Walter Lewyc -- 1946-2006
Yesterday afternoon a service was held to mourn the death and to remember the life of Walter Lewyc, the venerable beat king of Winnipeg, who passed away last Wednesday after fighting cancer for many months. I arrived at the memorial ten minutes early, yet I could hardly find a place to stand: several generations of the Winnipeg arts scene, friends, and of course his dear family, had completely filled the Knysh Funeral Chapel on Main Street.
One friend shared how it was joked about in the late 80's that Lloyd Axworthy should be making cheques out to Walter, since he was doing more to revitalize the Warehouse District than the Core Area Initiative was doing. Years later, he was doing the same thing for Chinatown, opening the antique store/gallery/hangout spot that was Golden City at 209 Pacific Avenue. A long time resident of Point Douglas, most recently in a 1920's craftsman bungalow on Lusted Avenue, Walter had a profound influence on my wife and I's decision to move here last year.
Another friend shared how Walter had first become a bit of a legend among Winnipeg's burgeoning hippie crowd in the mid 1960's, when he travelled to California to check out the scene there, and was arrested in Berkeley for stealing socks to warm his bare feet. Fourty years later, Walter was still an inspiring beacon at the forefront of arts and subculture in Winnipeg, a true hipster.
Farewell to a neighbor and a friend, the man who was crowned king of the city at Market Square in 1994. Farewell to a man who sought after, found, and added so much to the dusty old pockets of urban sophistication of this city. Chinatown, Point Douglas, and the whole City of Winnipeg will miss you.