Saying goodbye to a good friend

By Jacob Hoytema – 

“If I haven’t met her, she doesn’t exist.”

This is a joke that Pierre Boivin would throw at his friends when they spoke to him of some relative or loved one without making a real-life introduction. And with the way Pierre’s friends speak of him, that saying is almost believable. From his seat at Bridgehead, Pierre’s sharp skill for conversation drew in countless people to enjoy a friendly conversation.

Pierre passed away on September 13 at the age of 71. If you’ve been a regular or one-time visitor to the Golden Avenue Bridgehead, it’s likely you’ve seen Pierre or spoke with him. For the last 10 years he’s been there every morning with an evolving ragtag group, individuals whose only mutual connection was the fact they enjoyed chatting with him. So important were these gatherings to Pierre that his memorial service was held at a local Bridgehead the week following his passing.

“He was the glue of the group and brought everyone together,” writes Erin MacKinnon, a longtime attendee of the morning coffee klatch. “When I left Bridgehead, I immediately would look forward to seeing Pierre and the gang again the next morning. It was an uplifting experience.”

The members of the group attest that Pierre remembered everyone and had time to talk to anyone, pouring his intellect, personality, and “unique Pierre-spective” on complete strangers with a witty remark or question.

“Pierre’s the one who initiated friendship with all these different people,” remembers Rob Graham, another member of the group. “He was like the leader or the guru who would bring everyone in.”

“He loved throwing a challenge out to people and seeing how they would respond… he would draw people out who otherwise wouldn’t interact,” says Pierre’s wife, Susan Glass.

Pierre and the gang debated the news, chatted about art and poetry, shared updates about personal events, and occasionally jokes that are probably too risqué for a family newspaper. “He was an everything-phile,” jokes Larry in typical Pierre-esque wordplay.

The group also supported each other during personal tribulations. Rob describes how it became a cancer survival group of sorts, as they listened and supported each other through their individual diagnoses — a role they would eventually play for Pierre himself.

Photo of Pierre Boivin courtesy of his daughter, Sarah Boivin.
Photo of Pierre Boivin courtesy of his daughter, Sarah Boivin.

Susan attests he enjoyed a quieter, more introverted attitude away from the coffee shop. Susan and Pierre’s daughter Sarah, say they only got to know Pierre’s morning social group during his last days, when, as he was bound to hospital or home, the gang would “bring Bridgehead to him.”

Seeing the role that the group played in Pierre’s life is what prompted Pierre’s family and friends to find a way to remember him which eventually led to his memorial service being held in the Bridgehead Roastery just off Preston Street.

Pierre’s family hopes to establish a fund to honour Pierre’s legacy, and will share the details once the plan crystallizes.


One thought

  1. Soon after that Bridgehead location opened (around 2013), I fell into the routine of making my way there with my 6 month old son Liam, and our dog Griffin, often waiting for those doors to open at 6:30am (Liam continues to be an early riser), so I could enjoy a strong coffee while Liam ate machine ground oats, and later, a triple berry muffin. In those early hours and early days, chatting with Pierre was a regular part of the routine. Sundays were tough as I had to wrestle the Sunday New York Times from him at 6:32am. I joked that “Pierre helped raise my kid”. He later got to know Liam’s twin brothers. Seeing him in the morning really made me feel like I was living in a neighbourhood, in the warm and fuzzy sense of the term. I want to be like Pierre one day. That man was extremely kind and jovial, always joking, and full of life. He had too much spirit and vigour to be taken away at 71. You’ll be missed Pierre.

Leave a comment