Comeau, Maurice

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                                        By Dave Butler

Miramichiers, as we all know, can be most prolific in their penchant for nick-naming, and many of these names can be positively devastating. On the other hand, many can also be most felicitous, if not beautifully appropriate. Such was the name Bliss, long ago tagged onto Maurice Comeau, who died last week in Chatham at the age of 50, following a prolonged and agonizing battle with cancer. As a word, bliss means great joy or happiness; spiritual joy. As a name, it is an old English one meaning joyful one and a joyful person even in the face of adversity. The thousands of us who knew and loved Bliss Comeau - because to know him was to love him - heartily agree he could not have had a more appropriate name if it had been born onto him and into him as a birthmark. No doubt, he had his trying times, but almost always he was so serenely happy, so at peace with himself and the world and people he loved, so blissful, that he was an inspiring tonic to all who knew him. I knew him well for over 35 years, and I could see dearly that it always gave everyone a terrific lift just to exchange hellos with him. Not only did I, or anyone else, never hear him say an unkind word about anyone, but he was always so positive, so genuinely glad to see everyone. In his tragically short life, he had seen an awful lot of the world, including its seamier side in the professional entertainment world in Toronto. All of the sleazey wheeling and dealing. Oh, yes - he knew it well. But he always saw the best in people and gave them his best. Which is why he had so many friends. He had a big funeral this past Saturday at St. Michael's Basilica in Chatham, and I talked with many people there, before and afterward. Everyone said variations of what I've said above. But none put it better than Linda Moar Russell, who said, "Poor Bliss - he had a terrible time at the end, but all of us are better people for having known him. We'll never meet a greater guy than Bliss." Tommy Fitzpatrick, the genial, long-time manager of 254 RCAFA Wing, expressed similar, thoughtful sentiments, and added, "You know, Bliss' death sort of marks the passing of an era around here. He was, like, one of the last of the flower children." Meanwhile, I couldn't help associating Bliss with an earlier, popular music movement. About 35 years ago, Bliss and Bernie Keating and Ray Fraser and I, as teens, worked part-time at Cassidy's Beverages, sorting returnable bottles in the evenings. This was when rock 'n' roll exploded onto the scene led, of course, by Elvis Presley. That early rock was so innocent and so dynamic, so fiercely energetic, you couldn't help catching its fabulous fever. And no one caught it more acutely than Bliss, who immediately began styling his hair like Elvis. Not that he was an all-out Elvis freak - he just wanted to get totally into The Movement. And he did - he had a great natural gift for music, and quickly became an outstanding drummer with percussion seeming to be the only mode capable of expressing his own tremendous energy, his pulsating love for life. He was also, as former Leader editor Sharon Fraser, another very good friend of Bliss' reminded me, a terrific dancer. "He could dance as well as any of those people you used to see or you see now on TV," Sharon told me recently. But what a lot of people don't know, or have forgotten, is that Bliss in his teens was an out• standing, natural athlete, especially as a hockey goaltender and a baseball catcher-hitter. He was as good as any midget-age (15, 16) goalie I've ever seen and that includes the great Rollie Melanson. And catching is the most demanding position for any young (and maybe old, too) ballplayer, yet Bliss was one of the very best. His strong drummer's forearms and quick wrists and hands made him a most dangerous hitter, too. By and by, he would spend most of his working days as a drummer, first with several young dance bands, notably the Spartans, on the Miramichi. Then, for about 10 years (from the late '60s) in Toronto, he knew almost everyone in the music biz. Then he came back to the Miramichi, usually at the Wing with the band Windmill, from the mid-70s until the early '80s. And all the while he was meeting thousands of friends. Young and old, white and black, rich and poor, schooled and unschooled, Christian and other - he knew and loved them all, and they knew and loved Bliss. I was told that, in a merciful but brief and lucid moment in his final agony, the excruciating pain momentarily ceased. At that point - around 5 a.m. - he sat up in his hospital bed and softly but clearly said to the few in his room: "I am going now. Good-bye, and thank you for everything. Please say good-bye to everyone for me. Good-bye." And with that, he peacefully lay down and breathed his last. Three days later, after the final funeral prayers at the grave-site, a friend movingly sang these last and lasting words: "Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry Bliss home." Source: Miramichi Leader – November 18, 1992

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