Skip to: Site menu | Main content

Beach Triangle Residents Association

Neighbourhood News and Information

The Beach Triangle Residents Association, Toronto, Ontario

Advertise in the BTRA Newsletter

Christopher Blythe: June 26, 1954-October 1, 2013

By John Ellis

 Share on Facebook

Chris Blythe, one of the staunchest leaders and defenders of Beach neighbourhood values, died tragically, much too young at age 59, at Princess Margaret Hospital on Monday, October 1st. He leaves his wife, Pat, and sons Thom and Aarron.

Chris was a fighter and according to Pat, he fought his affliction to his last breath.

years specializing in real-time location photography of people, places and events. He started his photography career in the music industry shooting acts such as Santana, The Cars, The Guess Who, The Police, Elton John, to name just a few. He later became the official photographer for the PC Party in the Bill Davis era both provincially and federally.

Chris was also an award-winning writer and publisher, probably best known in his neighbourhood, the Beach Triangle, for his work with the Beach Triangle Residents Association (BTRA). While his colleagues on the BTRA Board knew of his four-year battle with cancer, he was so persistently active that it wasn't until the last meeting he attended on September 4th, wearing an oxygen tank, that any but those closest to him knew how grave his illness really was. When asked "How long do you have to wear that?" he responded "For the rest of my life - and this is going to get worse".

Chris Blythe

Chris was first elected to the BTRA Board in 1998, served as Chair until 2001, and continued on the board until 2004, when he took a brief hiatus. He returned to the board in 2009 and served until his death. Always restless and eager to serve, he was also a BTRA newsletter editor, publisher and distributor. While serving as Committee Chair of the BTRA Policing, Environmental, Harbourfront, and Gardiner/Lakeshore committees, his primary focus was maintaining and improving the quality of life in the Beach through better policing, and addressing environmental and recreational initiatives.

With energy to spare, Chris was also front-and-centre in representing the Triangle neighbourhood in a host of other issues that affected local residents. These included the development of Woodbine Park following demolition of the race track, ending incineration at the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant (and ongoing liaison), the Police Picnic at Woodbine Park, liaison with the Beach Business Improvement Association, more bike lanes, combating unrestrained development on Queen Street East, opposing expanded liquor licences, initial opposition to the Greenwood Off-Track Betting facility and, when that didn't succeed, tough controls on its operation.

In his efforts for a better environment, he was often teamed with a BTRA founder, David Windrim, who said "the Beach is a better place because of the work of Chris Blythe. We shared a vision and worked toward it for many years." Another long-time BTRA member, Edythe Gerrard reminisced; "I'll miss sitting on 'his' bench in front of the Mennonite church and hearing him speak to everyone who passed. We spoke of lots of things from books to good coffee, good beer, and cooking from scratch. Latterly we spoke of not thinking or worrying too far ahead."

Chris was born in Ottawa, Ontario, the youngest of four boys, and spent the fist 10 years of his life in New Hamburg, a small town outside of Kitchener. Surrounded by farms, his life in New Hamburg gave him his love of the country and the outdoors. Hiking in the woods and camping with Thom were two of his favourite pastimes. He moved to Toronto with his family in early 1974 into an apartment above what was then the Bank of Commerce at the junction of Queen Street and Kingston Road. The building now houses Murphy's Law Irish Pub.

He moved out on his own in late 1974 and moved back into the same apartment with Pat in 1981 after his mother passed away. Chris and Pat lived there until 1995, raising their son Thom, gardening and barbequing on the roof (you'll have to ask Pat!), and enjoying a perfect view of the fireworks at Ashbridges Bay. They moved into their current residence on Kingston Road in The Triangle in the summer of 1995.

Not many know that Penny Lane, the little laneway that comes out beside Murphy's Law and is within eyesight of Chris and Pat's current home, wasn't named after the Beatles hit song; it was named after Chris's mother, Penny, as recommended by the BTRA.

Chris loved being a dad and was the stay-athome parent. He was heavily involved in Thom's daycare and school, Kew Beach PS. This was his introduction into community work leading to his engagement in local politics. He also taught the after-school cooking class for several years.

Chris Blythe formed opinions based on research and, once decided, held his convictions with vigour and resolution. He often persuaded the residents association not to take positions on issues without knowing whether it had substantial support from the residents. However, he respected and defended democratic process - always accepting majority decisions whether he personally agreed with them or not.

Pat reveals something personal about Chris that his BTRA colleagues rarely saw - a love of "ridiculous jokes". Chris had a unique way of looking at the world with a different perspective on just about everything - a great person to bounce around ideas with. He was always coming up with phrases, putting words together or breaking them apart to mean something completely different (philosopher/Phyllis Officer; chances are/Chanz Sazar). He produced some real groaners that always got a reaction and a smile. His son Thom, much to Pat's chagrin, follows in his father's footsteps.

Chris was always open to a new experience. He loved to read anything that was well-written, was fascinated by religion (but wasn't religious), intrigued by history, enjoyed building things (his last project was a new bookcase in the kitchen to house Pat's collection of cookbooks), loved his and Pats' travels to England (as both their families were from the U.K.), was an exceptional cook (famous for his charcoal barbequed turkey and focaccia) and an excellent handy man.

Chris always used to say, "I'm still at the inquisitive stage". For those who knew him well, it is a perfect epitaph.

Chris was cremated on Friday, October 4, 2013, at a private ceremony, and a memorial was held at the Giffen Mack Funeral Home at Danforth Avenue and Main Street, Toronto, on October 12, 2013. The family has requested that, in memory of Chris, donations be made to the Palliative Care Centre at Princess Margaret Hospital or Gilda's Club of Greater Toronto.

A life jam-packed with accomplishment, love, and respect has ended far too soon.