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A #DayOfKindness in the name of the father
"The Evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."
Shakespeare's words, delivered in John Dunsworth's familiar, gravelly tone, introduces his well known YouTube video, 'Get a Hobby,' where Dunsworth offers a how-to and show and tell on working with rocks and cement for the viewers at home.
In the 2013 video, which today has over 850k views, Dunsworth — best known for his portrayal of Jim Lahey on Trailer Park Boys — shares his love of playing with rocks. Speculating on reasons for this passion, he cites both his health and desire for a legacy. "Maybe a little after I'm gone and people say, hey who made that? There I am, still alive," he says as the video kicks off. "Maybe that's it."
While the structures he created will continue to stand as monuments in time, Dunsworth died of a brief and unexpected illness on October 16, 2017. In the two-plus years since his passing, a different kind of legacy has grown, as stories of his seemingly unending generosity have come to light.
"I saw him give someone, literally give them the shirt that he was wearing, once," says Sarah Dunsworth-Nickerson, John's daughter, who is also known for her role as 'Sarah' on TPB.
But while his family long knew of his kindness, they had little idea of the extent of his giving until the condolences started pouring in.
"It was overwhelming in a different way," says Zoë Dunsworth, another of John's daughters (with son Geoff and youngest daughter, Molly, rounding out the clan) of the rush of messages that followed his death. Heartbroken and in a bit of a fog, the hundreds of condolences the family received offered a challenge then softened by the many stories from those thankful for John's time or attention, making the experience more bearable than it might otherwise have been.
"He wasn't doing things to be seen as generous. He wasn't doing things for recognition," says Zoë. "It just didn't occur to him to not help."
Indeed, it was the way he was raised. Dunsworth and his nine siblings grew up in Bridgewater and learned early and by example to be generous with both resources and time. His kindness was a gift passed down by his parents and shared through his bloodline. Zoë says her mother, Elizabeth, asked her to make that known.
That's why on the first anniversary of his death when TPB and SwearNet (TPB's online, uncensored comedy network) put out the call for fans to raise a glass in his honour his family attempted to shift focus. They hoped to better reflect the person their father was, a man who not only didn't drink but who shared little in common with his most famous role.
"To him, the character of the drunk he played was a super tragic figure," says Sarah. "So I tried to change that narrative. Zoë came up with the idea of doing a little kindness in dad's name."
"We kind of wanted him to be remembered more for the good things he did in real life and as himself as John Dunsworth, not as his character," adds Zoë. "So, we put a couple of things out there just to get the ball rolling."
Buying a meal, giving blood, sharing a kind word, giving of time — the kinds of things John did for people without a second thought to brighten their days.
"Even letting someone go in traffic, which can make a huge difference in someone's day, let's be real," says Molly. "I love it when people do that for me."
More than a year later, the redirect seems to be catching on. This year on October 16, the TPB community joined the kindness call by asking people to participate in a day of kind acts in Dunsworth's memory. Focused on small gestures — giving blood, calling a friend, picking up trash — the resulting #DayOfKindness threads on Twitter and Facebook are rich with stories of good deeds done in his honour.
Today is the John Dunsworth #DayofKindness - let's do something good.— Trailer Park Boys (@trailerparkboys) October 16, 2019
Give blood, buy someone a coffee, pick up garbage, visit an elderly neighbour, or phone a loved one you haven't spoken to for a while. Make the world a nicer place to live! pic.twitter.com/vBnKXs7DcJ
An outcome the Dunsworth's are happy to see take root.
"We don't want people to take October 16 and have it be a day of sadness or mourning," says Zoë. "We would much rather have it be a celebration of dad's life and the wonderful person he was. If anything good can come out of people doing things in his memory, that's what we want to see."
The family, too, have been paying it forward with their own good deeds. From donating script pages to worthy fundraisers, sending fans unexpected gifts, and offering a social media boost to campaigns in need to taking a stand for things that matter; they're adding to his legacy.
"And my mum really likes it," adds Sarah. "She likes that we're trying to keep on with that tradition of kindness."
A tradition keeping Dunsworth's spirit alive long after his last goodbye.
Robyn McNeil is all about her kid, her cat, her people, good stories, strong tea, yoga, hammocks, and hoppy beer.