By Anne Sutherland
Romaine Ardizzon was given a prognosis of three months to live when she was first diagnosed with lung cancer.
She hung on for 13 months to see her life's dream complete, the recording and production of an album titled Plus loin queue l'azur. She died on Jan. 5 at the age of 54.
Now 100 per cent of the proceeds from sales of that CD will go toward a planned palliative-care centre in the soon to be renovated St. Raphael Church in the neighbourhood adjacent to Outremont where she lived.
How the petite receptionist came to have her music on the shelves of Archambault alongside her idol André Gagnon is a testament to those who knew her and believed in her.
"Romaine would be amazed and so grateful to see this day," said her brother Marc Ardizzon at a record launch Tuesday.
Like many musicians struggling to make ends meet, Ardizzon played in bars and restaurants and guaranteed her rent money with a day job.
She worked answering phones at two seniors' residences in Outremont. It was here that her boss, Luc Maurice took notice of her talent.
Ardizzon gave him a recording of three songs she had written and performed and he was enchanted. She also confided that it had been her dream to make an album.
Shortly after this she was given the cancer diagnosis.
Maurice called up retired record producer and friend Raymond Paquin and asked him to help make it happen. Maurice would cover the cost of a studio, musicians and pressing copies, approximately $20,000.
"Luc wanted to give her a project and make her dream come true," said Paquin, who came out of retirement and worked for free. "Working with Romaine was very special, she was dying but she was the one encouraging us."
All the composing and piano on the album is Ardizzon while Pierre Laurendeau chose the musicians, technicians and did the arrangements.
Through bouts of chemotherapy, Ardizzon kept working, always striving for perfection. The album was completed in August 2010 and her brother Marc said she was listening to her CD when she died five months later.
That's when her friends really got busy. Sophie Thibault, TVA anchorwoman, had known Ardizzon for 25 years.
"I called a friend at Archambault and told them her amazing story and asked if they would sell the album and they said yes," Thibault said. "It was agreed that all profits would go to St. Raphael Palliative Care Centre."
"Romaine was timid, optimistic, obsessed with the piano, and something in her music touched me," Thibault said at the launch. "When I heard she died I thought, they better make room in heaven for a musician."
St. Raphael Church on Lajoie Ave. just outside Outremont, closed in 2008 due to dwindling attendance. It will be resurrected as a 12-bed palliative-care residence and a day centre for terminal patients, leased by the Archdiocese of Montreal for $1 a year for 50 years.
Proceeds of the sale of Ardizzon's CD will go toward the $8 million for renovations and startup costs to build the centre.
This story was first published in The Montreal Gazette, August 10, 2011, and is reprinted with permission.