Musical fundraiser a tribute to Victoria photojournalist Keri Coles

IN CONCERT

What: A Night of Music and Photography for Keri Coles
Where: The Rubber Boot Club, 1605 Store St.
When: Thursday, Feb. 20, 8 p.m. (doors at 7)
Admission: By donation ($10 minimum)

Keri Coles made the most of the personal and professional opportunities in her life, winning friends with her ever-present smile and positive outlook, and peers with her exceptional photographic and journalistic abilities. Coles died at 41 on Nov. 7 after a brief battle with lung cancer, a brave fight that she documented in part on social media.

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But her legacy continues to reverberate, as evidenced by a benefit concert scheduled for tonight at the Rubber Boot Club on Store Street.

Friends of Coles from the music and arts community — of which there were many — will join with her family for a benefit concert aimed at celebrating her life and work.

The money raised will benefit her husband, Gene Coles, and daughter, Ella Grace, who was 11 when Coles died. Singer-songwriter Elli Hart and Steph Macpherson will join rockers Shed Monkeys as performers at the event, along with a notable special guest from this region.

Coles’ photography, which earned the Black Press photojournalist several awards at the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspaper Awards — including new journalist of the year in 2019 — will also be on display.

Coles was candid about her illness on Facebook, calling her advanced metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer diagnosis “a massive plot twist” in a post on June 3.

Coles had been accepted into a university in Europe, where she and her family were expected to move in August following the sale of their home. Her plan was to spend one year in Aarhus, Denmark, and one year in Amsterdam while working on her master’s degree in journalism.

“While this diagnosis would be devastating at any stage of my life, the fact that I have a young daughter that I am most likely going to leave motherless, is utterly soul-shattering,” she said of her diagnosis.

She asked via Facebook for her friends and acquaintances to build a crowd-sourced library for her daughter, and asked those who wished to contribute to inscribe the book with messages of support and encouragement, “so that every time [Ella] gazes at the bookshelf or pulls one down to read, she will be reminded that she is a part of a web of beautiful and brilliant people that love and support each other.”

Coles’s remarkable positivity never wavered through her fight. “In the end, I can’t help but feel that I have lived an extremely charmed life and while this health news is devastating, this world doesn’t owe me anything,” she wrote on Facebook. “It has been rich in challenge and fulfilment, nature and beauty, connection and love. My only pain and heartbreak comes from leaving my family. And you, community, have stepped up in ways that ease my heart and let me know that they will continue to be cared for by our village. Thank you. I love you.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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