N.B. writers and LGBTQ community ‘very worried’ about missing mentor Richard Vaughan


Meredith Batt, an aspiring Fredericton writer, had been hoping to meet with her mentor, Richard Vaughan, this weekend to discuss one of his pending projects.

“He was including our upcoming book in an anthology about New Brunswick queer writers,” said 25-year-old Batt, noting it would be the first of its kind.

“I thought I would hear back from him in the coming days but then I heard a police report had been filed,” said Batt, who is also well-connected in the LGBTQ community and is vice-president of the Queer Heritage Initiative of New Brunswick.

“A lot people are very worried.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, Fredericton police posted a call for help on social media, saying that Vaughan had last been seen Monday in the 500 block of Aberdeen Street.

They do not suspect foul play, but they said they want to locate the 55-year-old author, or at least, verify that he’s safe.

Apparently, they’ve also got his flip phone.  

Friends hopeful

Keith Cole, a performance artist in Toronto, said he called Vaughan’s cellphone, and a police officer answered and told him the news, that one of Canada’s most prominent and celebrated queer artists could not be found.

Having known Vaughan for 20 years, Cole said he doesn’t feel in his gut that his dear friend is in danger.  

“I don’t know why I’m feeling this way, but I’m just hoping that somehow he’s on his way back to Ontario and I don’t know if that’s on a bus or Via Rail or airplane,” said Cole. “I don’t think he’s much of a hitch-hiker.”

The two have collaborated on many artistic projects, including a dance film that was due to be shown in Rhode Island on Wednesday night.

Toronto performance artist Keith Cole says that he spoke to his friend just before his disappearance and that Vaughan was joking and in a good mood. (submitted by Keith Cole)

They had joked about attending, knowing the pandemic would make it impossible.

In fact, they’d been speaking on that flip phone just a few days ago, said Cole, who ran for mayor of Toronto in 2010 and has also performed in drag under the stage name Pepper Highway.  

“Hilarious phone call, laughing back and forth for hours and hours,” said Cole, describing his last conversation with Vaughan. “His battery ran out so we just continued our hilarious conversation by email. No sign of any trouble or any anxieties or anything.”

Meanwhile, Batt said people in New Brunswick’s arts and LGBTQ communities are anxious about the well-being of a great role model who has been generous with his time and ideas.

Recently returned to NB

“He’s been an incredible positive force,” said Batt. “He encouraged me to take up writing.”

That seems to be one of his greatest gifts to a younger generation of New Brunswickers.

Vaughan had moved back to his home province to be writer-in-residence at UNB, after building his career in larger cities such as Toronto and Berlin.

Cole said he was extraordinarily proud of his position at the university.

The area where Vaughan was last seen Monday on the 500 block of Aberdeen St. In Fredericton. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

Sue Sinclair, UNB’s director of creative writing, said the residency finished in May but Vaughan stayed on after his official term to work on projects that had been delayed by COVID-19.

“He was active and engaged,” she said from her office on campus.

“I am still in shock. I have not even come close to processing the news.”

Sinclair said Vaughan has been working on a book of autobiographical poems and planned to take a collage project to Ryerson University.

‘Lots of things on the go’

“It was an invitation to use words and images and make a collage on the theme of resistance,” said Sinclair.

“He went for collage because he felt like it was a very friendly access point for anyone interested in trying something with words.”

“He believed that anyone could become a writer and that everyone should have the opportunity to write.”

“That was at the heart of the work he was doing here as writer-in-residence.”

She said he was also keen to showcase gay New Brunswick writers with a project called a chat book.

“I guess you could call him an old guard gay writer,” Sinclair said. “He was one of those people who broke that barrier and first emerged as being willing to be gay in public, so that was a big contribution that he made.”.

Cole said Vaughan has just received a Canada Council grant.

“He had lots of things on the go, always, always, always.”

“Cross your feminist fingers that he’s OK,” said Cole.

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