Leonard Williams lived on the streets of Nanaimo, British Columbia, for an estimated 30 years. He was kind, gentle, and lived a life of gratitude. But early in the morning of Dec. 26, 2020, the 59-year-old’s lifeless body was found in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter. A forensic autopsy was completed on Dec. 31, 2020 and foul play has been ruled out as a cause of death. Leonard was a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island’s West Coast.

Nanaimo poet Kim Goldberg met Leonard Williams as she was preparing her book Red Zone in 2009. It’s a book about homelessness in Nanaimo, with a combination of poems, images, artist projects and journal entries. Their friendship endured over many years. In the weeks after Leonard’s death, Kim wrote a poem — “Lesser gods (for Leonard)” — to remember and honour his life.

“I’ve never seen anyone who was more continuously and authentically happy and contented and basically filled with gratitude. I actually get choked up thinking about it because he had just this purity about him that I feel just sort of transcends the state that almost all of us are living in.”  — Kim Goldberg, Nanaimo poet eulogizes friend, addresses homelessness in new poem (Nanaimo News Bulletin, January 29, 2021)

Kim Goldberg appeared on People First Radio and spoke about Leonard, their friendship, and the poem she wrote to eulogize him. Listen and/or download below.

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Image (top): Leonard Williams (taken by Kim Goldberg)