CORNWALL, Ontario – Jamie Carr, in typical comedic fashion, pulls no punches in discussing his friend John Earle, who died unexpectedly on the weekend following a scuba dive.
“The last conversation I had with John, I think I said ‘Where’s my money?'” Carr said with a laugh, pointing to some project or another where the duo had collaborated. “When (providing other media interviews) I said I’m going to say things that John would want me to say.”
But beneath the smiles, old stories, and jokes, Carr indicates the pain of Earle’s passing remains quite real.
Earle’s best friend Frank Burelle agrees.
“He was as flawed as the rest of us. He was human like everybody else,” said Burelle. “(But) he just had the craziest ideas. He wasn’t conventional by any means.”
Earle was a lot of things, but conventional was certainly not one of them.
“Everybody is going to tell you a story about John making them feel good,” said Carr. “I can’t remember exactly what we were talking about…we were just driving to Ingleside or something. John was one of those friends where we could make each other laugh…we were telling a story and we had to pull over.”
The three men and Ron Piquette worked on a variety of projects together, the most high-profile – arguably – being ’10 Days Across Canada’ where they travelled across the country to find out what it is to be Canadian.
“But he said let’s do it in 10 days. I said ‘Are you out of your mind?'” recalls Burelle. “But he was a master of organization. He organized so well.”
And while from a layman’s perspective the film worked on a variety of levels, Carr suggests one of Earle’s greatest gifts was his ability to shrug off an unsuccessful project and try again.
“He wasn’t afraid to fail. I mean look at that pilot…that didn’t work,” said Carr, referring to the TV project ‘Wingman’ that never really got off the ground. “And even the documentary (10 Days Across Canada), when you think about it, it was in like 20 theatres. That was it.
“He took risks and he knew when he failed…but it didn’t stop him.”
Earle’s projects include a laundry list of dreams and aspirations.
He had a production company with Burelle called Fishrizzo Productions, operated an antique store called Earle’s Vintage, sang and performed in a number of bands, helped create a board game, ran for MPP in 2014 carrying the Liberal banner and had a family.
Burelle said the two were buddies for nearly 40 years, finding each other on the playground in kindergarten at La Nativite in Cornwall.
They grew apart slightly in high school when Earle went to St. Joseph’s for a time while Burelle continued his studies at La Citadelle.
The two reconnected when Earle’s band Rapunzil’s Tower held an EP release party at what was once Moviola’s in Cornwall.
Burelle, an artist, found a novel way to sign a guest book at the party.
“It was really nice to see him and I drew this picture of a fish and he was like ‘Wait, you’re artistic,'” said Burelle. “That’s when our bromance rekindled.”
What followed was more concerts where Burelle would act as roadie, helping to connect sound equipment for shows in Lamoureux Park, produce documentary-style movies…and create a lifetime of memories.
“My greatest adventures were with John,” said Burelle, adding life wasn’t always fun and roses. “I was there for the dark stuff. Like when he got sick. That was really tough,” said Burelle, pointing to Earle’s battle with tongue cancer.
Surgery to remove the cancer resulted in his inability to continue performing live music, which effectively led to his pursuit of movie-making.
“Of course he got tongue cancer – because it’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Burelle. “He never smoked, he’d never drink. The recovery was tough and that ended his singing career.”
The same question keeps coming up in discussions with Earle’s friends, and that is what happens now?
“What makes me sad is we didn’t just lose John,” said Burelle. “We’ve all lost out on what he was going to do next. What other insane projects or ideas did he have? We’ve lost that. You don’t know how big his dreams were going to get.”
The circumstances of Earle’s death have still not been determined. He was in the midst of a dive in Lake St. Lawrence west of Cornwall when he suddenly became distressed.
He was pronounced dead in hospital after being recovered from the water.
Police have turned the investigation over to the Ontario Coroner’s Office and a post mortem has been ordered.
Earle leaves behind his wife Alyssa Blais, children Arianna and Ryland, step-daughter Kassy Blais, his mother Joan Levy-Earle and sister Lisa Earle.
FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS: Friends will be received Thursday, July 23, 2015 from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at John Sullivan Funeral Home 341 Pitt street, across from city hall. Funeral will be held on Friday, July 24 at 11 a.m. at St. Francis De Sales Parish, 434 Second St West.