And Tigger, too

By Rose Simpson

After Mr. Big left me, I was a hot mess in desperate need of friends, and I found them at the North End of the National Press Club bar. I had always known the journalist side, the East end, where wags sucked back beer and argued the events of the day. But the North End was different, filled as it was with old hacks, flacks and assorted weirdos.

I hadn’t spent much time at the Club, being as I was a mother of three young children, but its bar became a welcome respite for me when the kids were off with Mr. Big and the White Witch of Bermuda.

When I first started going to the Club, I found the thing to do was to start in the middle and gravitate to the End that was having the most fun. And that was the North End, where people were always filled with mirth and merriment. North Enders were real people who lived in the real world; they did not live for newspaper headlines.

I first encountered Fred Favel and his lovely wife, Laurel, about fifteen minutes after dropping the kids off one Friday evening. At first Fred seemed imposing and unapproachable; he had a rapier-like wit and could cut anyone down to size with a lash of his tongue. But after a few weeks at the Friday night bar, I got to see the real Fred, a man of great warmth and wisdom.

Fred had grown up in horrendous circumstances, as an Indian child who was raised in orphanages, then by a Ukrainian family in Saskatchewan, then schooled in the dreaded residential school program. As a little kid, Fred found his escape in the Ukrainian church, its music and its pageantry. It was a cultural experience Fred never forgot, and today, he still likes to visit the churches, listen to the haunting hymns and chants, and afterwards buy fresh perogies from the little ladies of the auxiliary.

As a youth, Fred endured great personal assaults, both emotionally and physically, but he rose above it to become a successful community worker, a candidate for the Liberal Party, and a broadcaster. In his 30s, he fell in love with Laurel, a young student at the University of Saskatchewan; it has been a love story that has endured through more than three decades. Favels are still in love, which is anything anyone can hope for in a lifetime.

What I love about Fred is his enormous capacity for love and warmth. He is a person who spent many years propping me up through my various breakdowns and malevolent meanderings; who would sit up with me at all hours talking during my loneliest times as a single mother.

In addition to his wonderful sense of humor, Fred has always had great style. Always impeccably dressed, he moved in short order from sweater vests to stylish silk shirts and crisp slacks. He would blend in as well, I’m sure, at Fashion Week in New York as he would holding court in his red leather chair in the house in Orleans.

To my mind, Fred Favel is a true original: a raconteur, a bit of a rogue, a man of great complexity, generosity and faith. Above all, Alfred you are my friend.

And so to Fred, on the occasion of his 70th birthday, I send my great love and good wishes. Welcome to the seventh decade, Tigger, from your silly little friend Pooh Bear.


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