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After father’s death, son sets out to finish final Winterlude sculpture

For more than 30 years, Brian Clemence spent his winters chiselling blocks of snow, carving intricate sculptures for Ottawa’s Winterlude festival.

But for a few days last week, Clemence’s final sculpture stood unfinished at the corner of Bank Street and Fifth Avenue in the Glebe.

Clemence died suddenly last Tuesday afternoon. After spending the morning hewing blocks of snow, he suffered a heart attack while driving home.

His final piece was a tribute to Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie — a commission that Clemence’s son, Frédéric, said his father was thrilled to receive.

“He wanted to bring peace to Gord Downie,” Frédéric said. “And now … I want to bring peace to my dad.”

 

That same night, Frédéric decided he would finish his father’s final sculpture.

“It was the idea of touching the same snow, being with his tools, using his tools,” Frédéric said, remembering the time spent working with his father over the years.

“I just wanted to give [something] back and be closer in these last moments.”

‘So much fun’

To complete the project, Frédéric enlisted the help of his brother-in-law Émile Maheu.

Taking a break from chiselling, Maheu described his late father-in-law as a consummate artist who was happiest when working on a project — preferably outside in the snow, surrounded by friends and family.

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