Former Westmount resident and internationally acclaimed Paul Almond, television and film writer, director, producer and novelist, passed away at 83 on April 9, 2015. The community was invited to join with family, friends and fans for a celebration of his life on Thursday, August 6 at 11 a.m. at Trinity Memorial Anglican Church, 5229 Sherbrooke Street West, the church his family founded and was particularly invested in.
Paul left knowing his life’s work was complete. The day before he passed, on April 8 The Inheritor, the final work in his eight-volume Alford Saga series was published. A tribute to Paul and a launch of The Inheritor, his autobiographical novel, was held at the Westmount Public Library on June 10. 2015/
During his career Paul wrote over 130 television dramas for the CBC, the BBC and a number of US networks, as well as a number of acclaimed motion pictures.
I first heard about Paul Almond in 1970 when he was living in Westmount with his wife actor Geneviève Bujold and they were filming Act of the Heart with Donald Sutherland, some of it in familiar places in Westmount. WHS classmate Carol Underhill and her boyfriend had audaciously approached the couple for an interview for The Westmount Examiner. And they got it, from a man who would prove over his lifetime that he was as unassuming and gracious as he was talented.
My next encounter with Paul was decades later when I wrote an article for The Westmount Examiner after he was honoured with the Order of Canada Award in 2001. Paul responded with a phone call from his Malibu home to Editor Wayne Larsen to thank him. In 2007, The Directors Guild of Canada gave Paul the Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions to Canadian film and television.
In October, 2014 , I had the privilege of speaking with Paul during a lengthy phone conversation about The Alford Saga. This was his 25-year-long “retirement” project exploring his family’s roots in the Gaspé over four generations. His extensive research for his Saga included both oral tradition and documents (including family letters).
During that memorable conversation I discovered that the secret of Paul’s success was his passion … passion for both the concept of the work and its realization. He was deeply interested in people and their situations, which prompted his original 1964 Granada television program in the acclaimed Seven Up! Series that documented a cross-section of British society by profiling a group of seven-year-olds. The children were asked about their feelings about love, family, class and their hopes in life. This program led to the creation of the “Up!” series, which revisited the same “children” every seven years and is still going strong at 58 Up!
That passion is the motivation behind his accomplished career, and his unyielding drive to complete the Alford Saga, no matter how many book signings and how many air miles crossing North America and beyond it took to complete it all. In the last five years of his life, Paul did over 100 book launches, often in churches, and many times donating half the proceeds to charity.
Paul is survived by his wife Joan Almond, his son Matthew, stepsons Trey, Tim and Chris Elkins, stepdaughter Tracy Stoker and eight grandchildren.
And by those like myself who were so impressed by both his works and the gentleman himself who I was fortuitously able to leave… for now… Around Westmount with.
For more information, contact Barbara Burgess, who worked with Paul for the last two and a half years and helped him in arranging book launches and copy-editing some of his literature-related correspondence. firstname.lastname@example.org
The individual books of Paul’s Alford Saga are available on amazon.ca