by John McCulloch
Richard (Dick) Jeanes was a multifaceted gentleman. He was a formidable linguist, an expert in french cycling terminology, a wine maker, a leader in Language lab development and a Citroën enthusiast.
Dick was a professor of French at Victoria College when I first met him in the late sixties. You could not miss this large gent lumbering past Old Vic down to his office in the New Academic Building (now Northrop Frye Hall). His soup strainer moustache, his over packed briefcase and his shock of black hair made him the most notable of the French instructors at Vic. He was often accompanied by his wife Jeanette, also an instructor at the college. Her french sense of style was unmistakable, but their arrival in a Citroën Safari really set them apart for me. (more about that later)
I got to know Professor Jeanes when I took an independent French course with him. The topic of the course was the “Zero Article in French grammar”. Now I know what you are thinking! Where can I find out more about the “Zero Article in French”? I can provide workshops on the topic by request. I’ll bet you were worried!
Professor Jeanes and I met in his office twice a week for six months to discuss some aspect of the zero article. The rules of the course were simple. He brought his pack of Rothmans and I brought my Players Navy cut. He provided the ashtray and I had my trusty Zippo. By the end of a two hour discussion we could barely see each other through the haze. He would give me handwritten Xeroxed sheets with an outline of a chapter of his book and we would go at it. For me it was absolutely fascinating. He was an excellent teacher who made even the most complex topic completely accessible. So impressed was I that to this day I still have every sheet and every note that he ever gave me. I would like to think that he was a friend though I suspect I was a sufficiently dim undergrad that he merely enjoyed the cigarettes and the conversation.
One day I spotted him and Jeanette crossing Charles Street heading for the now disappeared parking lot behind Wymilwood (student centre at Vic). I waved at him and he stopped and asked if I would like a ride part of the way home only because he lived further south off Avenue road than I did.
The long, sensuous line of the Safari caught my eye immediately. It was the most beautiful car I had ever seen. (Note: our family cars were Austins, Hillmans, Consuls – you get the picture).
I took my place in the back seat and was flabbergasted as the car began to rise up when he started it. With Mme. Jeanes in the shotgun seat, cigarettes on fire, we set off up Avenue Road. You cannot imagine my surprise when she tuned the radio to Radio France, a strong signal brought in by the whip antenna that went from front windscreen to the door at the rear of the car. It is important to note that more than forty years ago the traffic was not nearly as heavy as it is now. Going from Charles street and University Avenue to Avenue Road and Castlefield was a very quick trip. The smooth ride, that sensation of floating along made me wish they had lived in Thornhill if only to prolong the ride. As we went he explained how he was able to carry cases of grapes for wine in it and all the time being perfectly level. His enthusiasm for the car and his utter affability really drew me to the D model Citroën. When I bought my first D I thought of Dick and the several rides we shared up Avenue Road. I know that Dick was an early member of the Citroën Autoclub Canada probably for the same reasons as so many others – a strong desire to keep these unique cars on the road.
The term “gentleman and scholar” are often used in a jocular fashion amongst friends. In Richard W.Jeanes’ case both words are completely appropriate and utterly inadequate to describe him. I started thinking about him about a week ago for no apparent reason. I thought about the influence he had on my professional life as a teacher of french but also as a dedicated Citroën fan. His fervour for his subject and his Citroëns and for life in general were a real inspiration for me. Adieu Richard
An obituary for Richard Jeanes appeared in the Birth and Death notices of the Globe and Mail 9 for Thursday April 9 2015. It stated that Memorial Services will be held in May both in Toronto and Victoria BC.
We looked back in our archives and found an article that Dick wrote back in 1985 about his “25 Years of Citroeneering”. You can read it here.