Babz Chula's Celebration of Life: a poignant tribute to a local star

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      Both tears and laughter, and speeches and songs, flowed at the Babz Chula Celebration of Life memorial held at the Arts Club Theatre on Granville Island on May 23.

      The full-house event, which ran over two hours, was hosted by actor Ben Ratner, who family members thanked for his devoted support to Babz and her family as she struggled for eight years with cancer.

      “Once again, Babz Chula has brought us all together”, Ratner began, noting that the very stage he was standing on was one where Chula had performed upon many times in the past.

      Ratner described how she had spent the last few weeks in an apartment overlooking Lost Lagoon, where she was able to watch flowers blossom early. The much-loved stage and screen actor was born Barbara Ellen Zuckerman on March 12, 1947 and died on May 7, 2010, surrounded by family and friends.

      On May 17, a Sukhavati ceremony was held at the Vancouver Shambhala Meditation Centre. A memorial Mass was held on May 22 at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church.

      Her brother Pete Arnold told humourous anecdotes about growing up in Hawaii with the family and Chula’s flair for the dramatic when she tried to run away after refusing to take medicine she didn’t like.

      Singer Helen Davis, who used to sing with Babz, and guitarist Bing Jensen performed a striking rendition of “Blue Skies”, a song Chula wrote for her daughter Jordana.

      Several other songs performed included “I Can See Clearly Now” by Lynda Boyd; “Into the Mystic” by Dalannah Gail Bowen; and “Down River”, a stunning song Kevin House wrote for Chula, which he performed on guitar with vocals by actor Colleen Rennison, who spoke about her experiences of working in acting with Chula.

      Director Anne Wheeler talked about the recent trip she took with Chula to India, where Chula sought ayurvedic treatment. There, Chula had begun to feel better and wanted to take a trip outside the centre, despite the doctor’s wishes. On a rickshaw, Wheeler and Chula sang the song “The Glory of Love”, which Wheeler performed again on stage at the memorial.

      Speeches were also given by her friend Marilyn Thurrott (who considered her family), her son Aviv Ciulla, Nancy Sivak, and her husband Larry Lynn. Letters from Rory Richards and Jay Brazeau were read out as they were unable to attend.

      Nicholas Lea spoke on behalf of the Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society, which was originally created to help Chula pay her medical bill, but has since expanded to help out other financially struggling artists with medical debts.

      A letter from Chula herself was read out, in which she stated that she saw her diagnosis not as a source of self-pity, but as an opportunity to reflect upon life and death. She also encouraged others to take control of their own medical treatment and to learn as much as possible, as she did.

      As she stated in the letter, "There is a huge relief in finally surrendering to something greater than myself. To know that I will breathe in and breathe out and breathe in and breathe out until the moment that I don't breathe in again. At that moment I will begin a new adventure."

      Attendees were invited to a gathering at the Yale Blues Club after the memorial.

      An on-line guest book has been created here.

      R.I.P. Babara Ellen Ciulla.




      Jackie Morris

      May 29, 2010 at 6:49pm

      So sorry to hear about Babz, may she rest in peace.