He got himself onto the Performing Arts Centre stage - where a crowd of friends listened to him sing.

By Pepper Parr
January 22, 2016

A funeral at a Performing Arts Centre? Well first it wasn’t a funeral – it was a celebration of the life of Thomas  Sutherland – everyone in the theatre knew him as Tom.

It wasn’t a sold out event but it was better than many of the events for which tickets are sold.

A good 450+ were in their seats to listen to people who loved Tom dearly and wanted to talk about him before his passing in a very sudden death that no one was ready for begins to be forgotten.

His children Kirsten, Derrick and Matthew were there as were his grandchildren: Noel, Gavin, Oland and Jamie.

Walter Mulkewich asked the audience to “grieve the loss of a good man”.

Tom Sutherland at an arts event

The arts were a big part of Tom’s life – he was an active supporter of the Performing Arts Centre and what was the Burlington Cultural Centre when he first got involved.

I didn’t know Tom all that well – we would cross paths – we were both big L liberals and believed in the cause.

I last saw Tom at the Liberal Christmas Party at the Polish Hall. He was his usual loquacious self. I sort of knew he sang but wasn’t fully aware of the roll music played in his life.

That evening he sang and had MPP Eleanor McMahon joining her voice with his. I thought at the time – we are going to hear more of these two. McMahon likes to ham it up and, if one was to believe all that was said at the celebration of Tom’s life this afternoon – Tom was a born arm twister, could sell ice cubes to Eskimos and encyclopedia’s to people who didn’t know they really needed a set of the books until Tom got in front of them.

He sold the Spectator on the corner of King and James in Hamilton when he was a couple of sizes above a sprout – and as his sister told that story you could almost hear him calling out: Extra, Extra – real all about it in the Spectator. There was a time when that was the way newspapers were sold.

Tom did it all –and he did it his way. He loved to take the Frank Sinatra songs and sing his heart out. During the video that was played on Tom with all kinds of pictures there was his voice. I found myself asking if that was Tom or Frank himself.


Was he singing or was he giving a speech? For Tom Sutherland they were one in the same – he did prefer the singing.

The remarks made by the several people who spoke were more political than I expected and were, I suspect, a significant change for Burlington. The Liberals have only held the two seats for just over a year.

Tom ran federally again Bill Kempling in 1978 and again in 1980; he was the kind of guy who couldn’t pass up on an election campaign. Both MPP McMahon and MP Gould spoke entertainingly about their door to door experiences with the man.

One of the highlights of Tom’s personal political career was the occasion he got to introduce then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau

He was clearly loved and treasured – he was a one of 11 children – with five of his brothers passing before him.

His sister Loretta spoke of the occasions when the family would be at the pier on the Beach in Burlington – no not the one we paid $14 million for – one of the wooden structures that were a part of the city we have forgotten about. But the Sutherland family hasn’t forgotten those days.

For a family of 11 – it was as if they were a small tribe – they cared for each other; the love was the glue that kept them all together; it was so evident in the pictures that were shown on the screen at the Performing Arts Centre on a Friday afternoon when several hundred people paused in their busy day to Thomas  Sutherland.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.