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In Memoriam: Paul Dedi

An illustration Paul Dedi drew for his wedding. Dedi’s iconic line art, used on collateral and in association with numerous promotions, is synonymous with Alpinist. He passed on January 25, 2008, in a mountaineering accident. [Illustration] Paul Dedi

Paul Dedi passed away on 25 January of this year from injuries he suffered
in a mountaineering accident. His death has left many grieving–his beloved
wife Im Mei, family in Ontario and BC, co-workers at MEC, climbing partners,
fellow artists and animators. Paul’s soul was of great character, humor,
brilliance and honesty. With his death we have lost one of the like-minded
fellow lunatics of the climbing and illustrating communities.

Paul was known best to the readers of Alpinist as the artist who created the
line art gracing the renewal card in the magazine; his work has appeared in
Alpinist since Issue 0. His was a fresh style of drawing filled with motion,
life force and the freedom implied by climbing. When editor-in-chief
Christian Beckwith first saw Dedi’s drawings in 2002, he realized he had an
illustrator with the “minty freshness” he was looking for. Paul’s drawings
also were used on Alpinist t-shirts, stickers and water bottles. Like all
things vintage Alpinist, if you have it, save it… the rest were lost to
the fires of bad forklift driving.

Alpinist gear with Dedi’s signature line art. [Creative] McKenzie Long

Paul shone brightly in the Vancouver climbing community for his love of the
mountains and his drive to be out there in them. He was strong and
dependable, good on rock, snow and ice. He learned to climb in Thunder Bay,
Ontario, where he grew up; he did more rock climbing while living in Hong
Kong and picked up glacier-travel skills in the rugged peaks of the Coast

Paul started out typically enough for a kid from a working-class
neighborhood. He was the youngest son and the fifth of seven children born
to his parents Alexander and Ella Marie in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Paul grew
up a scrapper and was never one to mess with. His brother Peter recalled a
story when they were at school. He was called to help his “little brother
Paul” who was mixed up in a fight. Peter arrived to find Paul with his
larger opponent in a headlock, thumpin’ the fellow’s head into the dirt.

Dedi on Mt. Baker. [Photo] Paul Dedi collection

After high school, Paul worked on the railroad but realized he needed more
education to be happier in a job. He mulled over a decision to study to be a
medical technician or film animator.

His sister Sherry told him to do what his heart told him. He entered
Sheridan College to study film animation despite having a relatively
under-developed style of illustrating. It’s no surprise to those of us who
knew him later that he worked so hard to improve his style; he graduated top
of his class.

A company rep, Gary Thomas, from an animation firm in Hong Kong arrived
looking to hire only one person. Despite fierce competition from his
classmates to represent their portfolios to the gentleman, Paul’s teacher
recommended Paul. Paul thought he would be in Hong Kong for three months. He
stayed four years.

Dedi and his wife, Im Mei. [Photo] Paul Dedi collection

Out climbing one day at Shek O, a popular crag in Hong Kong, he watched two
women climbing nearby. He asked the belayer, Annie, who the leader was. “Im
Mei Kwok” was the answer. Later on, Paul saw Im Mei at the train station,
where climbers catch the bus to the crags. He told her he had some pictures
of her from the day he saw her and Annie climbing. He suggested coffee, and
she agreed. “Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked and was crestfallen to hear
“Yes…” But he had “forgotten” to bring the photos so asked if she’d meet
him again. Years later he would say the greatest feat of his life was
“tricking Im Mei into marrying me.”

[Photo] Paul Dedi collection

When Paul returned to Canada with Im Mei, they put down in Vancouver for a
holiday. It was love at first sight with the mountains and the city, and
instead of returning to eastern Canada, they moved to Vancouver. With the
economic downshift of those times, their first few years trying to establish
themselves in the city were hard, and Paul decided to go back to school to
learn computer animation. He then started working part time at MEC. With
animation jobs scarce and horrendously underpaid, Paul opted instead to go
full time at MEC and to pursue more climbing.

Dedi showing some leg. [Photo] Paul Dedi collection

Working at the Vancouver store of Mountain Equipment Coop, Paul was known
among colleagues as a no-nonsense worker with a rapier sense of humor.
Co-workers and customers alike received brutal honesty from Paul, and woes
betide anyone who was disrespectful to him or to a fellow co-worker. One
sucker foolish enough to pluck a hair from Paul’s head was picked up, one
hand in the crotch, one on the arm, and tossed into a rack of product.

In 2002 when Christian Beckwith was starting Alpinist, he asked me if I knew
of any illustrators. I suggested Paul. Pleased with the reception of his
work in Alpinist, Paul was also working on graphic novels at home and
vetting them with MEC co-workers. His work “The Vegiterrorists” was one such
work, illustrated in Dedi’s signature style. It was a saga set in an
abattoir that explored the “unavoidable void of wrong and right. Clash
together in a bloody frightful fight. Over who eats who and what tastes

Paul was a rare personality, and the tragedy of his passing is the loss of
his ready humor, his love for his wife, his deep respect for the people he
cared for, his readiness to go climbing, his brutal honesty and his
creativity. Paul was an original, an only-one-from-this-mold kind of guy. He
is one who won’t be forgotten.

Would you all please take great care when out climbing, and continuously
ensure your safety at all times. Never cease to be vigilant and mindful of
every step you take in the mountains.

Paul Dedi walking toward his mountain. [Photo] Paul Dedi collection