Ross Bertram: Master Magician
THE FINAL CHAPTER
In his mid-seventies, Ross started to prepare for the end.
Not wishing to burden Helen with this added responsibility, Ross began cataloguing his collection and disposing of some of his apparatus. He kindly gave me many exquisite pieces including cups and balls, the chuck for spinning the cups, Welcome Mats, coins, coin pails, close up boards, and a variety of other gimmicks.
Once his collection had been catalogued into two main groupings—magic and gambling—and a price had been established, I suggested to Ross that Gene Matsuura would be a prime candidate for the collection. At this stage of my career—and marriage—I could not afford to acquire such a major collection. I had introduced Gene to Ross several years earlier and Ross had a keen respect for Gene. Gene and Ross came to terms and the collection was boxed and shipped to the Matsuura residence. Ross organized his remaining affairs including the funeral plot and tombstone carved with all pertinent information except the final date.
Near the end of his life, Ross and I had our own falling out.
His behavior and attitude became more erratic. My own life and career took a completely different path. Ross’ health began deteriorating. In May of 1992, Ross had a severe coronary occlusion. He was hospitalized for two weeks and then released in a very weakened condition. A few days later, Ross and Helen were out shopping. He stopped breathing and was rushed to Humber Memorial Hospital where he was resuscitated and put on life-support.
Gene Matsuura flew in from California. Ross died a few days later on June 12, 1992, six weeks short of his 80th birthday. Msgr. Foy conducted his funeral service and he was buried at Riverside Cemetery in Weston, Ontario, not far from where he and Helen had lived. Gene Matsuura and I were among the pallbearers.
Shortly after Ross’ demise, Helen Bertram gave the remaining magic memorabilia to Gene Matsuura. Gene purchased the rights to the items Ross created for sale, along with the copyright interests in his books and films. Gene allowed L & L Publishing to release the films as Ross Bertram’s Legendary Magic.
Ross never wanted the films to be released publicly. He knew their limitations. Upon much reflection, however, Dr. Matsuura believed that any record was better than no record and it was important that Ross’ contribution to magic—as a performer—be made available to magicians. I couldn’t agree more.
Helen Bertram died on March 16, 1999 and was interred with Ross.
I understand the privilege that I have been given. Master magicians are few and far between. Most magicians are grateful if they spend a few hours in the company of one so learned in the craft. I spent years. Ross entrusted me with his magic so that it could live—that is, be performed—by and for another generation.
I hope that this tribute, dedicated to his memory and magic, inspires you to learn more about this Star of Magic.
I would like to thank Msgr. Vincent Foy and Dr. Gene Matsuura for their contribution and thoughts to this exhibition.