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J.G. Ballard is often quoted as saying science fiction died around the time editor, writer, and anthologist Judith Merril left New York for Toronto. “I remember my last sight of her,” he recalled in 1992, “surrounded by her friends and all the books she loved, shouting me down whenever I tried to argue with her, the strongest woman in a genre for the most part created by timid and weak men.https://chicagoreader.com/arts-culture/in-print-the-little-mother-of-science-fiction-was-my-grandma/
Judith Merril was my friend, mentor and a mother in the sense that she caused a new me to be born from her arrival in Toronto to her passing.
Sitting shiva with her family I learned her father had killed himself and her brother had died young causing Jusy’s mother to say almost daily, “Why did I have to lose the two I loved most?”
With a mother like that we either kill our self or become a helluva strong human being.
The unsung hero of THE SPACED OUT LIBRARY (now the MERRIL COLLECTION) was Doris Mehegan.
Doris kept the collection in Toronto when the Toronto Public Library wanted to sell the collection  off to Japan.
My then partner John Dunham worked with Doris.
I know more about the early days of THE SPACED OUT LIBRARY then anyone ele in this city.
She, like Judy and Jane Jacobs, was a tough New York woman.
All three taught by personal example the importance of standing up.
Your writer, Ed Keenan, coming through my door said, “Reg, you are the only person in Toronto who stands up.”
I replied, “I’m not but there are never enough.”
Judy planted the seed of THE  SPACED OUT LIBRARY. Doris was the gardener.
Without her THE MERRIL COLLECTION would be in Tokyo.
Doris taught THE CHARLES WIDEMAN dance technique at the Palmerston L:library. One of her students was Robert Jacobs (husband of Jane).
Doris is long overdue for credit for the important part she played in the lives of many in this city.
She was a very tough woman.
We don’t have enough like her.
I became her friend the day Charles Wideman died. I was then living with Simon Wagemaekers, found of THE TEXTILE MUSEUM OF CANADA ( https://textilemuseum.ca/about-the-museum/   )
The phone rang. Simon was away. I answered it. It was Doris, “She said, “Charles is dead.”
I said, “Where do you want to meet?”
She said, “THE MUG.”
It was a night of epic mourning and the dawn of a wonderful friendship.
I learned much from Doris.
For several years I held Thursday night dinners. Doris was a welcome guest at all of them.
She is one of Toronto’s unsung heroes.
Doris was an atheist.
She taught that when we see the need to help and don’t stand up we kill a part of our soul.
I’m with Doris.
Right now I’m standing up for her. She enriched this city.
She was a small woman who as a girl in the Catskills was raped by the fat half of a famous comedy team.
Not Laurel and Hardy.
After something like that we either kill our self or become a helluva strong human being.
For two decades I have watched many stand by in silence while some in this city (seemingly with the support of Metro Licensing  and Standards) continue to be try to destroy me.
Seeing the latest barrage a friend, “Haven’t they realized by now they can’t drag you down.”
Against something like that we either kill our self or become incredibly strong.
I had in Jane Jacobs, Judith Merril and Doris Mehegan incredible teachers.
Let the destroyers do their worst.
I’ll be  standing when the dust settles.
Jane Jacobs and Doris Mehegan were my mothers as well.
They caused a new me to be born.
My high school principal one day told me, “You have the wrong attitude. If you leave this school now you will starve to death in two weeks. Where do you think you are going? I have not given you permission to leave.”
I replied, “To see if you are right. For that I do not need your permission.”
Had I not left that instant I would not have met Jane Jacobs, Judith Merril and Doris Mehegan.
Truly, had I not left I would have starved.
The best teachers are not found in classrooms.
“I had wonderful teachers in the first and second grades who taught me everything I know. After that, I’m afraid, the teachers were nice, but they were dopes…I have a lack of ideology, and not because I have an animus against any particular ideology; it’s just that they don’t make sense to me…they get in the way of thinking. I don’t see what use they are…University and uniformity, as ideals, have subtly influenced how people thought about education, politics, economics, government, everything…We are misled by universities and other intellectual institutions to believe that there are separate fields of knowledge. But it’s clear there are no separate fields of knowledge. It is a seamless web.”-Jane Jacobs
I arrived in Toronto in the winter of 1965 from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
I thought I had a friend here.
I arrived to learn I didn’t.
On my second night here a man offered to help me find work.
He said I could stay at his place.
“There is a bed in the basement,” he said.
“Turn around,” he said when I got to the bottom of a very narrow stairwell.
I looked up to see him standing at the top with a hammer in his hand.
He said, “Give me what I want or I will kill you.”
After a night like that we either kill our self or become incredibly strong.
Like my mentors I was forged in fire.
Margaret Meade said, “Never underestimate the power of one person to change the world for the better. All too often that is all that does it.”
She was forged in the fires.
–Reg Hartt
MEHEGAN, Doris
Died suddenly, on February 12, 1999, at Women’s College Hospital, at the age of 78. Doris was a co-founder, Chief Librarian and developer of the Spaced Out Science Fiction Collection of the Toronto Public Library. Following her retirement, she established and maintained the resource library for the AIDS Committee of Toronto for which she was honoured by Mayor Barbara Hall in 1997. Born in Connecticut, she danced with the Charles Weidman Company in New York City. She became an influential dance teacher after moving to Toronto in 1970. Her political engagement over a lifetime included civil rights and peace work in the U.S.; in Toronto, she was instrumental in organizing the library workers’ union of the Toronto Public Library. She leaves her devoted daughter, Gretchen Mehegan of Toronto, son Carey and three grandchildren. She will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered by her many friends, students and colleagues. A memorial celebration will be held in April. Donations may made to the AIDS Committee of Toronto, 399 Church Street, Toronto, M5B 2J6. Published in The Globe and Mail on Feb. 15, 1999.
Jane Jacobs writes in THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES that when all else fails the forces of destruction arrange sex scandals. For me they arranged a doozy:
Those charges were all dropped. I’m not allowed to talk about it.
I did learn about dumptruck lawyers. That6 I can talk about.

“Most teachers say you should go to school to get your degree to have something to fall back on. Aside from being a huge lie, that also creates a very high level of mediocrity, because nobody who really believes that is going to take the leap of faith required to be a serious artist. Stay out of school.”–Ellis Marsalis to his sons Branford, Delfeayo and Wynton.

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