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  July 15, 2000

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House full of heart

By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- Calgary Sun

 You may have read recently that the carriage house behind my dad's 1903 mansion was ravaged by fire. The cause of the blaze is still being investigated. No lives were lost but as I watched trucks haul debris up the driveway I couldn't help but think that it was so many pieces of so many lives -- all touched by Katie's place.

Who's Katie? I'll get to that.

My earliest memory of Katie's place involves being dropped on my head.

I was four -- I think. We used to play with the hay hoist as if it was sort of a teeter totter and my late brother, Dean, heaved me up to the top of the barn on a rope, all the way to where the hook was attached to the roof.

He accidentally let go and I went crashing all the way down to the ground. I got my bell rung pretty good and a lump on my head big enough that even my father was alarmed and he watched me closely for days.

My parents bought the old heritage house from Judge H.S. Patterson in 1951. The groundskeeper, Tom Kahn, good naturedly refused to move out, saying that he came with the house -- and so did his cat, Bing. It worked out well that Tom stayed on because in those early days dairy cows , chickens and a garden helped sustain our growing family and Tom helped take care of the property. Later on, a German couple moved in as groundskeepers in exchange for room and board. After that, for a time, there was all manner of gypsies, tramps and thieves staying there, not to mention wrestlers and con men.

In 1965, a young woman knocked on our door needing a place to stay.

She was obviously a decent and gentle soul, so Stu eagerly let her move right into the carriage house and was relieved that we no longer had questionable characters living in the back yard. Instead mild-mannered visitors came to call and we soon learned that our new tenant was an artist who had already achieved some degree of recognition. On Saturday mornings, she'd take me along to the Allied Art Centre where she encouraged my interest in sculpting and drawing.

Katie Ohe became a famous Alberta artist. Among her works are the wall-sized relief at the old downtown Herald building; the sculpted religious figures at St Michael's church on Bow Trail; and 'The Zipper', a 'dimensional' moving sculpture on display at the University of Calgary's science theatre.

Katie lived in our carriage house for about 15 years, until she married Dr. Harry Kiyooka. Upon Katie's departure, my sister Alison moved into Katie's place and raised her two girls, Lindsay and Brooke, there. They moved out a couple of years ago. But ever since Katie's arrival, no matter who lives there, everyone still calls the little carriage house Katie's place. It's not like we had some big family meeting and decided that was the thing to do. For some reason we all just do. There's some significant, indefinable thing about Stu teaching guys the art of wrestling in the dungeon, with all it's brutality and brawn, while a few steps across the driveway, Katie saw the gentle beauty of the world and found joy in sharing her art with a young boy who liked to doodle and dabble in clay. There is a balance of energy in that far more profound than I know the words to express.

Maybe beauty and the beast.

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