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Celebrating Molly: the wind in their sails

Friends and family from as far away as Texas gathered at Guelph Lake Saturday to celebrate the life of Molly Kurvink

Harri Palm fought back the tears Saturday as he looked out over the waters of Guelph Lake and reminisced about the many happy times he and his wife Molly Kurvink spent there together sailing.

“This was her place,” he said. “This and our cottage up north were two places she just loved.”

The two of them were ice sailing on the lake Dec 19, 2018, not far from where Palm was standing, when tragedy struck.

“It was just around the corner from here in the Hillside Beach area,” said Palm pointing across the lake. “Just before she crashed she was flying. She was going like 40k. I tried to stop her but I couldn’t catch her.”

Kurvink broke through the ice about 200 metres from shore and got trapped in the frigid waters. Palm nearly died himself trying to rescue her.

“I was yelling and screaming when it happened,” he said. “I tried to save her but I couldn’t.”

Palm was hospitalized, treated and released but he has yet to recover from the loss of his sail mate, band mate, soul mate and wife.

“There are good days and bad days,” he said. “She was one of a kind. She was such a dynamic person. The hole she left is huge.”

Kurvink’s death sent shock waves through the community and many of the people she touched gathered in the rain at The Guelph Community Boating Club Saturday to celebrate her life.

“We have gathered from far and wide,” said fellow boating club member and friend Sue Smith. “There are people here from Charlottetown, Regina, Rochester New York, Texas, Michigan, Boston, Toronto, K-W, Elora, Guelph and more and we are here to be altogether in this very beautiful place engaging in the things Molly loved so well, sailing and music. May Molly’s fierce and passionate spirit live on in our stories and in our memories.”

Kurvink had an eclectic taste in music and played in a variety of bands over the years including a stint with Tamarack along with Alex Sinclair, Jeff Bird and James Gordon.

“I was asked to give a eulogy today and as I look out at you and up at the sky I can hear Molly saying, ‘James, shut up and play so, that is what I am going to do,” said Gordon. “I wrote this song for Molly.”

Molly’s Song reflects on Kurvink’s love of sailing and music as well as the playfully irreverent and edgy punk-rock sensibility she was famous for.

“I guess you would have teased me about this song. You’d say it was too sentimental and I got the groove all wrong. It could’ve been a little more Motown and a little more soul – a little more rock and a little more roll.”

Kurvink’s daughter Adeline echoed her mother’s sentiment.

“She definitely would have told us to stop with the sappy stuff and get on with it and play some music,” said Adeline. “But I think she would have been really happy to see how much she has impacted everyone because they impacted her just as much.”

Kurvink loved to share her passion for sailing and her family has established The Yellow Rose Scholarship in her memory. It will be awarded each year to a female under 18 and provide full tuition to attend a Learn To Sail Session at the Guelph Community Boating Club.

The yellow rose has special significance for Palm and Kurvink who met in 1973 when they were in high school.

“Her mother was my art teacher and she would get some of her favourite students to come to her house and we would discuss topics,” said Palm. “Molly walked through the living room and said ’Hi guys,’ and I was like, whose that? Then a few weeks later I see her at the boat club crewing for the guys I was racing against.”

He eventually gathered the courage to ask her out.

“When we went on our first date I got her a yellow rose and it sort of started a tradition,” said Palm. “That was 40 something years ago.”

They shared many adventures over the years sailing and playing music in their band Common Ground. They raised two daughters Adeline and Kirsten and have two grandchildren, one of whom was born since Kurvink’s death.

“The last few years were just magnificent,” said Palm. “The kids were grown up and I was starting to wind down my business. We weren’t gigging like crazy like we used to so we had these lovely moments where would just hang like old people do. It was wonderful and we were supposed to grow old together.”

He has since closed his business refinishing hardwood floors and refocused on his music.

“The music has been great for me,” said Palm. “It has really got me through these last few months. I have started playing music and gigging again.”

An especially poignant moment for Palm during the celebration Saturday was when a group of Kurvink’s sailing students performed a flag ceremony in her honour.

“When the flags went up, what most people don’t realize, there are these two little flags,” he said. “They have an “N” and an “A” flag and in sailing racing it means it’s over. When I saw that it was a tough one. Everything’s done. Everyone go home.”


Troy Bridgeman

About the Author: Troy Bridgeman

Troy Bridgeman is a multi-media journalist that has lived and worked in the Guelph community his whole life. He has covered news and events in the city for more than two decades.
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