Toller Cranston Lives On

Efforts in Mexico and Canada aim to use the ice skating legend and artist’s fame for good.

Toller Cranston

Toller Cranston
(Photo: Jay Koppelman)

October 23, 2015 – Former world and Olympic figure skater, six-time Canadian Champion and world renowned artist Toller Cranston is being remembered and honored in numerous ways.

In San Miguel de Allende, Mexico where Toller lived the last two-plus decades of his life, he was well known in the community as a big personality, a flamboyant character, a compulsive and impetuous shopper, a prodigious artist, and an extravagant entertainer.

He left behind a stunning collection of his own original art work along with a mind-boggling assortment of ceramics, sculptures, chandeliers, and glass. He died of a massive heart attack in January at the age of 65.

Toller’s family, a sister and two brothers, found themselves in charge of dispersing Toller’s massive estate. Phillippa, Guy and Goldie left their homes in Canada and have been back and forth to San Miguel over the past nine months to handle this challenge.

Those in San Miguel who knew Toller often associated him with the word ‘generous.’ In Toller’s honor, the family has donated numerous items from the estate to local charities and organizations in San Miguel.

His impressive library of 800+ art books have been donated to Bellas Artes and will become part of a permanent collection in his honor. Original art, archival video and photographs, personal effects and clothing have been set aside to support the collection.

More than 1000 items of clothing, everything from cashmere sweaters to flowing coats along with two dozen cartons of non-art books were given to the local charity ALMA, a home for low-income elderly.

A donation of artisanal Mexican toys was made to Museo de la Esquina.

Santos Statues

A sampling of the painted Santos at Toller’s home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
(Photo: Scott Umstattd)

Many know that Toller created magnificent Santos (above) that are widely recognized as rare and beautiful pieces of art. Seven beaded and painted Santos were gifted to the churches of San Miguel, six to the Catholic churches and one to St. Paul’s.

All of Toller’s oil paints, a massive amount, were donated to local artists who were closely associated with him.

A permanent and rotating exhibition of Toller’s paintings and chandeliers will remain at Hecho en Mexico, a popular restaurant in San Miguel. These will be a lasting reminder of Toller’s incredible legacy and art.

Back in Canada, a Memorial Fund has been established in Toller’s name by the Canadian Olympic Foundation. Proceeds will support young skaters with both artistic and athletic talent. Supporters may contribute at http://olympic.ca/foundation.

The Toller Cranston School of Artistic Skating is being created in Canada and will launch in 2016. This will be a training camp for elite figure skaters that focuses on bringing more theatricality and creativity to the sport.

There are many ideas still in the planning stages. The family remains committed to strengthening Toller’s legacy both in San Miguel and in Canada.

Learn more about Toller Cranston’s Legacy in skating and art.

12 replies
  1. Rose Parris
    Rose Parris says:

    Though I never met Toller, I knew about him through Don and Donna Goertz who cherished his friendship. I’m happy to learn about the efforts that have been made and will be made to continue his legacy. Thank you for including me.

    Reply
  2. Donna Bryant Goertz
    Donna Bryant Goertz says:

    We are gratified knowing that, through the efforts of his brothers and sister, the memory of our dear friend, the kind and generous and gracious (if at times irascible) friend Toller Cranston, will be remembered in many ways, most especially and fittingly through The Toller Cranston School of Artistic Skating.

    Reply
  3. Eva Churcher
    Eva Churcher says:

    I am so thankful to hear that Toller will be remembered in all of these wonderful and generous ways. He would be so proud to have supported all of these things. I’m especially touched to hear about the Toller Cranston School of Artistic Skating. I feel sure this would have given him the deepest and greatest pleasure.

    Thank you for letting me know about this. I cared about Toller very much and feel grateful that his family have worked so hard on his behalf.

    Thank you so much.

    Reply
  4. Edythe (Edye) Hanen
    Edythe (Edye) Hanen says:

    Hello Family,
    I would just like to say how happy David and I are with all we’ve read about the past months and how it’s all gone. We are especially thrilled to know that his beloved books will be at Bellas Artes. Here is a small anecdote to let you know just how much Toller’s books meant to him. He had a gathering and dinner for Margaret Atwood after she spoke at the Writers’ Conference a couple of years ago. He was not a fan of MA but he put on an elaborate event for her – quite amazing. There were only about 15 of us there. The next day we dropped by to see how he was feeling about it all. He was sitting in the kitchen at the table looking very morose. He said: “She didn’t even mention my books.” (I don’t think she mentioned much at all, to be honest). But he didn’t care about her not commenting on his art or his amazing home and gardens, but he was devastated that she hadn’t mentioned his books (in the bookcases in the studio). I guess he thought that because she is a writer she would love his collection of books. He also told us: “She didn’t even say thank you” in the saddest voice. He was so hurt. After that, he always referred to her as Margaret Asswood. We laughed about it for a long time. Of course this is between you and me but it’s a good story.

    He also invited me over one day with no explanation (just me alone and not David) and brought me a chair, sat me down beside his bookcase and told me to just start opening books and reading. Then he disappeared. After a few hours I found him somewhere in the house, thanked him and left. It was a lovely time. Every time we visited or went for breakfast, I would go home and make notes, copy down all the dialogue I could remember. The conversations are never to be forgotten. What a man he was. So tuned in to who people were. David and I truly loved him. It is true – he was one of the most generous people we have ever known. We will be in San Miguel again this coming year and it is really hard to get our heads around the fact that he will not be there. Sorry for going on and on but I did want to share this with you, especially about the books.

    Edye Hanen and David Darling

    Reply
  5. Louise dawe
    Louise dawe says:

    I trained with Toller in Lake Placid in the 60’s. I am the proud owner of 4 significant originals. I was so fortunate to have Toller, personally, visit me in my Cambridge home where he could enjoy seeing his large and most beautiful pieces prominently displayed in my home.
    He told me that he actually lived with his family in Cambridge at one time. I know the house. An acquaintance of mine went to school with him.
    A real coincidence was some time ago when I had Brittany Cranston in my grade 7 class.
    If any of his family is in Cambridge I would love to invite them to my home.
    I would love to be a part of the Toller Cranston Artistic Skating School in an administrative capacity. I love to write, I am personable with people and I have a passion for skating!
    I skated at the senior level in the US and was US Jr Figure Skating Champion. I have taught and judged in the past. I am a great motivator.
    Anyway, I will be attending the Ice Theatre of New York Gala on October 30. You will love my Journal page as it has a picture of me with Toller.
    If any of the family will be at the Gala I would love to meet them.
    Warm regards,
    Louise Vacca Dawe
    519 279 1777

    ,

    Reply
    • Louise dawe
      Louise dawe says:

      I trained with Toller in Lake Placid. I was lucky to have Toller visit my home in Cambridge, Ontario to view 4 magnificent originals prominently displayed in my home. He wa so proud and my family was thrilled. I will be at the Gala in NY honouring this genius on and off the the ice.
      Louise Vacca Dawe

      Reply
  6. Carole levinson
    Carole levinson says:

    Just wonderful. The family also very graciously gave us the stained glass piece my husband had made for him for his sixtieth birthday. It hung on the veranda And is now on our patio. A wonderful memento…They are doing it all just the way Toller would have wanted it. If he only knew….

    Reply
  7. Susan Caplan-Firestone
    Susan Caplan-Firestone says:

    All of us who knew Toller personally & professionally, will miss him terribly.
    It is so wonderful & important that he will be remembered in so many meaningful ways.
    Yours,
    Susie C.F.

    Reply
  8. Peggy Zaine
    Peggy Zaine says:

    Thank you for sending the update. It’s lovely to see how much has been donated throughout San Miguel.
    I only met Toller a couple of times while in San Miguel. One of those times was when my mother came down with me and I took her to see his house. She had met your/his parents many years previous (before my Dad died 8 years ago) in, I think, Austria, while on vacation. They had been in the same restaurant and had heard each other speaking English, so had gotten together for the evening. My Mom was 83 when she came down to San Miguel and had terrible trouble with her knees. When we were at Toller’s house, he sat with her in his studio for about 1/2 hour and talked with her – commiserating about knees! She’s never forgotten how special he made her feel that day and she was devastated to hear of his death.
    I was fortunate to be able to purchase 2 of his small paintings and I treasure them. His house, though totally overwhelming, was like a dream of colour. I was amazed at the beautiful chairs, pillows and all kinds of textiles thrown together but looking like they’d always belonged. I guess that’s the artist’s gift.
    I wasn’t able to be in San Miguel during the sale of house items – I’m still working for a few more years to be able to be there! But, when I’m able to get there again, perhaps there may still be some small items for sale? If there may be, please keep me posted. I would love to find something special to treasure.
    My thoughts to your family.
    Sincerely,
    Peggy Zaine

    Reply

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