friends of dufferin grove park
Stories About Us - 2005

Ben Figuereido: In Memoriam
posted January 15, 2005

On the Monday before Christmas the park lost a long-time friend, Ben Figuereido.

Ben moved into the apartment building next to the rink around the same time as the rink began to change, almost ten years ago. He was a retired construction worker with lots of stories, both from his time on the high steel and from his shoe-less childhood in Portugal. After a few years of talking to people, Ben knew almost everybody around the park.

Ben Figuereido

He liked to be useful. He planted the grape vines that climb up the chain-link fence, and with those grapes, the bakers made a starter for the first park-oven sourdough. Ben fixed things, from the bakers' ash scoop to the garden hose leak that annoyed the community gardeners. Ben knew planting lore, and weather prediction (and he was highly gratified whenever his predictions were more accurate than those made by the "fools" at Environment Canada). He watched birds as closely as he watched people, loved dogs, and worried a great deal about the homeless Chinese man who lived in the park for two seasons.

Up until his gout and his arthritis got bad, Ben made a yearly trip to Cuba, and always came back with stories proving that Cuba was the most beautiful place on earth. In the past few years, though, Ben was kept from travelling by the multiplying physical troubles of older age, and he would often wonder out loud what he would do when he could no longer look after himself. This was the fear that Ben shared almost daily with his park friends as the years rolled over him, until on the Monday before Christmas he took a step that pre-empted that fearful prospect forever.

Although the park was Ben's "village" in some ways, his relatives were not so aware of the friendships there. This meant that many park people who knew Ben were unable to find out about the location of his memorial service until after it was over. That was sad for them. And yet - Ben's stories and arguments and Mr. Fix-it hints were freely given to so many people in the park for so long, and those memories will last well beyond any memorial service. And then there are the grape-vines that Ben planted by the smaller park oven, next to the chain-link fence. Every spring they sprout whitish-green leaves along the dead-looking branches, and by late summer the branches are heavy with purple and green grapes: a lasting memorial for the strong-willed man who planted them there.

Petals and pebbles ritual and memorial campfire for Tooker Gomberg
posted March 3, 2005

Thursday March 3, from 5.30 p.m: "Petals and pebbles" ritual and memorial campfire by the rink for Tooker Gomberg, who died one year ago. Tooker, who lived on Havelock Street with his partner Angela before they moved to Halifax, ran for mayor against Mel Lastman when no one else would, and was a sometimes clowning, always passionate environmental activist. Organizers suggest bringing a bowl and spoon for free soup, and drums if you like.