Wes Funk, a local author known for his captivating literary portrayal of modern-day Saskatchewan, passed away suddenly in his sleep Thursday at the age of 46.
He penned such books as Dead Rock Stars and Cherry Blossoms, and hosted the weekly Shaw TV show Lit Happens for several years.
“There’s this idea of Saskatchewan literature, that it has to be this forced imagery of grain elevators, and he wrote about a more real, modern Saskatchewan,” friend and fellow author Craig Silliphant said.
Funk’s work was inspired heavily by his own life and often included mention of real landmarks from Saskatoon, where he was based, and across the province. Born into a Mennonite household in rural Saskatchewan, Funk not only came out as gay to his family, but later forged a life for himself as a self-publishing freelance author and illustrator.
Friend, and illustrator of Dead Rock Stars, Kevin Hastings said his moments with Funk were never wasted on small talk.
“He’s just open and caring. There was no real fakeness to him,” Hastings said. “He had this light, this magnetism and he was unabashedly nerdy; he had a Wonder Woman tattoo on his chest.”
The last time the pair spoke was at the Saskatoon Word on the Street, where they gave a presentation together. They also spent time together at a booth at the Saskatchewan Comic and Entertainment Expo.
He was unabashedly nerdy.
Funk also helped promote local literature as the Saskatoon program coordinator for the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild (SWG) for six months. He held workshops and offered advice to fellow writers.
“He was just so vibrant and alive and doing so many things,” SWG executive director Judith Silverthorne. “He was just amazing. I’m just quite devastated.”
Silliphant recalls that Funk had the ability to connect with nearly everyone he met and made friends quickly.
“When he showed on the (radio) station (for an interview) I had a Clash London Calling coffee mug in my hand and he looked up at me and smiled and lifted up his bag and it was a Clash London Calling bag,” he said. “And so from that moment on we were good friends.”
Funk had recently moved to Edmonton and Hastings said he was quick to start door knocking on local bookshops and promote his work. Hastings said he had talked about starting a Lit Happens in Edmonton and returning to Saskatoon every few months to record a Saskatoon show.
Hastings said Funk had back surgery two months ago and had been in constant pain.
An autopsy will confirm the cause of death. On social media, friends suggested Funk may have accidentally over medicated.
Once the autopsy is finished, friends and family hope to host a celebration of Funk’s life in Saskatoon in the near future. They plan to bury him next to his twin sister, who passed away when they were young.
Hastings said Funk’s former partner wants to honour Funk’s final wishes.
“He wants everyone to embrace their inner nerd and show up in costume.”