Kenneth Donald Bruinsma-Cajic: Father. Musician. Carpenter. DIY-er. Born June 27, 1963 in Clinton, Ontario; died on May 7, 2021, in Toronto, of cancer; 57 years old.
Ken could have been considered a modern-day Renaissance man and although his talents may not have rivaled those of Leonardo da Vinci, Ken has developed skills and competencies in many areas. He may be best remembered, however, for the value he placed on relationships.
Ken always walked to a different drummer. When he married Georgina in 1995, he turned the story around by adding his last name to his last name and changed all of his ID cards. Hali, Ken’s first daughter, born during a relationship in his twenties and raised as a single dad, used his mother’s last name, not his.
Ken and Georgina first looked at each other in the mid-1980s in the halls of Sheridan College – she was immediately drawn to the depth of his blue eyes – and when they met years later, it took some time for Ken to convince Georgina (and her Serbian father!) that this Dutchman was worthy of her love and commitment. When they got married, with Hali as the ring bearer, they bought a house in West Toronto and began to join the family with Annalize, Evan Blake and Kaeden.
Friends and family marveled at Ken’s autonomy and individualism. In his spare time he played the guitar or the piano, having learned both himself. Ken played bass guitar in a few rock bands in college and then went on to the Toronto music scene with Human Interest. Always a convenience store, Ken found a way to modify his bike so he could carry his guitar and amp to rehearsals and concerts.
He loved woodworking and often said that if he could have started over he would have been a carpenter. As it stands, Ken has had several careers. He studied media arts at Sheridan College (supporting himself by driving a cab at night) and ended up at the Nelvana Animation Studio to edit children’s television series including Care Bears and Babar. In the 1990s, he switched to computer programming and when the dot-com bubble burst, he retrained and got a job driving an 18-wheeler for Purolator.
But his love of woodworking has never wavered. The family home contains lovingly restored furniture including upholstered chairs and sofas and inlaid end tables. Tucked away in a few corners of the living room are several electric guitar bodies that he crafted from hardwood. In the backyard, he built two garden sheds to house carpentry and mechanic’s tools, as he insisted on repairing and maintaining the family’s two cars himself.
Ken has spent hours and hours with his children. He encouraged and supported their interests, but there was nothing Ken liked better on weekend afternoons than playing board games with his kids and their friends. He liked to change the official rules and help other players with their strategies. Ken always brought a bunch of board games to family gatherings, introducing them to many obscure games. He even created a prototype of his own tabletop game that everyone agreed was too complicated to play, but that’s not surprising, coming from a man who preferred to use a Dvorak keyboard and wondered why not everyone had made the switch.
In some ways, Ken was a study of contrasts. He rejected organized religion as a teenager, but in his thirties he embraced spirituality, namely the esoteric teachings of George Gurdjieff, an Armenian philosopher. Ken rebelled in his youth while keeping a traditional marriage, celebrating his 25th birthday in 2020. He showed real artistry in artistic and musical creation, but was not afraid to get his hands dirty. , by installing new roofs and water basins in the yard. Ken shunned the conventional, even when it came to his wishes for his leftovers. He chose a process called aquamation, or cremation of water.
In today’s culture of ambition, Ken was remarkable: he valued relationships more than the pursuit of materialistic values and social status.
Natalie Cajic is Ken’s sister-in-law.
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