My beautiful friend Beverley Southgate is gone and I want to remember her with smiles instead of tears

It was a lovely, nothing-but-blue-sky Saturday afternoon in the mid-1990s, and I had taken refuge from the high heat by ducking into the Toad In The Hole Pub, a small, charming watering hole tucked away in Osborne Village.

I had just moved into the area, which sits a hoot and a holler across the Assiniboine River from downtown Winnipeg, so the shops, the eateries, the bustle and the faces were as fresh as morning dew. I liked it. Very much. It had a small-town quaintness, yet also the vibrancy of something bigger brewing.

Inside the British-themed Toad, there were only a handful of patrons, all speaking in down-low tones while the barman, an impish Scottish fellow named Des whom I grew to love quite deeply, filled ketchup bottles and swabbed at his gnarled bar with a ratty cloth, sweeping away what was left of the previous night’s spillage.

“Service at the bar when you’re ready!” he shouted, as was his custom whenever an unfamiliar face walked in and sat down.

I looked up from my table and could scarcely see the top of his balding head. I approached to discover this gnome of a man had what was left of his silver hair tied back in a ponytail, and I ordered a pint of Kokanee Gold, then retreated to my table.

I sat there for the next hour and a half, lost in thought and reading the Globe and Mail, all the while blind to the gathering mob of locals.

Then two women arrived, one short and blonde, the other tall and elegant and stylish and intriguing. She was the first person I truly noticed that day, because it was impossible not to notice Beverley Southgate when she entered a room with her sexy, Lauren Bacall vibe.

Bogie would have loved Beverley. I certainly did. Totally.

Beverley and her companion Linda took root at the table nearest mine, and engaged in a deep conversation that I tried not to hear but couldn’t help but hear. It seemed Linda was experiencing a spot of difficulty in her life, so she talked while Beverley listened, as a good friend would. In time, woe gave way to levity and, quite unexpectedly, Beverley invited me to join them.

“Why would you want me sitting with you girls?” I asked.

“Because you look interesting, and I like interesting people,” Beverley replied with a warm, melt-butter smile.

Given my shyness, taking up an offer to sit with strangers was not among my habits, but I picked up my chair and positioned it at their table. Two hours later, I was still perched there and, by the time Beverley left, I had decided this South African woman was someone I would rather have in my life than not.

Apparently, it was a mutual feeling because, in the ensuing few years before my departure and relocation in Victoria, we shared many giggles.

Sometimes we would hop in my convertible and toot around Osborne Village, hoorawing and waving at “the peasants” on the sidewalks. We would spend a night or afternoon at Assiniboia Downs and bet on the ponies. We would dine together in the Village. We would spend time at my place, listening to vinyl albums while she sang along with Ella or Miss Peggy Lee or Shirley Bassey—quite loudly and with a to-hell-with-the-neighbors attitude—at 3 o’clock in the morning. Nobody filed a complaint, likely because her singing voice leaned heavily toward the favorable side or the musical ledger. Once she tagged along with me to Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp in Portage la Prairie, where her mom lived. Judging by the popping of eyeballs, the football players were quite taken by her looks.

But to suggest Beverley’s substance was limited to physical appearance would be to say a raindrop or a wave is wet. There was so much more to her than that. Beverley’s beauty ran as deep as a coal pit. She was the rainbow after the storm. She had the earth-tones of a commoner yet, at the same time, her’s was a regal-like bearing. Classy. Yes, that’s a word I would use to describe her. And fun. So much fun. And real. So very real.

It has been less than 24 hours since I learned that my dear, beautiful friend Beverley is no longer with us in the physical realm, and I have yet to fully take grip of the notion that I shall never see or talk to her again.

We communicated regularly, sometimes by phone (we would talk at great length) but mostly via email, and we last connected on July 3. We discussed the absence of live music during the COVID-19 lockdown—“No live music yet, boo hoo,”—because one of her pleasures was spending time at the Times Change(d) High & Lonesome Club on Main Street. She loved the blues and jazz. She mentioned she’d been listening to Bobby Hatfield and his “beautiful voice.”

She confirmed that, at age 71, she was now retired, and she surely had earned her warm corner of the room. She also mentioned that her immune system had been “compromised.” That gave me pause for ponder but, since she didn’t elaborate, I let it go.

“Need to give you a call soon,” she said.

Six days later, she was dead.

Beverley was a blessing in my life, so this hurts. It hurts like hell. And I have spent the last number of hours reminding myself of something I had written in the latest volume of my Songs of Life series of books: “Try to remember that when a dear one passes on, it shall not be long before each memory of her brings a smile to your face instead of a tear to your eye.”

I’m still at the teary-eyed stage, but I know I shall arrive at the smiling stage. That’s one of the things Beverley Southgate did for me. She made me smile. Me and many others.

I shall miss her as deeply as I love her.

4 thoughts on “My beautiful friend Beverley Southgate is gone and I want to remember her with smiles instead of tears”

  1. Miss Beverley would have loved your tribute, I can hear her
    Little giggle. I don’t know what happened, I only found out today. I last talked to her on the 6 or 7th, she was just out
    Of the hospital, and I was on meds for a long infection, we agreed to talk in a few days. It never happened, why I don’t know, I’m just gutted.
    Love heather


    1. Hi Heather…
      So nice to hear from you. I was wondering how I might get in touch.
      I, too, am gutted. I didn’t know Beverley had been in the hospital. In our last connection, she mentioned that her immune system had been compromised, but she seemed fine and was looking ahead to being a lady of leisure.
      I received word of her sudden death from Robert Temmerman, and it was a complete shock.
      Like yourself, her and I agreed to speak on the phone. our final communique wasn’t lengthy. More like two dear friends just checking in to make sure we were both okay. But our phone conversations always dragged on until we were giggled out.
      I’ve missed her dearly since I was last in Winnipeg for an award and for Des’ funeral. She was one of just three people from there who maintained constant contact. We always talked about getting together in Kelowna when her mom was still alive, but I could never afford it. We even talked briefly about sharing an apartment back in Winnipeg, but it wasn’t doable.
      Knowing we’ll never talk or correspond again has been very difficult.
      Anyway, thanks for reaching out. As I said, I wondered how to get in touch with you. Hope all is as well as can be for you. Beverley always spoke so fondly of you, as do I.
      Take care.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: