Sunday, November 4, 2007

Collecting and Collecting...

The room where John is resting is decorated and colored based on ideas from our Antique Nippon Collection. Several of you have commented on the various sides of John’s personality. It is true that John has always had the energy to maintain several interests. One interest of John's that some of you may not realize (although all the antique dealers out there will know of this side of him of course) is his love for antiques.

John has always collected and maintained a collection of vintage sheet music. When I dated him it worked out great because we were both night owls and he had a nightly routine of listing or going through piles of sheet music. It worked out for us because I was always up with him doing something-studying, reading or laughing with him as we went through several of the lyrics of earlier times. As I had grown up in an antique shop with an antique dealer mother and a father who was an avid collector, collecting anything and everything, this kind of activity was something I was accustomed to and which I enjoyed. John and I had many trips to New Orleans in those early days which always culminated in dragging back sheets of music.

I should have clued in those first days together that he had that real “collector” personality and mentality, especially since I had spent all of my childhood days with collectors and characters of all sorts who were typically engaged in the “chase” for that last one piece or article!

So what of Nippon? Let me tell you that I had no idea how much I’d come to know about it or experience it. Early on I took John to an antique shop - being pretty excited that he liked old things, as most of the guys my own age had little interest in older things. John, I’d find, would never get bored despite hours in dusty old shops or out at garage sales or auctions. I was pretty pleased!

One day John asked me what type of china or glass he might consider collecting given the vast potential selection. At the time I suggested Nippon, because although we both loved Victoriana and cranberry glass and art glass it was expensive and hardly the thing to start collecting “bargain wise”. I anticipated that Nippon hand painted china had the potential to go up in value in the coming years.……Well that suggestion resulted in a decade of collecting.

Let me just say that after say the 3rd or 4th new china cabinet I began to get a little worried. Sure, at the beginning it was charming. John decided to start with cocoa sets, so off we'd go looking and found several. All were hand-painted and we found delight in the different patterns- some with birds, with flowers or even portraits. And, these sets were beautifully displayed as we bought those first few china cabinets. We were like a couple of kids inspecting them and I was very pleased that John would be the main “washer” following a purchase, insisting on the use of delicate cloths or even toothbrushes, given his need for perfection in the cleaning of them.

Over the years we moved on beyond cocoa sets to tea sets and plates, and humidors, and nut sets and juice sets and platters and celery sets……need I say more?
And, our collection grew beyond Nippon. Just to give you an example of the kind of guy or collector John was, one day when I mentioned that I wouldn’t mind a couple of “fruit” or “vegetable” salt and pepper shakers (tomatoes, or something along that line) I arrived home to a kitchen counter full of at least 50 pairs of shakers. The counter contained a display of tomatoes, cucumbers, corn sets, broccoli, carrots…you name it he had it. And, he was pretty proud of himself too!

It became a little challenging when we hadn’t yet purchased a home and I was beginning to realize we might never do so because of the size of the home that would be required for our growing pile of artifacts. At one point I had suggested to John that perhaps we’d reached some kind of a quota, and he initially agreed, however, I soon found that whenever I moved a dish in our home (because perhaps it was beginning to look a little cluttered) a new item would appear. Needless to say I learned quickly to stop doing that!

I know some women in marriages find empty bottles behind closets and doors. Not me, I’d find bags of tissue paper. I’d go to John asking if he had purchased anything, while looking around for new pieces in spots where we still had a little space. And, if I did find anything that seemed different or new he would always respond, “Oh that…I’ve had that for a long time.”

Anyhow it is all charming. I never dreamed I would find a man so interested in antiques. (Although I must admit I had moments where I wondered if I should have rather suggested that he collect stamps because at least they can be housed into a binder).

This example is one of the traits we all love about John- his huge enthusiam for anything that interests him. Over the years we have used a lot of our old things and they have provided lots of entertainment. And, John really studied his new interest. I saw first hand how he took on a new subject. For example, in the case of Nippon, he soon became a leading expert and antique dealers started seeking him out to inquire about various porcelain stamps, prices and patterns.

One friend once suggested to me that I could change the appearance of our house according to the seasons and display the antiques that reflected the season of the time. I never found the extra time for that! But we sure had fun. In fact, just recently, John and I dismantled complete china cabinets to display different collections. Each time we unwrapped a piece we had packed away we both got excited all over again!

The reflection on this hobby reminds me of the time when I indicated to my mother that we may marry (I was in my twenties at the time; John was in his fifties). My mother enjoyed John very much, however, her initial reaction was to comment on his age and respond, “I like him but he could die”. I quickly reminded her that I grew up in an antique shop and loved playing the piano and suggested that it shouldn’t be too surprising for her to see me bring home an older (antique?) musician. Anyhow, she surprised me with her comment because my dad was 17 years older than my mother (we won’t go there on the significance of that!) and I had always seen how an interest in older things and heritage pieces could be shared and enjoyed.
Anyhow, she was right “he could die” and now we are closer to that time. However, all that John has given me (and so many others) with his passion for life will never be considered a “short time” in my mind. He has provided me with a lifetime of memories and wonderful times, along with all of that glorious music.

Somehow I find it fitting that he is resting his final days in our “Nippon-inspired” room, surrounded by our china and all those lovely colors and memories. Perhaps he is now dreaming of all those collecting days, while he lies so relaxed bathing in the sound of his own piano renditions playing in the background.

John is resting more and more as he becomes weaker. He still responds to his children and I, but it is more tiring for him to do so now. However, he seems so peaceful and comfortable it makes it easier for us to accept the reality and to help him as he makes this next transition in his life.

Thanks once again- for so much. The scholarships, notes, calls, messages, emails and letters are unbelievable. He is so touched, as am I.

The tributes to him are piling up along side of his collectibles and are a salute to a passionate and generous man. It is no surprise that he has attracted the attention and care of so many endearing folks. I hear your hearts expressing and can see your tears in your reaching out… does John.

Thanks to you all for that.

Best Regards,

Mary Jane


Mark Bell said...

Dear John and Mary Jane:

For some reason the earlier note I wrote has been deleted...Here is attempt #2.

You don't know me but John knows my family. I also grew up in Port McNicoll. I am the youngest son of Arthur and Alida Bell. John knows my older siblings (sisters) Nancy and Lorraine very well. John was the organist and choir director at our village church (Sacred Heart Church) and my sisters and Mom were in the choir there.

I have fond childhood memories of the family store - Arpin's Confectionary (I was born in 1960). I remember Mrs. Arpin very well. She stood just over 5 feet. She was always impeccably dressed. I remember the pickled eggs and all of the other interesting foods held in the glass containers on the shelves in the store...I also remember fondly John's brother, Leo, who would announce to his Mom when several of us (village kids) would enter the store, "Hey Mom, the gang's in here!" Leo was also a very good pianist. Whatever happened to the piano that stood just inside the family home toward the back of the store?

I am a musician of sorts as well. I have taught music in Toronto schools for the past seventeen years. I have been a Music Consultant with the Toronto Board of Education and the Coordinator of Music for the Toronto District School Board.

I was sad to hear that John is not well...He is certainly one who makes all Port McNicoll residents proud...Every time I hear his name mentioned on CBC radio or in other media, I must say I feel pride too.

I found out about John's condition and this Blog from Joe Tersigni (our cousin) and was grateful that he sent the email to me. This afternoon I forwarded Joe's email to my sisters and my brother. We gathered this afternoon for a family get-together and I mentioned John's to my family. My Mom sends her kind regards as do my siblings: Nancy, Lorraine, John, Mary Lynn and Donna.

All the best to you John in the next chapter of your journey through the Universe....and "thank you", Mary Jane, for standing close to John...and for providing the anecdotes that I read on your blog...In the words of the old "war-time" song...appropriate as we near Remembrance Day: "We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when..." (I also have an original copy of this sheet music in my filing cabinet...)

Mark Bell

Ed said...

Dear Mary Jane,

Thank you for the marvelous pictures and stories. And thank you for telling of John's love of collecting, a facet of his personality that we may have missed.

Ed Berlin

Anonymous said...

Dear Arpins,

Ed Berlin pointed me to the blog, and although I'm just another faceless name I'm sure, I just wanted to mention how much I've admired and respected John--even if always from a distance, through recordings, anecdotes, and videos. I came to ragtime in middle school as a pianist frustrated with playing the same classical "chestnuts" and with a keen interest in American history (I should add that I do still enjoy playing and listening to the classics). John's recordings of the complete piano works of Scott Joplin were among the first in my growing collection of ragtime recordings, and I have always counted them among my favorites: energetic, lyrical, and with such imaginative improvisations. Since then, I have been fortunate to hear many other recordings he has done and have always been delighted. For his musicality and talent--not to mention what I understand has always been a very likeable and humble personality (I've heard this from my friends Bill Edwards, Adam Swanson, and others)--John is a terrific role model and definitely someone who will be long, long remembered. I was so saddened to hear of his illness and hope that you can take some comfort in knowing the influence you have had and the joy you have brought to so many--and will for years to come. My thoughts are with you both at this difficult time.

Bryan Wright

Ted Tjaden said...

Dear John and Mary Jane:

I also heard about your blog through Ed Berlin.

I share your passion for collecting ragtime music. I am a huge fan of John's playing and have heard him play in Toronto a number of times. Hearing John play Hal Isbitz's tangos on Blue Gardenia is a special memory for me (I immediately got the music from Hal and struggle through trying to play it myself).

John was kind enough to email me several times with kind comments on my ragtime website.

From your blog I realize you are both blessed with family and friends and great memories. Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Dear folk:
I've read the words, and find the love in your home. I have a passion for music of almost all sorts, and find comfort in it. Keep the tunes playing. Ragtime will lift your spirits, and the heavier classics will provide insights. All the best.
Bill B.

Anonymous said...

Dear John and Mary Jane:

I just found out about John's condition, and want you both to know I'm thinking about you. John, you are a real guiding light to countless pianists. Like so many others, I've marveled at your wonderful technique, and I've also recognized that for you, the chops aren't just to show off -- you make beautiful music.

Anonymous said...

Dear John and Mary Jane: I just heard about John's condition, and wanted to let you both know that I'm thinking about you, like so many others. John, so many of us have admired your superb technique, and we marvel at the way you use those great chops in the service not of showing off, but of making beautiful music. I'm a big fan.

Butch Thompson

Sue Attalla said...

Mary Jane and John,

When lucky enough to hear John play in Sedalia’s Liberty Center, probably 1999, I recall my sense of awe. At the time, I believe I simply responded, “Wow!” A friend replied: “I was wondering if you could hear that.”

As a non-musician, I lack the words to describe exactly what I heard. However, what I remember was not only technical virtuosity; it was also the emotion coming through the music. I can’t recall the specific selection John played that left me feeling as it did, but it was one I’d heard many times--played technically well in each case, I’m sure--but without a sensitive performer breathing life into it.

Sue Attalla

Bill Edwards said...

Greetings to John and Mary Jane.

I put this comment in an earlier post, but realized the current post would have made more sense for currency, so am echoing it here since I want to be sure John gets wind of it, and hopefully it will bring a smile and a remembrance.

John, I first met you in 1991 up in Toronto at the final Bash with Glenn Jenks, and the two of you were kind enough to invite me to perform in your evening concert, which I long appreciated. Since that time I have steadily increased my involvement in ragtime, but it's been hard to make my passion for it any more than it already is, given how strong it is. I also taped that seminar you and Glenn gave, and used elements of it in both my performances (Pastimes to Anoma, etc.) and the many seminars I have done since.

We last met at Sedalia two years ago and you were again very kind to me and immediately acknowledged what I had done before and since. Thank you for that.

So I wanted you to be aware of both significant and subliminal impacts you have had on us musician types in both your personal contacts and your considerable recordings, one of my favorites being the four hand album with Catherine Wilson. I also offer personal thanks for taking one of my early charges who I got started on ragtime, Adam Swanson, and gave him some great opportunities that have advanced him, at fifteen, into a considerable player. He will represent the legacy of Arpin, Maddox, B. Campbell, and maybe even (if I'm so lucky) Edwards as he goes through life.

It has been a privilege always to be able to share this field with such a considerable person, and I would be remiss if I did not let you know that.

My family and I will have you continually in our prayers as both of you go through this time, and we know from experience this means you won't be alone, nor should you be.

My finest to both of you, Bill Edwards
perfbill at hotmail dot com

Norm Barker said...

Dear Mary Jane,

I was so sorry to hear about John's passing. Knowing John was a wonderful association, with lots of memories. I first heard his name when a radio station played “Go My Way”. I later went to see him playing at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto, where I met Bill McCrostie and Betty Miquelon of the Toronto Ragtime Society. They told me about a mini-bash coming up, and I took with me a friend from Iceland, and his father-in-law from England, and they both played. I soon became an active member of the Toronto Ragtime Society for many years. I talked to John at many places he played in Toronto Hotels, McMichaels Gallery, and the last time was at the outdoor concert in Peterborough several years ago.

Jim said...

Jim Kinnear - One of the founders of The Ragtime Society, originally published from King, Ontario, Canada, passed away this March.
Introduced to this wonderful music genre by Bob Darch, Eubie Blake, and others, Jim Kinnear spent years promoting ragtime, and researching obscure compositions. Long before the advent of the Internet made sharing information available, he and a few dedicated friends, John Fisher and Idamay MacInnes, created the Ragtime Society, " Dedicated to the Preservation of Classic Ragtime". in 1962, with the support of Bob Darch.
The 'Ragtimer' was written, printed, and mailed out from our home in King township for years, with members all over the world. I have memories of collating the yellow sheets from stacks spread around the living room ( no worries about child labour ).
The first several Ragtime Society Bashes were held in our home, with our family room being transformed into the Red Carpet Saloon, Temperanceville. John wowed the assembled fans with his skill and knowledge. Known back then as 'Johnny Arpin', it was a priveledge to have met him, and over the years I heard him in many other venues, and situations . . loved his treatment and respect for ragtime . . he'll be missed.


Jim Kinnear (jr)

KINNEAR – James (Jim) Gordon, Suddenly at the P.R.H.C. on March 7, 2010 at the age of 85 years. Beloved husband of Lois Marion (Woolner). Dear father of Jim Jr (Felicity) of Nottawa, Bob (Maggie) of Nelson BC.