What We Can Learn From Tooker’s Death

Angela Bischoff speaks at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival Memorial Workshop for Tooker. Introduction by musician Bill Bourne.

For the first time ever in the history of the Edmonton Folk Festival, a workshop has been dedicated to the memory of someone who has touched the lives of many of us here at the festival.

Tooker Gomberg was such a person, whose passion for life, for politics, for the environment and for community was infectious. He was a consummate activist in the realms of peace, ecology, and social justice.

He came to Edmonton from Montreal in the early 80’s to work on energy conservation with the Alberta government. He breathed life into the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters, the EcoCity Society, the Rumpus Room, the Edmonton Peace Camp, the local political scene, and then, as a City Councillor, he succeeded at shaping the environmental agenda such that this city is now seen as a leader on many fronts — bike facilities, recycling and composting, energy and water conservation, and much more.

We’re here to acknowledge Tooker’s contribution to our community, and to celebrate his memory in music and song.

I’d like to invite Tooker’s wife, his partner in activism and in love, up to the stage to say a few words in his honor… Angela Bischoff.


Opening remarks by Angela Bischoff…

It’s an honour to be before you today remembering my partner in love and in life, Tooker Gomberg. Thank you to the Edmonton Folk Festival and to all of you for this fitting tribute for someone who contributed so much to community.

Tooker loved this festival. In fact, he and I fell in love at this festival 17 years ago. Sadly Tooker is no longer with us, at least not on this physical plane.

It’s not easy being green, stepping outside the box of mainstream culture, taking risks. For Tooker, his 3 decades of activism got the best of him.

Edmonton and the world is better for his contribution. We learned from him that one person can create community, can shift the political climate, can change the world. What then can we learn from his tragic death?

Firstly, using Tooker’s own words, find balance in your life. Balance the politics with the personal, the activism with the music.

Secondly, depression kills. 4000 Canadians a year die by their own hands, and most of them suffer from depression. So if someone you know is depressed, take their suffering seriously. It’s a myth that speaking with someone about suicide will give them ideas they hadn’t considered. Talk about it.

Thirdly, pharmaceutical drugs can kill. Tooker’s doctor and I both believe Tooker had an adverse reaction to the anti-depressant drug he was taking. Increased anxiety and agitation can be side effects of these powerful drugs, and may lead to self-harm and even suicide. So pay attention.

And lastly, don’t let your friends or family fall through the cracks. It doesn’t take much to make a short phone call every day, or take someone out for a bike ride. Let them know often that you love them, before it’s too late.

On Thursday night at 7 p.m. you’re invited to join me and others at Riverdale Hall for a deeper discussion about depression and activism. I’ve got more info about the event just over there on my blanket. I’ve also got free photos of Tooker and copies of an article I wrote about Tooker and the drug/suicide connection. Come visit me on the blanket, or check out Tooker’s and my website: greenspiration.org for more info on Tooker’s life and death.

Thank you all for sharing in this workshop, and for remembering Tooker. May our hearts and minds always be open and generous and loving toward ourselves, one another, and the planet. So be it.