By Carla Wintersgill
Graydon Foster was born in Toronto on Sept. 25, 1990 to Eric Foster and his wife, Debora, a Ryerson chemistry prof. Graydon was the baby of the family, with an eight-year age difference between himself and his older brother, Ryan. He also had two older half-brothers, Colin and Chris.
A goofy-looking red-headed kid, Graydon was best known for his outsized personality. He lived to make other people laugh. At Mississauga Private School where he transferred in 2007 for his final year of high school, he made friends easily and those who met him felt an instant connection.
“His personality was so big that when you met him, you felt like he had known you for years and he had known you. It was instant warmth,” remembers his music teacher, John Alonso.
Graydon was a member of the senior band and he channeled his exuberance into a lead role in the school production of Beetlejuice. But his real passion was the guitar. He loved Led Zeppelin, Radiohead and Elliott Smith, but would learn how to play other people’s favourites for them. Graydon also wrote and played his own songs. “He should have been a rock star,” said his friend, Graham McMullen.
He was madly in love with his girlfriend, Sophia Ilyniak, who he had been with for over two years. They met for the first time outside Royal York station, where Graydon taught Sophia to say, “my grandmother was run over by a sea turtle” in sign language. He would often show up at her house unexpectedly, carrying a bouquet of expensive flowers. Sophia was struck by how close Graydon was to his parents.
“He just loved his parents so much and really appreciated them,” she said.
Graydon was a doting uncle to his six nieces and nephews who adored him. His brothers were all very successful, and Graydon aspired to make them proud. He finished high school with a 92 per cent average and decided to go into the business program at Ryerson so he could one day work at the same advertising agency as his oldest brother, Chris. But Graydon also had a dark side, which was marked by years of drug addiction and failed treatment. Starting in grade nine, he had a serious drug habit that included cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine. While he was pulling straight-As in grade 12, he also started to dabble in heroin. “He had a bit of a double life,” said Sophia.
Graydon tried a variety of treatment programs to varying success. He would manage to quit for a while and then gradually start up again. “He was fully aware that he had a problem and he would be very upset about it all the time,” said Sophia.
She remembers Graydon singing her the last song he ever wrote. It was about how hard it was to get sober. Graydon had recently signed up with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. He wanted to start the program right away and expressed his frustration to Sophia when his visit consisted mainly of filling out questionnaires.
His next appointment at CAMH was scheduled for March, but he would never make it. Graydon died in his bedroom on Feb. 9, 2009 of a heroin overdose. He was 18.