Keith Spicer: Templeton Street is our Champs-Elysées

Sally Southey

Photo Sally Southey

Throughout his life Keith Spicer has been “privileged to have had a chance to make a difference,” in his many different professional incarnations. Those he remembered most fondly during a recent meeting were being Commissioner of Official Languages and a “newspaper guy,” first at the Globe and Mail and then The Ottawa Citizen.

Keith has lived in Sandy Hill off and on over the last 55 years and now calls the Balmoral, on Range Road, home. As a young professor of Political Science at the University of Ottawa, Keith moved into his first Sandy Hill abode on Stewart Street, where his eldest son Dag was born. Subsequently he moved into a heritage building on Daly Avenue, and then bought on Besserer Street before moving to Paris.

Three years ago, he moved back to Ottawa, to be closer to his daughter Genevieve and her family. He has many fond memories of his three children playing in Strathcona Park and of all the good friends he has made in the neighbourhood.

In Paris he lived in the heart of the city surrounded by shops and restaurants, and regrets there are not more such places he could walk to in Sandy Hill. He also wishes “someone would repair the sidewalks, so I don’t risk breaking my neck.” While the Balmoral advertises being adjacent to Strathcona Park, the owners did not build a sidewalk right to the park entrance, forcing residents to cross the street.* “Developers should make more community improvements,” he said.

Despite severe glaucoma, Keith writes constantly. He closely follows world, European and North American events and is on the 15-member editorial board of Ilissos, a monthly French newsletter named after a river in Athens. In his last article for Ilissos, after the recent Canadian federal election, he predicted Chrystia Freeland would be Canada’s next Prime Minister; but he is not sure when that will happen.

When asked about Justin Trudeau, Keith said, “He is doing his best in a tough job.” Pierre Trudeau named Keith as Canada’s first Commissioner of Official Languages in 1970. “Although I was not close to Pierre, we would always spend the first 20 minutes of our conversations talking about our children. We were both single fathers,” Keith reminisced.

He gestured towards his view east down Templeton Street and exclaimed, “this is now my Champs-Elysées.”

While he is physically in Sandy Hill, his heart is always in Paris. Or perhaps in Reims, the French city in which his 11 novels are based. When Keith decided to write fiction, he conceived the character of Denise Caron, a young, intelligent, beautiful police investigator who holds an MA in Medieval Literature and is an opera singer on the side. Keith’s adventures with Ms Caron will continue to delight both French and English readers in the years to come. Will she ever move to Sandy Hill?


*Editor’s note: We can’t blame this one on the developer. The only sidewalk on the east side of Range Road is beside the Balmoral and Sandringham apartments. This sidewalk ends where the park begins