Kegedonce is saddened to learn of the passing of Leo Yerxa. Leo was an award winning illustrator and writer, and illustrated two Kegedonce books, Spirit Horses, and Halfling Spring. Joanne Arnott, Leo's friend and the author of Halfling Spring has written this touching tribute.
Leo and I had a great deal of play in our friendship—and that is what I will most miss. He called me “Lady of the sea” and I called him “Leo of the Lakes,” and variations of these. We visited any time that one of us travelled to the other’s locale, and between times we kept in touch by way of dog girl verse (doggerel verse) by email:
Lady from sea, yond
who write word, of which
many are fond
we here are frozen to the bone
and will perish
if thaw does not come soon
been writing away
an' doin' the same old
whishing to send away
the god'am cold
Hows the book?
We first met in Ottawa, when we sat together on a peer jury for the Canada Council, hosted by Paul Seesequasis. We went for tea together, and browsing a bookstore—he showed me the book he illustrated for Armand Ruffo (Opening in the Sky, Theytus), and suggested we might do the same—and with Maeengan Linklater, we went for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, down past the Parliament buildings, laughing all the way.
Eventually we did get our book Halfling spring created and completed, and did a reading together: many thanks to Kegedonce for supporting us, and uOttawa for hosting the reading.
I love Leo’s books, those that he wrote and illustrated, that I shared with my children, the one he was working on when we last visited (a novel), and those that he illustrated over the years, illuminating poetry and prose on behalf of other authors.
As a visual artist and as an author Leo received many awards; he was and remained a humble person, an active artist, and an encouraging spirit for later generations of artists who benefited so profoundly from having crossed paths with him.