There is no doubt that the cultural world of St. John's took another big hit when we lost Ron Hynes to cancer. Weeks prior the word was out that the cancer had spread from his lungs into the rest of his body. His death seemed inevitable, the countdown had begun.
November 19, 2015 Hynes passed away and as if in some bizarre coincidence the power also went out in downtown St. John's. I was at the university gym when a little girl excitedly told me that it was the ghost of Ron Hynes that put the power out and that was the exact moment he died. "Now", I thought, "This is folklore in the making".
Days later there was an impromptu community gathering in Bannerman Park. Folks assembled to sing a couple of Hynes tunes and chat amongst themselves. If the Park had walls I could have said there was wall-to-wall respect in that space. There was no surprise at that love-in.
The big surprise came with Ron Hynes's nephew - Joel Thomas Hynes. He posted on Facebook a very raw and angry outburst about his uncle's drug addiction that was quickly picked up by the media. Reaction to his message was, I think, very interesting.
Some in the community lauded the statement, saying it would help de-stigmatize drug addiction and help others to recover. What I believe Joel was trying to do by going public about something that most families would have brushed under the carpet is point to the growing problem of addiction in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Joel compared the province to Ireland, which has identified binge drinking as a problem. He pointed to the inadequate resources for addicts in the province and the crumbling penitentiary. Joel made a plea for leadership; ironically some in the cultural community suggested he should run for office. At any rate, Joel Thomas Hynes' statement was heartfelt and certainly struck a chord amongst many in the city. Let's hope it makes a difference.