February 20, 1945–April 6, 2013
ON APRIL 6, Robert Ritchie Oakley, 68, left us forever when he passed away in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Ritchie was a well-known Maritimes musician, band leader, and a longtime friend and colleague. His life was rich, reflecting the work and persistent struggle for a livelihood of a cultural worker and talented music producer who refused to be moulded by the stamp of the official establishment in the service of U.S. cultural domination; he came to affirm the dignity of Maritimes and Canadian cultural creators and indeed of the working people against the heartlessness and soullessness prevailing in this sphere of society and in turn was victimized by its cultural cabal, mainly through a wall of silence. Nevertheless, Ritchie Oakley’s creative talent and body of work was such that in 1995, the Nova Scotia Country Music Association honoured Ritchie as songwriter of the year and instrumentalist of the year. In 1998 the Music Industry Association of Nova Scotia named him producer of the year. In 2008, the East Coast Music Awards designated him one of the winners of the Stompin’ Tom Awards, tributes bestowed for “unsung heroes” of Atlantic Canadian music.
Ritchie was a man of word and deed, whose word was his deed. One amongst many activities stands out for us; his longtime support for Shunpiking Magazine and the development of independent media and culture which is rooted in and serves the people. When we had to vacate our North Street premises in 2008, we simply could not have accomplished the move without the tireless assistance of Ritchie and his wife Debby for over three weeks sorting and packing our equipment and archives, as well as that of his late brother Mickey, who provided his five-ton trucks. His selfless generosity, genuine sincerity, sharp-witted and self-deprecating humour, conversation and humanity will be deeply missed.
We deeply mourn his passing.
Several activities are being planned to celebrate and honour the life and work of Robert Ritchie Oakley. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 13, 2013, 11 a.m., at the Ronald A Walker Funeral Home, Upper Tantallon. The family will release a biographical statement and details of other memorial arrangements in due course. We send our deepest love and condolences to Debbie, his children, grandchildren, and his entire family.
On behalf of the Shunpiking Magazine collective