An occasional correspondent

Hugh Piggins

I got to know Ulrike (or Rik as she went by back then) while we were in high school in the late 1970s. We took some classes together and she cajoled me into writing (very) occasional contributions to the school newsletter that she edited. At high school, she was already independently minded and one of the few people interested in punk and new wave music. She introduced many of us to Patti Smith and we learned that she was passionate in her beliefs and that you needed to be able to fight your corner if she challenged you. She was also a very warm and considerate person and someone you could bounce ideas and thoughts off of in the negotiation of those awkward late teen years.  

Following high school, our paths diverged as I was the traveler, inter-railing around Europe and studying in the UK, while Rik stayed in Guelph.  We exchanged letters a couple of times a year and I always looked forward to hers as she expertly interweaved a bit of gossip with thoughts on culture and the utility of higher education. We briefly overlapped in Guelph in the mid-80s, but after that, we lost touch as we both left the city for different parts of Canada.

Some 20 years later we reconnected over an interest in touring bicycles, and an erratic exchange of emails ensued. About 8 years ago I happened to be passing through Vancouver and I sent her a last-minute email hoping she’d be around. As good fortune would have it, she was. Ulrike re-arranged her plans at very short notice and was a great host, with a refined knowledge of local hostelries and expert advice on what to see and do in Vancouver.  She delighted in bringing me up to speed with her numerous travel plans and local activism as well as the latest news of her family. It was wonderful to see her and to witness at first hand that she had lost none of her warmth, spark and spirit. We promised we would try to keep in regular touch, but our correspondence remained stochastic.  

It was a great shock to learn of Ulrike’s sudden passing. I always admired her fearlessness and adventurous free-spirited nature and I occasionally lived vicariously through reading of her travels.  It is clear from other tributes here that Ulrike led a full and rich life and touched many people. The world is a lesser place with her gone and I will miss the thought of her cycling in far flung corners of globe.  My sincere condolences to her family and many friends.