Remembering Kurt

 

Kurt 2011

It came as a shock to us on Sunday evening to learn from the RCMP in Alert Bay that our dear friend Martin (Kurt) Musgrove had died that afternoon in Vancouver.  He had been found bleeding in the basement of his house at around 6am and was rushed to hospital, where he died at 2pm.  There was a trail of blood on the pavement in front of his house, so our first thought was that he had been attacked while outside.  It now seems that the blood was unrelated to Kurt, so it remains a mystery.  The police are asking the public to help identify the blood.  We do not yet know what their conclusions are about Kurt’s injuries and death, but hope to know more soon and will post what we learn here.  For the moment, we just want to share this incredibly sad news, so the many friends Kurt has made at OrcaLab over the past 30 years will know, and be able to remember him with us.

Everywhere we look around OrcaLab, we see Kurt.  He built and rebuilt most of the buildings, walkways and decks, replacing wood as it rotted and adding little touches that made everything  here unique.  As we think about him, we remember small moments and big ones, like the look of pleasure that came over the face of a departing assistant or visitor when he presented them with a gift of a perfect little wooden mushroom; and the way he sat in the house looking out, saying “there’s one” when he was harvesting rocks off the beach to build the great pile the bathhouse tub sits on; it will still be here a thousand years from now, long after everything  else has gone.  Ah Kurt, without you we would not exist, certainly not in the form you have given us.

We will add to this as we learn more, and invite everyone who knew Kurt to post some of their memories here, or send them to us via email to orcalab@island.net.  Photos of Kurt will be very welcome too.

Posted with great sadness,

Paul & Helena

March 11, 2014

Kurt's candle

March 16 2014

Yesterday, we heard from the police in Vancouver that Kurt died from a head injury that happened when he fell. The circumstances aren’t clear, but we felt better knowing that he probably didn’t suffer very much after the injury, as he would have lost consciousness almost immediately.  Our fear had been that he had been attacked by an intruder and suffered for a long time before he was taken to the hospital.  We now know that this wasn’t what happened, and though it doesn’t alter the fact that Kurt has died, it does help us feel a bit better.

Comments
47 Responses to “Remembering Kurt”
  1. Leona says:

    My very deepest sympathy on the passing of Kurt…I didn’t know him personally, but your description of him made him come alive for me. I am sure he will be sadly missed by everyone who knew and loved him!

  2. Julia Baker says:

    Never made it up there but I know you will be missed. Great people sometimes stay in the background doing great things. Thank you for all youve done for the cause

  3. Derek Love says:

    I’m glad that I found this site, and sadly this memorial to Kurt. I’ve had the pleasure to have known and work with Kurt since the fall of 2000, each winter, outside in the Greater Vancouver rain. Kurt will be greatly missed, but also fondly remembered.

    All the best Kurt, and I’ll have a martini or two for you.

    • Annemarie Weibel says:

      Hi Derek,
      I also wrote a few comments in the blog. My comments are the last ones. Were you both working for the same employer? Who was Kurt working for in Vancouver? What is your e-mail? Thanks for your kind words, Annemarie

  4. Kelly KEAGY bullock says:

    Oh I love you Kurt! He was one of the sweetest and kindest men I had ever met. My times on the Islam always involved Kurt… Fish and beer dinner in his cabin across the cove, the trail blazing, fishing trips. Especially the one when got 15 salmon. The dinner that night was infamous. Until that night I hates fish. But after plucking them out of the ocean and cooking tem over an open flame… There is nothing like it. However my foundest memory is when I was leaving early to go home and get married.. Then moving to San Diego to try to help Free Corky.. He handed me MUSHROOMS that he had carved from driftwood. They are on my antler at home. I always have them with me to remind me of my special times at Orcalab! I will miss you Kurt! We wre all affected my your infectious kindness!

  5. Lori says:

    I also left my heart with Kurt. Trying to find a way to let go of my dreams without him….everyday I will find an answer… please give him your heart, light a candle, show him the way home.

  6. orcalab says:

    Thanks Lori, our thoughts and love are with you too. The candle we’re burning is in a jar Kurt canned salmon he’d caught in, and the jar sits in one of Kurt’s lovely bowls.

  7. Becky Brimley says:

    Thank you for letting us know Paul and Helena. We’re heavy hearted tonight. Holding my mushroom and cherishing memories of precious times with Kurt. On his boat, roosting salmon over a salal bonfire or simply savor in silence together. I’m so sorry we’ve lost him.

  8. Gail says:

    Such sad, sad news.
    So sorry for your loss. I know how close you were.
    His demise here on earth will be heaven’s gain.
    Our thoughts are with you.
    Much Love xx

  9. Elodie says:

    Dearest Kurt, you will be missed by many… Fond memories of freshly caught salmon you would cook in the evening, learning how to use a wedge when chopping wood or watching your little sailboat bob peacefully in Blackney Pass. On my first visit to Alert Bay after many years, your familiar face was a welcome sight on the docks… May you rest in peace… Big hugs to all the Orcalab family, you must be heartbroken! I will light a candle tonight next to the little cedar orcas that remind me of Hanson Island…

    • Eric Engelken says:

      I’m so sorry to hear of Kurt’s passing. Paul & Helena you two must, well, I can’t even start to imagine how the two of you must be feeling. I was at Orcalab in the summer of 1999, with the likes of Elodie, Greg, Jorg, Allison, and the two Tomoko’s, I can remember Kurt going out fishing and catching some salmon, and all of us gathering at the main house for dinner and Helena or Kurt I really can’t remember who prepaired it. I wasn’t a big fish lover until I tasted Kurt’s Salmon for the first time!!!!! WOW!!!! it was wonderfull. A couple more things I remember about those dinners at the main house, Kurt would usualy have a ice cold beer w/ his dinner,and the other thing I remember was the little speaker box that Paul would always have tuned in to one of the hydrophones wherever the Orca’s were. To this day and it’s all due to Kurt, we eat salmon at least once every two weeks!! the next time we have salmon for dinner I will think of my friend Kurt. I will also light a candle and put it in my window.

  10. Brenda Boisvert says:

    Iam so sorry to hear of your friend’s passing. May he RIP.

  11. Twyla Roscovich says:

    Kurt

    So sad to hear of your passing. I have so many beautiful memories of you and your twinkly eyes, always working away on some project in the fringe salal around Orcalab. In the evenings at dinner in the house. You were a part of a very formative time in my life and will live forever in my heart. Thanks for the beautiful deep hugs. I hope there are little sailboats and big salmon wherever you are

    love Twyla

  12. Jessica North-O'Connell says:

    I am heartbroken to learn this news about Kurt. He was a very dear, kind-hearted and extremely talented man who touched the lives of many in profound ways.

    I will always have fond memories of our time together in Vancouver and the B.C. interior, of music and art and shared visions, and later of sharing family holiday meals and festivities. Despite it all, our time was much too short.

    He will be greatly missed by his family and extended family. Good journey, dear soul. You will always be where the salmon are, and may your way be accompanied by as many brilliant Mandalas as you shared with us.

  13. Glen Roscovich says:

    Paul….Helena, that’s a lovely tribute . Our memories of Orcalab are all the richer with Kurt in them

  14. Hans Erichsen says:

    Such a good & kind man. I was very saddened to hear what happened to Kurt. I always thought he was timeless. I knew him for many years working through winters here on the Lower Mainland and learned so many important lessons from his patience, kindness and love of life. I am very appreciative of my time knowing Kurt and happy that my son got to know him and work with him too. People like him come in to our lives much to infrequently and always seem to leave their mark on our hearts before they leave too soon.
    His eyes always sparkled and he had a special smile when he spoke of his time with OrcaLab and I know how special you were to him.
    I will miss knowing he is in our world

  15. Megan says:

    My most heartfelt thoughts go out to you both at this sad time, I feel extremely privileged to have met Kurt this summer and I will carry fond fond memories of his wonderful soul and funny stories with me forever. I have attached a photo I found today which makes me happy in knowing that I saw Kurt in his happiest place!

    All my love & thoughts, Megan.xx

  16. Julie says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this very sad news, so sorry Paul and Helena and love to all Kurts friends and family.

    Kurt was such a character, so talented, I have a salad bowl he made which is beautiful and I have memories of him always doing things with a twinkle in his eye. My experience at Orcalab was better for having met him, memories of Kurts Salmon meal and his trips in the bath tub to his sail boat, seeing him take volunteers fishing and the whoop across the bay to attract his attention for dinner are just a few. Kurt may your final voyage be a peaceful one, you will be missed by many.

    Love Julie x

  17. Barbara says:

    Without avoid falling tears, barely finished reading the very sad news, I came that image of Kurt to mind, smiling, quiet with his glass of wine and great salmon at his side, all around the fire prepared for dinner for every member of OrcaLab. I was blessed to know him last summer 2013, and this is how I will remember this great man, his spirit companion, friendly, supportive and ever attentive to what we need.

    That’s funny when we called to shouts from the house of Paul and Helen, saying “dinner is ready“ and when I did not understand when he talked his English, short and closed.

    I send all my love and condolences to his family and friends.
    Kurt: you’ll always be in my mind and heart, and every time I see that beautiful wood mushroom I’ll feel your soul. May God bless you.

    Forever friend !!!
    Love Barbara

  18. Barbara says:

    Without avoid falling tears, barely finished reading the very sad news, I came that image of Kurt to mind, smiling, quiet with his glass of wine and great salmon at his side, all around the fire prepared for dinner for every member of OrcaLab. I was blessed to know him last summer 2013, and this is how I will remember this great man, his spirit companion, friendly, supportive and ever attentive to what we need.

    That’s funny when we called to shouts from the house of Paul and Helen, saying “dinner is ready“ and when I did not understand when he talked his English, short and closed .

    I send all my love and condolences to his family and friends from Argentina.
    Kurt: you’ll always be in my mind and heart, and every time I see that beautiful wood mushroom I’ll feel your soul. May God bless you.

    Forever friend !!!
    Love Barbara

  19. Liz says:

    So very sorry to hear of Kurts passing.

    I have such fond memories of talking driftwood with Kurt and of a mushroom spotting on the walk up to Grandma Cedar….and the bowls and mushrooms that were destined to be gifts for others, that somehow I just haven’t been able to pass on.

    A wonderful talented character and a very sad loss.

  20. Jared says:

    So sorry to hear this sad news that there is one less kind, quiet, gentle soul in our lives. I will remember Kurt fondly and be impressed with his legacy whenever I see and think of his amazing work at the lab.

  21. Shane Rich says:

    Condolences, instigated from unforgotten memories formed during the summer of 2008. May he rest in peace and be forever remembered on Hansen and around the straight. I wish as everyone to return one day. Yours sincerely, Shane, Copenhagen.

  22. Nicolas says:

    Rest in Peace Kurt,I’ve got nothing but good memories of the fun time of the early years 2000,it was great to meet Kurt. Love

  23. Heather says:

    So sorry you have lost such a close friend/family member. I feel privileged to have met him and will hold on to my memories of him. What a CHARACTER!

  24. annessa says:

    I keep running through my childhood memories…the canned salmon, the noodle soup he would make, the puzzles and card games… I remember him remembering me as a little girl holding onto his leg not letting him leave whenever he visited california. I remember his orca stories and when he told me what a cetologist was…later I wrote a paper in middle school about what I was going to be when I grew up: the first person to communicate (in words/calls) with orcas. I was always impressed and inspired by my uncle. But it was not until I got to work on hanson island that I really got to see kurt in his element. That was when I saw how he looked as we were enjoying lunch in the sun exploring the inlets. I caught my first salmon with him. That was when I saw how peaceful he made me feel by just seeing him at his cabin. That was the first time I realized how poetic he was. He really helped shape who I am and who I want to be.

    • orcalab says:

      Thanks Annessa for your wonderful remembrance of Kurt. We are so sad that you have lost him, but so glad that you could share his favourite place in the world with him.

  25. Dave Towers says:

    For the past twenty eight years or so doing our whale tours from the Bay and down on the dock most days as the season approaches there is a migration of people as the summer begins and Kurt was one of them, a friendly peaceful fellow with a twinkle in his eye , I will miss our pre season conversations and stories on the dock, and annual returns to the Lab.

    Dave Towers

  26. Denise says:

    I am very saddened to read these news. Kurt, I will always remember your friendly smile and wonderful, warm hugs – I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to meet you in this life!

  27. Annika says:

    Spent one unforgotten day with him on his boat fishing around Hanson Island with no more than around 10 words spoken but complete harmony. So sad to hear about his death.

  28. Our Dear Kurt,
    we can still see him there, sitting in his chair while we all sat feasting on one of his amazing fish dinners. So quiet, so present, interested in all of our stories from the day at Orcalab. This is a man that has touched the hearts of so many, leaving us with his gifts of wooden wonders. We are blessed to have a few of his bowls as well an orca diving into the water. This has sat in our living room for over a decade and with each glance we have always thought of you Kurt. We know you are now on another journey, so take care our sweetest friend, our love is with you where ever you go.
    Janie and Hermann

  29. Vern Milani says:

    Over the many years, I have had the pleasure to of worked with Kurt off and on during the winter months and have always considered him as part of my working family. Kurt was a peaceful kind man who will truly be missed by all. From all the staff at Milani we give our deepest sympathy on the passing of Kurt he will truly be missed.
    Vern Milani

    • orcalab says:

      Thank you very much, Vern. We knew few details about Kurt’s life when he was in Vancouver, but are glad to know that he was appreciated there, too.

  30. Maureen Towers says:

    Kurt ~ A Beautiful Soul Remembered ~

    Quietly spoken and humble,
    kind and gentle in manner,
    a decent human being
    with a big heart
    and soul that is shining brightly.

    Kurt ~ In Gratitude ~

    Your work here at the lab is done
    You taught all of us and we thank you.
    We are grateful for the heartfelt gifts
    that you gave throughout the years
    and for all of those creative gifts
    that surround us here at the lab.

    For thirty or so summers
    you worked and walked among us
    touching our lives with your simple grace
    and loving ways,
    your beauty shining outwards
    through the twinkling of your eyes.

    Peacefully and quietly
    you went about your day,
    bestowing your magic upon us and around us
    so that small parts of you can be seen everywhere,
    a beautiful reflection of you,
    reminding us always that you have not gone far.

  31. kurt and i always had the best relationship in the whole world
    for over 40 yrs from being his wife to his best friend he always kept in touch making sure to come visit at least once a year and more if he could
    i remember being stuck in arizona with a girlfriend and calling kurt in vancouver to come and get us and within 2 days he had driven down in his vw van and drove us back home–this was in the late 70s and that was how he was
    he was visiting me in powell river a few months ago on his way to hanson and he stayed the night and we got caught up on things
    he called a few weeks ago and left message for me to call him but as things turned out i forgot not knowing id never see him again
    i am very sad

    • orcalab says:

      Sibylle, thanks so much for this, we’ve been trying to find you ever since the unbelievable news about Kurt, but didn’t know how. For the moment, we’re just glad you know. Hope we can talk soon. Meanwhile, we’re sending you our love & hoping you’ll be ok after a while. Still in shock here, tears still flowing.

  32. Gigi says:

    This is such sad news and after Maureen’s beautiful lines I am even more lost for words. Thinking of Hanson Island will always include you, Kurt, as a part of it, and my mind will continue to show me Hanson Island with smoke coming out of your chimney or you rowing out into Blackney Pass with your little boat even though you have moved on. And you are still there – not just in the wonderful little wooden mushrooms or in memories of world’s best salmon dinners, but in our hearts.

  33. Sven says:

    Such sad news. Will always remember you Kurt.
    Most of my memories about OrcaLab include something you made.
    May you find the peace you were searching for.

  34. Bianca says:

    Helena and Paul, I know that Kurt has been (and still is) a big part of your life and your work.
    We all got to know him as such a great and in his own way shining person. All I can think of are his last words, when I said goodbye to him last summer. He said to me “Come back, as soon as possible.” And I promised, I will. Even if I can’t imagine how it will be without him… I know that every little piece on Hanson Island is filled with his spirit. The mushrooms, every piece of wood in the woodshed we chopped… and for sure his spirit will be kept in the grandmother cedar tree.

    The first thing that came to my mind when I heard the news, was the time when we spent some days all alone on Hanson together. Every once in a while we met at the camp kitchen where he was working on the guest house and I made my way to the bath house – all the time he made fun of me, because I always brushed my teeth early at 6pm so that I could avoid walking around in the dark and seeing a bear! 😀 And then we always met at the same time at your kitchen when we needed some drinking water… there we stood at the veranda and laughed about the howling sea lions. Even if he was not the one for much talking he was so funny in his own way. And even if it was a bit scary sometimes with the bad storm in these days and all alone on an Island… I loved watching his light in the wind from inside the lab when it was getting dark – just to know that he’s there always made me feel safe and home.

    I loved listening to his old storys after dinner and… god… did I love his salmon!!!
    I think this time I had the great pleasure to get to know him a bit better than in the first year and I am glad that I got to know him in this beautiful place. And he was the best in cutting the cake into equal pieces for desert! He always seemed to be a very confident and modest and happy person to me. And I already miss him as a part of OrcaLab.

  35. Annemarie Weibel, Albion, California says:

    Having lived with Kurt’s brother Gary for 30 years I had many chances to get together with Kurt.

    The first time I met Kurt, Gary and I were able to sleep in Kurt’s toasty, warm cabin. An oven built into the chimney allowed us to bake bread and hang out surrounded by the smell of fresh bread while it was rainy, windy, and cold outside. We also spent time with Helena, Paul and friends enjoying an amazing meal while we exchanged Happy New Year’s wishes with many other “Islanders”.

    Many years later Annessa (one of Kurt’s nieces) was able to learn about orca’s at the OrcaLab while still in High School. Her experience had a lasting effect on her. Years later she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is currently working on her Master’s Degree in Biology/Ecology.

    Kurt spent three winters in a row in Northern California helping his brother Gary finish the house. He did a beautiful job sanding and varnishing each piece of redwood as if it was meant to weather the salty air at sea.

    Kurt showered us with presents. He brought us canned salmon he caught and preserved, wooden bowls and wooden mushrooms he made, and made us his special potato noodle soup. He bought matching dresses for the children, earrings for me, and many needed things for the arrival of his grand niece.

    Over the years we have gotten many big hugs from Kurt. We will miss the kind, gentle, smart, and hard working man Kurt was.

  36. Sally says:

    Dear Helena and Paul
    I am so very saddened by Kurt’s death – as others have said so eruditely before me, he was so much part of Hanson Island, and a wonderful calm but strong presence… I have his mushrooms in my garden in London, a large beautiful cedar bowl, and others- so pleased to be able to hold something of Hanson Island – the Orcas – the salmon cooking on the beach, sitting on that long log, or in the sitting room… his little row boat at high tide, and the beautiful yacht he fished with. When I came to Hanson with Mike and Judy, Rob and again with my children, many years ago, they became intrigued with Kurt and are saddened too. I feel so sure that he had such a symbiotic relationship with you both, Helena and Paul, and all of Hanson Island, that he will be missed for many many months and years. Let us all hope that those he met learned from him some of his skills, attitudes and gifts, so that his heritage can continue. My mushrooms are now very highly prized indeed.
    I am so saddened for you both, and all others who were so close to him. All best wishes Sally

    • orcalab says:

      Thanks so much, Sally, so glad you have such great memories of Kurt and your times here. We are surrounded by the things he created and left behind, so he will always be in our mind, deeply missed and appreciated.

  37. Stephen Whiteside says:

    Hi there, Paul and Helena.

    Life is so bittersweet…

    Thrilled at the recent news about the ruling of the International Court of Justice on Japanese whaling, I went to your website to see if you were celebrating…only to discover Kurt’s death.

    I am so sorry to hear this.

    Kurt made quite an impression on me with his little wooden mushrooms. I wrote this little piece shortly after the wonderful time we spent with you.

    I wish you all the very best, and share with you your grief at this time of great sorrow.

    Best wishes,
    Stephen Whiteside

    Kurt’s Mushrooms

    Paul and Helena Spong study wild orcas from their base, Orcalab, on remote Hanson Island in British Columbia. Paul first arrived in 1970. Helena joined him in 1979. Using a system of hydrophones, a video camera, photo-identification and log-keeping they track the movements of the pods of resident and transient orcas that traverse the waters of Blackney Pass.

    Kurt has been living with them for four to five months of the year for the past 25 years. Most of the buildings in the little village have been built by Kurt. They are sophisticated and elaborate structures, and have been built to last. Kurt has his own small cottage on the other side of the bay from where the Spongs live. Next to his house, he operates a small mill.

    Many of his buildings are founded on the jagged rocks at the water’s edge. Using cement brought in by boat, and local stones, he fashions concrete bases for the cedar poles which support his wooden constructions.

    No trees are felled for this timber. All the wood comes from the sea, washed up by the tide. Some logs are fallen trees, others have fallen off timber booms. When a likely log arrives, he secures it with rope until he is ready to mill it.

    Kurt also makes wooden bowls. A by-product of this is pieces of dome-shaped wood. I don’t exactly understand the process, but it has something to do with the “face-plate”. A small wooden “stalk” is then attached to the flat, under-surface of the dome, and the other end of the “stalk” is pushed into the ground. A cluster, painted brown, lies on the side of the track near his house.

    Sometimes, cedar logs develop rounded ends from being in the water so long, and constantly buffeting against the rocks. Again, by sawing these off, he has a dome-shaped piece of wood to which a “stalk” can be attached.

    Many small clusters of these adorn the numerous walking tracks near his hut. These are Kurt’s mushrooms.

    © Stephen Whiteside 19.10.05

  38. Eric Engelken says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of Kurt’s passing. Paul & Helena you two must, well, I can’t even start to imagine how the two of you must be feeling. I was at Orcalab in the summer of 1999, with the likes of Elodie, Greg, Jorg, Allison, and the two Tomoko’s, I can remember Kurt going out fishing and catching some salmon, and all of us gathering at the main house for dinner and Helena or Kurt I really can’t remember who prepaired it. I wasn’t a big fish lover until I tasted Kurt’s Salmon for the first time!!!!! WOW!!!! it was wonderfull. A couple more things I remember about those dinners at the main house, Kurt would usualy have a ice cold beer w/ his dinner,and the other thing I remember was the little speaker box that Paul would always have tuned in to one of the hydrophones wherever the Orca’s were. To this day and it’s all due to Kurt, we eat salmon at least once every two weeks!! the next time we have salmon for dinner I will think of my friend Kurt. I will also light a candle and put it in my window.

  39. Twyla Roscovich says:

    His were spread ashes yesterday in the wind and ripping currents in front of Orcalab. It was a beautiful day of coming together with many people he had touched. Everywhere I looked I saw him – in the eyes of his family, walking along the trail and shore, sitting in the chair. His quiet mischievous smile bursting with love will always be with us, and watching over Orcalab

Trackbacks
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] will know, and be able to remember him with us,â€� wrote Paul Spong and Helena Symonds on the OrcaLab blog. “Everywhere we look around OrcaLab, we see Kurt. He built and rebuilt most of the buildings, […]



Leave A Comment