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OTTAWA — “He was so much more than just a ‘45-year-old construction worker.’”
Marc Robert Nelson died Monday on the work site at the Bank of Canada building at Bank and Sparks streets. His name had not been officially released Wednesday, and authorities and media reports referred to him as a construction worker, killed when struck on the head by work site debris.
But, of course, he was much more than that.
“He wasn’t just a construction worker,” said relative Jennifer Rattray. “That’s what he did to support his family.”
Beyond the job, as Rattray recounted, Nelson was also a caring father, a loving husband, a devoted family man, and a passionate and skilled musician.
The Ottawa and District Labour Council wants police to launch a criminal investigation into Nelson’s death the renovation site. The Ontario Ministry of Labour is already investigating, but ODLC president Sean McKenny said Wednesday that his organization has sent a letter to police requesting they investigate, too.
“A person lost their life and the police owe it to not only the family of the individual, but the community as well to ensure that a full investigation is carried out,” McKenny said,
And perhaps they even owe it to Nelson himself, suggests Rattray, who lives in British Columbia. “Everybody refers to him as this ‘45-year-old construction worker,’ but that is so inadequate for who Marc really was.”
So it seems. On his website, marcrobertnelson.com, Nelson provided a brief biography that traces his “life in music” to his grade school years when, as he puts, he “channelled this pre-pubescent Elvis voice” for the first time as a tribute concert. As a high school student, he played in several bands, channelling the Police, U2, the Rolling Stones, and others. He even played guitar in church.
After school, he wandered. He did comedy sketches at a Mexican resort. He ran a karaoke bar and sang songs from Phantom of the Opera for tourists. In Barbados, he played at beach bars and the island’s sole Irish pub.
Back in Canada, he played whatever kind of gig a hungry and aspiring musician does — “beach bars, funerals, weddings, a telethon, legion halls, Octoberfests, pubs, clubs, bingo halls, preschools, Olympic Games, youth centres, corporate party’s, comedy nights, dragon boat races and a whack load of Paddys’ Days.”
In recent years, married to Ryanne and with a son and daughter, Jack and Evelyn, to look after, he kept the gigs closer to home. He played at venues as varied as Biagio’s, D’Arcy McGee’s, Woody’s, and even the Rideau Curling Club. In 2010, Nelson was part of a showcase act at the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals held in Ottawa that year, performing with “favourite” local artists. He also played for children under the stage name of Mister Marc, and made CDs — Mister Marc’s Marvellous Melodies — for that audience.
“Mister Marc sings about trains, cookies, recycling, saving water, being happy and feeling special,” the singer posted on a Facebook page. One song, Lemons Make Lemonade, is all about what to do when kids get bullied.
By middle age, Nelson had come to some conclusions about his peripatetic life. “I have spent the last 20 years or so singing songs, writing songs and travelling around the world with my guitar,” he wrote. “Music has provided me with some amazing experiences and friendships.
“I have a ton of original material just waiting to bloom. I am not afraid to re-write songs now which I never used to do. I really just want people to hear my music” — some of it here, www.facebook.com/marcrobertnelson/app_2405167945 — “and have it mean something.
“I have never won any awards. I have never won any music competitions. I never name drop and I would never ever smash a guitar. I put this site up to give you a peek into what I love to do.”
Many, it seems, loved him for what he did, and who he was. “He was just an incredible, incredible man,” said Rattray. He was so generous, so thoughtful, the kindest person you’d want to know. He adored children. He was one hundred per cent hands on with his own two kids.”
Perhaps, though, Nelson’s sister, Cathy Nelson Gordon, says it best in a posting on her Facebook page. “My brother Marc. He is the kind of man you want your sons to be. Warm and kind. Generous and gentle. His talents amaze me. He is the finest human being I have ever known. I am blessed to have ever known him, let alone call him my brother.”
BY ROBERT SIBLEY AND SAMMY HUDES, OTTAWA CITIZEN APRIL 23, 2014 9:53 PM