An Honest, Genial and Kindly People by Adrian K. Paton
An Honest, Genial and Kindly People by Adrian K. Paton

Working on this book with Adrian and his daughter Val was one of the most heart-felt projects I’ve had the pleasure to design, and it was also the most serendipitous contracts I’ve ever gotten. Out of the blue I get an email via my website from Val Guillemin. Her dad was looking at publishing options and someone suggested she talk to Les Henry who had self-published two books. While speaking to Val, Les mentioned my name as I had worked with him on the design of those books. My name sounded vaguely familiar to Val. She asked her husband Glen if he had played volleyball with a Cynthia Hoffos – sure enough he did – 20 years ago! But that in itself did not win me the contract.

Val shared the book’s content with me so I could review it. Not only was I impressed by Adrian’s vast and rare photo collection, I was deeply touched by his love and respect for nature. Sprinkled throughout the book are stories about how Adrian obtained his photos, growing up on a farm near my own hometown, and the legend of Old Wives Lake, to name a few. While reading his words I felt an instant bond to this man. Once a prairie girl, always a prairie girl. For example, one morning he was at H.H. Pitman’s nieces home. She had contacted him about some photos she had of her uncles that she thought Adrian might be interested in seeing. The visit crossed over into lunch and she invited Adrian to stay. Adrian attempted to decline but “her pioneer prairie spirit had no room to accept any solution other than that if someone was there at meal time you fed them. End of story.” That is exactly how I was raised and I still feel the same way today.

In the end I know Adrian hired me to design his book as he wanted to retain full editorial control. But being from a small farming community in southern Saskatchewan didn’t hurt. In Adrian’s words “I don’t want her doing us any favours just because she knows you. She sounds like a genuine person and I like that she is a prairie girl.” He was ready to abandon any other options and hire me on the spot. His words still make me feel good.

Quite a few years ago Frank Korvemaker (Saskatchewan Archives), suggested that Adrian put his collection of Indigenous photos into a book. And that is exactly what he did. We began the process at the beginning of May 2018 and sent the final files to Friesens to be printed at the end of September. By the following January it was on the McNally Robinson best seller’s list for five weeks in a row. And in 2019 it was one of the High Plains Book Award Finalists for Art and Photography.

In the summer of 2019, my friend Dani and I went on a road trip to Arcola to finally meet Adrian face-to-face and place our stones on Hawk Hill. Now the job was completed. What a privilege to be trusted with this legacy project. One I doubt I will ever have the pleasure to repeat in my design career.

I shared a special and rare connection with Adrian and was sad to hear he passed away, peacefully, in his own home in January of 2021, just a month shy of his 87th birthday. Adrian had a significant impact on the preservation of Saskatchewan history and in October of 2021 his book received a Saskatchewan Heritage Award in the category of Public Outreach.