Tennant’s eagle-eyed legacy

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 5, 2021

This issue of the Cochrane Eagle, host newspaper for these columns, marks the 20th anniversary of its founding. In honour of its founder, the late Jack Tennant, I’d like to revisit my May 24, 2018, column that I published upon his death.

IT HANGS PROMINENTLY in my home office, Jack Tennant’s constant photographic reminder of the value of legacy. Yes, that old car carcass had experienced many miles of wonders and wounds along life’s way, but like Jack himself, it speaks now of hope and beauty for the future, if we but pause and reflect.

This past weekend the founder of the Cochrane Eagle newspaper himself became a wisdom-affirming memory for all who knew him. Sadly, his aging mortal body wore out, but his legacy in words, images and example has assumed a new vitality that reaches into timelessness.

Mary Anna and I first encountered Jack’s black-and-white photo-painting, colourized by Janet Armstrong, at her Just Imajan Gallery & Studio. Its hope-filled mystery, hidden in the once-vital car body, immediately took hold of our imaginations, and we knew it had to be part of our office prayer altar. Beneath it we mounted a line from Psalm 90: “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Now, every time I enter the office, that artwork serves as a potent reminder that we mortals, too, have only so many days in which to serve our earthly purpose. As Jack’s and my treasured Stoney Nakoda proverb also says, Nîbi ne dohâ ptenâ wanch – “This life is very short.”

That car has become a key to unlocking Jack’s legacy, especially in the following three areas:

Seeing the beauty in the easily overlooked or scorned;

Humbly drawing on one’s own life struggles to reach out to others with similar struggles – for example, his role with AA and his creation of the SUNshine Fund to assist the Salvation Army in their Christmas outreach to the down-and-out;

And the importance of gratitude. About this last lesson, the man of perpetual gratitude that he was, I can just imagine Jack arriving at the Pearly Gates and, with a twinkle in his eyes, greeting his eternal hosts with his trademark expression: “What a ride!”

Yes, Jack, what a ride. Thanks for bringing us along by word, image and example.

AND SPECIAL THANKS this week, Jack, for founding this eagle-eyed perspective on Cochrane-area news and views. What a legacy!


© 2021 Warren Harbeck

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