Monday, September 1, 2008

A True Orignal

You know, I knew it was coming, but it still hit like a ton of bricks. On Saturday Morning my Mentor, Friend, and confidant Bill O'Farrell passed away in his sleep. Bill had been ill for quite some time, but true to form he continued to live his life to the fullest until the end. Over a decade ago I first made Bill's acquaintance. I had dreams of turning a small time hobby of interest in Early Film into something more substantial. I became fascinated by Motion Picture Preservation and Archives. I went to the Library of Congress, procured a list from the FIAF Catalogue on addresses of all Motion Picture Archives and wrote over 100 letters to see what I could find out. I received exactly 2 responses, a very nice letter from the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin and a phone call from the National Archives of Canada. Bill saw my letter( he was in charge of preservation copying for the Archives at that time) , understood my interest and called me at home and we spoke for over an hour ( for Bill that was a quick call!) . I basically said hello, and yes I wrote the letter and he spoke nonstop. I soaked it all in. He gave me contacts to get me involved, and over time we developed a wonderful friendship. Bill taught me how important it is to be passionate about your life, to be inquisitive, to not be satisfied with pat answers, but to see what your limits are, and work to exceed them. Because of his illness, he had to retire from National Archives of Canada, but in many ways it opened up a whole new avenue for him. He began to work as an appraiser of film material, He was an advisor to Northeast Historic Film in Bucksport Maine and the Chicago Film Archive. He was constantly on a mission to identify and update Canada's early film heritage. His life didn't slow down, true to his spirit he just cast a wider net of interests. Because of various circumstances we didn't get to see each other often, but when we did we tried to catch up on a years events in one nights time. We spoke often by phone, chatting on various subjects into the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately one of the effects of his illness was that it robbed him of his short term memory. As time went on the pendulum swung into the other direction, whereas he would carry the majority of a conversation on the phone, he would suddenly say to me "Now you talk for a while" which was my signal that he was having trouble putting phrases together. In the last six months or so, instead of the one and two hour conversations we used to have they would now only last a half hour or so. He never pressed it, but I know how frustrating it became for him. We last spoke about 3 -4 weeks ago just before he went back to the hospital. He was having a very difficult time putting any phrases together, we talked about some film he had picked up a while back, and one piece of footage he had sent me that I managed to get identified. He was quite pleased about that. We spoke very little about film that night, just a lot of general talk that friends have. I made some kind of off the wall comment that got a nice chuckle out of him which made me feel very good. We basically said our goodbyes that night. After his return to the hospital in the last days he lost his ability to speak. He passed away peacefully in his sleep surrounded by a circle of family and friends. I will miss many things about Bill, his passion, his wicked sense of humor, and his ability to know what to say when.
He has made my life richer by his presence in it. He indeed was a true original and he leaves a legacy of being one of the finest men I have ever known.

Well Woof, I will close now, you will always be a part of my life, I can never thank you enough .



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