Obituary of John Biernat
The family of John BIERNAT celebrates a life well lived. John passed away peacefully on 14 September in the palliative care unit of Grand River Hospital’s Freeport campus.
John was born on 12 January 1941 in Toronto to Polish immigrants, Andrej Biernat and his wife, Michelina (née Lech). His birth followed twelve years after that of his older sister, Kay, who predeceased him by 14 years. John is survived by his daughter, Leslie Ann Bednarski (née Biernat), her husband Steven Bednarski, and their two children, Iris Claire and Harper Grace.
The legacy John leaves behind extends beyond his family and endures throughout the world of comic books and comic art. In 1978, John, a high school teacher, founded Dragon Lady Comics, a Toronto institution that endured until 2012. The store was named for the sultry villainess in Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates newspaper comic strip. John’s shop featured in Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride and made a guest appearance in the 2011 film Take This Waltz. When it closed its doors after nearly 35 years, newspapers and websites lamented the loss of Dragon Lady Comics.
Between 1985 and 1988, John also oversaw Dragon Lady Press, which published reprints of Terry and several other classic comic strips. In so doing, John ensured the survival and dissemination of artwork that was rapidly being forgotten. Through his efforts, a new generation came to appreciate not only Terry, but also strips such as King of the Royal Mounted, Red Ryder, Wash Tubbs, Secret Agent X-9, and Brick Bradford. In recognition for his efforts to preserve classic comic strip art, Milton Caniff called John the “keeper of the flame.”
John’s contribution to North American comics and comic art cannot be overstated, but he was an equally passionate collector of rare books, fine art, and rich experiences. He loved animated conversations about history, a topic he taught through the Toronto District School Board, art, and politics. He especially loved the rich tapestry of American history and took delight in exploring the used bookstores of Boston, Delaware, and Philadelphia. In recent years, he relished in life in Waterloo Region and in sharing his collection through his stall at St. Jacob’s Market.
John will be missed but never forgotten. He lives on through his family and all those he touched through his teaching and collecting. Memories, condolences for the family, and memorial donations to Grand River Hospital’s Palliative Care Unit may be arranged through the Erb & Good Family Funeral Home at www.erbgood.com.