Sadly, we lost a Canadian icon last week, with the death of Ken Welsh. Ken was one of our country’s most beloved actors, as well as a friend. I met Ken about 15 years ago, and we have stayed in touch ever since. His passing was a shock to everyone, as it was sudden and certainly not expected.
Ken Welsh has appeared in more than 240 films, many with other notable actors. He had won a Genie and a handful of Gemini awards, during his forty years of experience. He graced stages from Stratford to Broadway, and starred in Canadian films, television, and Hollywood blockbusters.
A number of years ago, I had visited Ken, and the day after he had an accident with a farm implement. Unfortunately, he ended up in Sunnybrook hospital, for a lengthy stint. I called him to see how he was, and he told me to come down and visit. I did, and as we were chatting, Christopher Plummer walked in. Immediately there was affectionate, sarcastic banter going on, and I could sense camaraderie between them.
Not long ago, during lunch with Ken in town, I recalled the story. A sad look came over his face. “I miss Chris,” Ken said, as he stared across Queen Street. “The world has lost one of its finest.”
Ken Welsh won his third Gemini for his performance as Colin Thatcher in Love and Hate, the first Canadian film to top the Nielsen ratings. His numerous film credits include, The Day After Tomorrow, The Aviator and Legends of the Fall, and he played opposite Kathy Bates in the 1987 film, Frankie and Johnny. In 2004, Ken added another award to his vast collection; he was made a member of the prestigious Order of Canada.
Many people slowed down during the pandemic, but Ken had completed eight projects, and was filming his ninth. Along with two episodes of Charmed, and a stint on the new Start Trek series, he also played Mr. Miller, in ‘The Middle Man’. “It was a humbling experience, because I played opposite Don McKellar, a truly fine actor,” Ken told me recently.
When people turn eighty they tend to take it easy, but that was not the case with Ken Welsh. He loved what he did, and did it well. His passing brought hundreds of notes from all walks of Canadian talent, as well as global superstars, such as Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close.
Ken recently married Lynne McIlvride, the love of his life; albeit a short union. The couple had been close for many years. We will miss you Ken.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.