gigs around the Coast for many years, John's music sheds insight into his heart, his great loves and regrets, and his thoughts on the changing nature of life on BC's west coast.
Those closest to him know a John very different from his public persona - warm, intensely loyal, a fantastic and creative gardener, generous with his time, money and massive equipment and tools collection, and surprisingly soft-hearted and emotional, a man who loved his family and friends deeply. In the last few years, he began to let down his guard, and let people in to those deepest places he had walled off with his will and drive, and was shocked to find the love there for him. His friendships gave his life a resonance unexpected and cherished.
As his song 'Living Well Enough Alone' called out from the album, Coda Many Colours, "I just hope to go out grateful / For the life that I have had…" - his death was as he hoped for, surrounded by family and friends, far too early than he preferred, but with gratitude and the knowledge that he had experienced a singular life, and had left a legacy of music and writing for those left behind.
John is survived by his daughters Megin (Nathan), Maughan (Silas), grandchildren Mariah, Reuben, Sophia, Bilen, Bamlak, Ady, sister Celia, brother-in-law Doug, nephew Johnathan, cousins Anita and Renatta, extended family, a circle of close friends and by his greater Sunshine Coast and Facebook family. He will be missed more than he will ever know, and the family asks if you could share your favourite story of connection or song from his web site (www.johnmarian.ca) and ask others to share it in turn… it would delight John that others might find something in his songs and stories that speaks to them.
A Celebration of John's Life will be held on Friday, July 6 at his home (8149 Northwood Road, Halfmoon Bay) from 4pm-7pm. This will be an open house style celebration with space for music (bring your beloved instrument), sharing memories and nibbling tasty morsels. You are free to come for as long or little as you like. Please no flowers; consider donating to the Sunshine Coast Food Bank or Emergency Shelter by way of remembrance. Further information will be posted on John's Facebook profile page and on bigpacific.com.