This is a tough obituary post for me to write since it affects the rest of the Toronto film community and me quite personally. Suppose you have ever attended the Toronto International Film Festival or one of the dozens of other film and cultural events around Toronto. In that case, chances are that you have seen Harvey Lalonde. Harvey was one of Toronto’s most dedicated film festival volunteers for nearly three decades. That is how I met him; as a 24-year-old, I first encountered Harvey while waiting in line to get into the TIFF volunteer party at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, which was the first year I volunteered for the festival. Despite him being a full two decades my senior, we would become friends over the next 17 years, and he even showed up at my 40th birthday karaoke celebration last April, which I just found out was also around the time he turned 60.
Harvey’s status as a volunteer was not limited to Toronto, as he would later expand his services to the Sundance and Fantasia Film Festivals. He had just finished volunteering for this year’s Sundance when Harvey had an enormous stroke last week that placed him in the ICU. Despite the thoughts and prayers of the Toronto film community, many of whom, including me, would visit him in the hospital, his family decided to take Harvey off of life support and fulfill his wishes of being an organ donor.
Harvey was an incredibly beloved figure by the entire Toronto film community. Just a couple of years ago, everyone banded together to help save Harvey from homelessness. In 2009, work began on a documentary entitled You Know Harvey, directed by Linda Matarasso, to focus on Harvey Lalonde’s volunteering efforts and perhaps help find him full-time employment. For whatever reason, the documentary never saw the light of day, but at the time, Harvey did a lot of promotional work for the film, including a profile in the Globe and Mail. As such, it would probably be most fitting to end this obituary in Harvey Lalonde’s own words as I share this 2009 video of Harvey giving an interview for CIUT radio.
R.I.P. Harvey, you will most certainly be missed.