In Memoriam - 2017


Joy Coghill | 1926-2017

by Gordon Thorne


~ Acclaimed Actor, Director, and Playwright, Social Innovator, Educator, and much loved Mother and Friend ~

Joy Coghill-Thorne, a woman honoured many times by the performing arts communities she nurtured, passed away Jan. 20th 2017, at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. 

Joy was an elected member of Equity Council in the 1990's and, in 1995, was awarded Equity's Life Membership, awarded to a member of Canadian Actors' Equity Association who has made an outstanding contribution to the performing arts within Equity's jurisdiction. Her extensive career and trail-blazing energy also led to lifetime achievement honours by the UBCP/ACTRA in November 2016, and by the City of Vancouver in November 2015. 

In 1991, she was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada and was a recipient of the Governor General’s Award for the Performing Arts in 2002.  Joy received honourary doctorates from the University of British Columbia (1995) and Simon Fraser University (1994) and in the early 1970s she was head of the English section of the National Theatre School of Canada.

The first woman to hold the position of artistic director at the Vancouver Playhouse from 1967-1969, Joy founded Canada’s first professional children’s theater, Holiday Theatre in 1953.  Over 40 years later, in 1994, she founded Western Gold, a company highlighting the talent of senior Canadian actors.  One of her best-known works as a playwright is Song of This Place about artist Emily Carr, while viewers of CBC’s dramatic series DaVinci’s Inquest will remember her as Davinci’s mother, Portia.

Beyond her work on stage and in film and television, Joy dedicated herself to working on behalf of members of the performing arts community, many of whom have modest incomes and few benefits.  In 2001, she co-founded the Performing Arts Lodge Vancouver with Jane Heyman, which provides affordable housing and a vibrant network of support for veterans of the city’s performing arts communities.

Joy believed in the arts – and made good use of the special power they hold.  In her own words:

“Because we are privileged to be artists, we do not measure time in the accepted way.  We know that one can live a lifetime in the last five minutes before we ‘go on’ and that on the occasion when the play is ‘blessed’, there is no time at all; the play is over even as it began.”

Joy is predeceased by her husband of fifty-five years, John G. Thorne.  She is survived by her three children, Debra (Theo Boere), Gordon (Michelle Lalonde) and David.  And by her grandchildren Casey and Lucy. Her memorial service was held on a Monday at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver and she sold out the house.


Dwight Griffin | 1945-2017

by Pam Chappell


Dwight died peacefully on August 22, but his spirit will live on in his family, friends, those he worked with, and those he taught. What a truly wonderful, witty, intelligent and caring man. His slightly warped humour and his interest in everyone and everything will be missed by pretty much everyone with whom he came in contact.

Dwight started in theatre in 1968 as a stage manager. He later moved into production management, then company management working at the Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Stratford Festival, fitting in summer stock, a season in Banff and the Toronto productions of Phantom, Lion King and The Producers. He spent 10 years teaching at Dalhousie University mentoring and training the next generation of stage managers and technicians. Although semi-retired to look after his health, he still did the occasional new play workshop and worked with me at Sugar's Mascots.

Dwight was a fantastic dad, grandpa and husband. He had so much more life to share, travels to take and books to read. The world has been a better and kinder place with him in it.


George Willson Merner | 1939-2017

by Alexandra Merner


Born in Kitchener, Ontario, George was going to study law after he graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University, but fate intervened with an audition arranged by his music teacher, Edwin Fergusson, with George Lambert of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

His award-winning performance as Best Actor for Cyrano prompted his study with Gladys Shibley Mitchell. In 1970, George received his A.T.C.L. in speech and drama from Trinity College, University of London, in England.

George then embarked on an illustrious 44-year career as an actor, singer and "Entertainer Extraordinaire." As a multifaceted international artist, he displayed his versatility in over 150 stage performances, featured films, television sitcoms, radio and television dramas, voice for animations, film dubbing, and on-camera and voice-overs for commercials. Known for his mellifluous bass dramatic vocals, he entertained audiences across Canada and the United States. He also appeared before royalty and heads of state, including Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. His portrayal of Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha prompted a critic to say, "If there ever was a category of voice called dramatic baritone, this man embodies it!"