R.M. Vaughan (1965–2020)

My acquaintance Richard Vaughan, a noted author, journalist, raconteur, and above all art critic, committed suicide in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Eldergay Vaughan disappeared in mid-October 2020; his body was reportedly discovered on 2020.10.23. While manner of death was not officially designated, no other interpretation is plausible, and at least one purported obituary (archive) closes with links to suicide-prevention services.

It would be an insult to the intelligence to disregard lifelong depression as an underlying cause. Yet proximal causes are classic and easily identifiable in retrospect.

  1. He didn’t have a job anymore, a previous appointment at the University of New Brunswick having ended. (Showing not much generosity, UNB, a university with an endowment of $342 million in a piddling have-not province, has set up a memorial fund that civilians can donate to.) Judy Stoffman later reported UNB offered him a piddling four-month paid appointment.
  2. He had nowhere stable to live: A former apartment in Montreal “became uninhabitable”; later “he was booted from his digs in downtown Fredericton” (archive), presumably because his “landlord returned to Fredericton.”
  3. While living in a hetero friend’s basement, Vaughan was stuck dealing with the friend’s daughter.
  4. His mother had died. (CBC [archive], paraphrasing a friend: “Vaughan had never really gotten over the death of his mother in 2015. He said Vaughan was afraid to go to sleep because he dreamed about his mother.”)
  5. A fellow writer, aptly named Archer, damned Vaughan with faint praise thus: “He was, like Derek McCormack and Kathy Acker and Gary Indiana, someone a small group thinks the world of.” (Archive.)
  6. Judy Stoffman also stated (in her Globe and Mail obituary) that his death was by drowning.

R.M. Vaughan: Obituary

Innumerable copy errors and fuckups corrected from the original (PDF). New Brunswick is still incapable of getting its shit together.

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Richard Murray Vaughan.

Born in Saint John, N.B. on March 2, 1965, Richard was the son of the late Murray and Dorothy Vaughan (Loughery). He is survived by his older brother Paul (Lorie) of Nauwigewauk; his niece Tricia Shannon (Chris) of Kingston; nephew Ryan Vaughan of Saint John; and nephew Tyler Vaughan of Moncton.

Richard was raised in Quispamsis and, during his early years, spent his summers at the family home in St. Martins. After graduating from Kennebecasis Valley High School in 1983, he attended UNB Saint John, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English. After a short period of time working odd jobs in Montreal, he returned to his home province where he obtained his master’s in English from UNB Fredericton.

Richard began his professional life as an artist shortly after moving to Toronto in 1991 with the help of the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, where he first found his voice as a playwright. From those humble beginnings [sic] until just days before his passing, Richard, better known as R.M. Vaughan, was a prolific contributor to Canadian arts and culture as a novelist, poet, and video artist. Richard was a well-known culture critic for the Globe and Mail and the National Post. Most recently Richard’s work brought him back to New Brunswick as Writer-in-Residence for UNB Fredericton, where he was helping to inspire the next generation of Canadian writers.

For those closest to Richard, he will be remembered for the handwritten letter and postcards, the quirky little trinkets that would arrive in the mail, and wonderful crafts he loved to make for all occasions, but especially for Hallowe’en.

Arrangements are under the care and direction of Brenan’s Funeral Home, 111 Paradise Row, Saint John. In keeping with Richard’s wishes, a private family ceremony will take place. A celebration of life for Richard will be held later; details to be announced. For those who wish, donations can be made to the R.M. Vaughan Memorial Fund, Development and Donor Relations, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, or to the New Brunswick Mental Health Association.

Recall that UNB has an endowment of $342 million and was Richard’s most recent employer, yet they’re panhandling from civilians for pennies.