Who was Arnie Achtman? Now we Know!

In Fred Hamilton Park, a young maple tree was planted about 7 years ago, dedicated to Arnie Achtman. The tree has thrived and will become one of the great maples in our park with time. But who was Arnie Achtman?

At first I was curious, and then it became a mission to find out about Mr. Achtman as the Friends of Roxton Road took an active role increasing the tree canopy in our parks and more dedicated trees were planted.

It turns out I knew Arnie all this time!

He was the friendly tall guy with the Newfoundland dogs. Arnie and his dogs Roxy and Sally, walked through the Fred Hamilton Park several times a day saying hi to everyone…because we were all his friends. Once I knew that was Arnie, several other dots connected. I bumped into a long-time friend Donna, who at one point was Arnie’s partner in life. The answer to my question “who was Arnie Achtman” is below, written for us by Donna McFarlane. Thank you Donna for telling us a bit of his story and letting us share it on our website!

Dedication marker at the base of Arnie's Maple tree.

Dedication marker at the base of Arnie’s Maple tree.

Arnie Achtman.  Photograph from life rattle.ca

Arnie Achtman. Photograph from http://www.liferattle.ca

Arnie was an actor, performance artist, musician, writer and teacher. He taught expressive writing at George Brown College.

His two Landseer Newfoundland dogs, first Roxy (Arnie lived on Roxton Road) and then Sally (“Sally in the Alley” That alley is now named Achtman Lane!) were well-known in the neighbourhood.

Arnie’s first broadcast aired on community radio station, CKLN in 1988. He and co-founder Guy Allen started life rattle by putting stories from the Toronto community on radio. They also produced an annual story telling event, The Totally Unknown Writers’ Festival. In 1995, life rattle expanded to include non-profit book publishing.

In the foreword of A Celebration of Arnie, a book published after Arnie’s death in 2005, Guy Allen says
“Arnie did not love money. When he had enough, he gave it away to people or projects he believed in. Arnie did not care for power or position. Status moved him not. Arnie craved a sense of purpose, and set almost impossible standards for what that purpose had to be. Arnie worried about living without purpose. Arnie insisted that purpose had to come from doing things for others.”

And, I can add, that through almost 20 years of unpaid work broadcasting the untold stories of common people, Arnie certainly helped many, many people and accomplished his purpose.

Many of Arnie’s and others’ stories can be found on http://www.liferattle.ca

Arnie died of lung cancer in his home on Roxton Road in 2005. I still miss him.

Donna McFarlane

If you would like to share what you know about Arnie on this website so that we can tell more of his story, please get in touch with us at info@roxtonroadparks.com.

We also welcome stories and photographs about anyone connected to our parks!