Andrew Donald Craig Arntfield: Musician. Artist. Raptors fan. Oenophile. Born April 15, 1957, in Toronto; died Feb 6, 2022, in Toronto, of cardiac arrest; aged 64.
Andrew Arntfield was born with his parents’ passion for piano and his father’s ability to play by ear. He was a quirky kid who also loved comics and pop culture: He spent countless hours memorizing the TV Guide and every jingle to every show and commercial. (Well into his 50s, he attended Comicon in Toronto and San Diego and collected comic art until his death.)
His career path was laid at Clarkson Secondary School in Mississauga, where he founded a radio station and won the talent competition performing Billy Joel’s Piano Man. His classmates still remember the year he commandeered the school’s PA system on the last day and blasted Alice Cooper’s School’s Out for Summer.
Upon graduation, he enrolled in the Radio and Television Arts program at Ryerson (now called Toronto Metropolitan University), taking on a job at Sam the Record Man to pay the bills. He dropped out after several months to join the first of several rock bands with whom he spent the next decade crisscrossing Canada. He had small brushes with fame: the opening slot on a Steppenwolf tour, minor radio play and playing with the Lydia Taylor Band as she won a Juno. The long hours on the road built lifelong bonds with bandmates but he grew tired of the lifestyle as he got older.
In 1989, he reinvented himself by starting a graphic-design firm without one moment’s training in how to use a computer for art. He spent almost 35 years running the business that evolved into Field Day Inc., building a team as close as many families and earning big clients such as Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the Canadian National Exhibition.
In the early 1990s, he reunited with Patricia Kelly, the love of his life whom he’d first met as a teenager. They spent the next 30 years together. Together they ran in the Humber River valley, fervently watched Raptors games and cooked (often making enough chicken pot pie to get a small settlement through the winter). Andrew and Patricia did not have children but enjoyed the children of their extended family. Andrew liked to whip the toddlers into a frenzied excitement by chasing them around like a maniacal version of the tooth fairy. And while he looked mild-mannered, Andrew’s karaoke performances were legendary, especially his version of Mississippi Queen.
Andrew’s older brother was also his childhood idol. David was often called a big kid but the moniker fit Andrew just as well. After David’s tragic death in 2019, Andrew channelled his grief into caring for their elderly parents. During the pandemic, he set up their computer to auto-answer Facetime calls – a huge gift to the family – making it possible to connect despite his mom’s dementia, his dad’s blindness and lockdowns that confined them to their room.
In recent years, Andrew became a wine aficionado and he built tight friendships over a shared love of grapes. And no one was surprised when he discovered a hidden talent with a brush and began selling paintings across North America and participating in juried art shows.
Andrew was both generous and zealous with his passions – he mapped out each run on social media, assertively shushed those around him at concerts and transcribed every word of his grandfather’s journals onto Facebook. While he’d drop anything to help you solve a problem, you’d better be sure that you had as much energy as he did for understanding the solution to whatever mystery you’d set him on.
Andrew was a major fan of Steely Dan, but it was the 1984 take on their song Dr. Wu by the postpunk band the Minutemen that could get him on the dance floor faster than any other. Like the song that moved him, Andrew was a burst of talent, passion, precision and energy over too soon.