Manor Park Notables: Colin Chalk (1949 – 2023)
Leaps of faith, a sharp wit, a love of fellow beings (and music)--Hallmarks of a life well lived.
Manor Park Notables remembers Colin Chalk. Colin was born and bred in Wales, U.K., left his beloved homeland in August 1977 when an opportunity opened up with Help the Aged, a U.K. charitable organization. Colin was southwest divisional manager in Wales and the organization was expanding operations internationally. It was either Calcutta or Canada. For 27-year-old Colin, it was an obvious choice.
Ever the adventurer, Colin didn’t hesitate to journey to Ottawa. All he knew about Canada was that it had red-coated Mounties and snow! His first winter was “brilliant” – all Colin had was a sports coat and a scarf; he didn’t even feel the cold!
His work to establish Help the Aged in Ottawa involved training outreach workers and speaking engagements. He also began part-time work at Canadian Tire and continued to dabble in music. (An amateur musician in Wales, Colin played guitar effortlessly, sang enchantedly and performed brilliantly on the harmonica.)
Leaving Help the Aged, Colin became warehouse manager at Canadian Tire on Clyde Ave. where he stayed for two years before moving on. By then, at 30, Colin had held three managerial positions. With no interest in returning to the U.K., he decided to stay in his adopted Canadian homeland.
In 1981, a rather shy Colin branched out as a solo musician, busking at lunchtime on Sparks St. A newspaper advertisement seeking a guitar player for the Cold Porter band caught his attention. He auditioned, got the job joining Syd Baxter (vocals) and Dave Peoples (bass). Music had taken over his life; Colin and his band mates were regulars at Molly McGuire’s, Ottawa’s first authentic Irish pub.
Before long, the band re-grouped without its bass player, renamed itself Rafferty, and began playing at Irish pubs up and down the Ottawa Valley as far away as Campbell’s Bay. When the band broke up in 1984, Colin went solo, artistically performing what he called “pub” music around Ottawa – Irish ballads, songs by the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and Gordon Lightfoot – songs that his audiences loved to hear.
By 1991, he was working at Ottawa Food Bank. It wasn’t long before Colin became the organization’s public face as volunteer coordinator and public relations manager. For 12 years he was responsible for food drives, collections, deliveries and its many volunteers, appearing on radio and TV promoting fundraising campaigns.
Colin always went with the wind at his back, and it was at the Food Bank in 1993 that a gentle and welcome breeze by the name of Sue arrived. A registered nurse, Sue was new to Ottawa and seeking volunteer opportunities in her spare time. (They married in 2011 at a cottage in Wakefield, Que.)
Colin owned a home in Vanier, and Sue had left nursing and was gravitating into child care. Living in Manor Park seemed a better option for opening a home daycare and by the early 2000s, they were renting on Kilbarry Cres. and Sue’s daycare was up and running. Disappointed by an unsuccessful bid to purchase that house, they moved (with her daycare) to rented accommodations on Dunloe Ave.
Following a difficult and puzzling shake-up at the Food Bank in 2003, Colin found himself at a crossroads, seeking new opportunities. It wasn’t long before he became involved in the Manor Park community.
By fall 2005, his Dunloe neighbour, Jim Kenward, recruited Colin to take over as distribution manager for the Manor Park Chronicle. A tireless worker, Colin didn’t hesitate. True to his character, it was a role he undertook with gusto – one he held for the next 15 years!
Never one to look back, in February 2005 Colin (and Sue) opened The Purple Crayon in the Rockcliffe Crossing Plaza – Manor Park’s first and only children’s consignment shop selling new and pre-loved children’s clothing, equipment, books and toys. In their new Camelia Ave. home, Sue continued her daycare with Colin ever engaged in entertaining and nurturing the toddlers in their care. Helping others was a constant theme throughout his life.
The Purple Crayon ran its course for six fulsome years, and throughout this experience, music was always in Colin’s background, where he entertained at the Heart & Crown and at the Beechwood Market and its Christmas market in St. Charles Church.
A devastating and unexpected terminal disease, sadly, ended the retirement chapter of Colin’s life journey this summer. Colin had a whale of a life (pun intended) when he chose to leave Wales and begin a new life in Canada. Few would take that leap of faith and venture into the unknown. Colin’s life was grounded by his love of music, ingrained principles of hard work and a sincere and honest concern for his fellow human beings.
Colin made a real contribution, not only to our community and to the world of music, but to everyone he touched in life. With his easy-going attitude and likable personality, Colin left a little of himself in everyone who was fortunate enough to cross his path.
Colin left this world far too soon, but he left it a better place, and his music plays on. He leaves his devoted wife Sue and, in Wales, his son Gareth, his wife Nicola and granddaughters Bethan, Seren and Catrin.
A Manor Park Notable is a snapshot of an individual (now deceased) who has lived in the Manor Park area, and who made a difference either through career or community involvement. If you have a candidate in mind, please send your ideas or submission to firstname.lastname@example.org.