EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Banner declares 'Way to go BOB' as Staff Sgt Bob Martin completes Special Olympics Torch Run in 1991

Under "certain pressure" from his Ontario Provincial Police colleagues in the Chapleau detachment that he may be trying to avoid the annual Ontario Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics in 1991, Staff Sgt. Bob Martin agreed to run it early, and  fellow officers decided it needed special attention.

Jennifer (Swanson) David, at the time a young reporter noted that "under certain presssure from his colleagues who accused him of trying to purposefully miss the event, he agreed to do the run early" ahead of the June 11 scheduled date.

Staff Sgt. Martin was going to be on vacation on the date of the run.

"Although he wanted to complete the run with as little publicity as possible, his colleagues decided everyone should know about it."

Accordingly as Staff Sgt. Martin and fellow runner Marshall Canning ran from the Moore Arena on the 2.5 km run, they were followed by a police van with lights flashing. 

As the van passed the cemeteries on Grey Street an ambulance pulled in behind the runners with sirens and flashing lights. On arrival at the separate schools they were met by the press.

The run successfully completed, they were congratulated and posed for photos.

Colleagues from the Chapleau detachment made him a banner which said "Way to go, BOB!"

Jennifer added that although he looked somewhat flusteered by all the attention, he took it in stride and thanked everyone.

Participating in the run at Chapleau were the Ontario Provincial Police, Ministry of Natural Resources and local by-law enforcement.

In 1991 it was the 5th annual Ontario Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics which is an ongoing program of fitness, recreation and sport for people of all ages who have an intellectual disability; a cognitive delay, or a developmental disability, according to its web site.

Jennifer's article noted that the "ultimate goal is that all Ontarians are provided with the opportunity of participation in sport and physical activity."

On a very personal basis, I am most impressed with the program at the Cranbrook Aquatic Centre where I swim almost daily for the past few years, and on one evening a week, the Special Olympics swim program is underway. Participants enter into competitions and over the years have done exceedingly well.

Jennifer, the daughter of Bunny and the late Keith 'Buddy' Swanson of Chapleau is now senior consultant at NVision Insight Group Inc. She holds Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Journalism degrees from Carleton University in Ottawa.

Jennifer, who was communications director at the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network is the author of 'Original People. Original TV. The Launching of the Aboriginal Peoples TV Network.' She is also a member of Chapleau Cree First Nation.  My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day: Colin's birthday brings million plus together on Facebook

Sitting alone in a school office at lunch time and not having any friends to invite to a birthday party, may not be the usual situation for a 10-year-old boy.

Quite possibly,  it may be more common than we think, but as Valentine's Day approached, and I was thinking about an appropriate column, likely about the usual "stuff" one writes for this occasion, an article in The Huffington Post caught my attention.

But before I tell you more about Colin, I was beyond shocked, and trust me, that takes some doing, when I read in Northern Life magazine online that in the United States, in 2014, total spending was expected to reach $17.3 billion -- yes, "billion" for Valentine's Day.

I double checked and that amount comes from a survey  conducted by the National Retail Federation in the United States,which claims that "the average person plans to spend $133.91 on candy, cards, gifts, dinner, and more, up slightly from $130.97 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $17.3 billion."

That's in the United States with a much larger population than Canada, but, to me at least, it's a staggering amount.

Back to Colin. The Huffington Post reported that Colin who lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan told his mother, Jennifer, that when she asked her son what he wanted to do for his birthday, he said he didn't want a party. 

“Mom, who am I going to invite? I don’t have any friends,” he explained.

The Huffington Post article added that Colin was diagnosed with a disorder similar to autism about a year ago, and because of it, he has difficulty socializing.

His mother was devastated, but she took action and created a Facebook page which at the outset was set up for family and friends to send Colin birthday wishes so he could see how loved he is.

The Facebook page also demonstrates the best of the use of social media.

Here is the mother's story taken from the Facebook page:

"I am Colin's Mom, I created this page for my amazing, wonderful, challenging son... Because of Colin's disabilities, social skills are not easy for him, and he often acts out in school, and the other kids don't like him. So when I asked him if he wanted a party for his birthday, he said there wasn't a point because he has no friends. He eats lunch alone in the office everyday because no one will let him sit with them, and rather than force someone to be unhappy with his presence, he sits alone in the office. So I thought, if I could create a page where people could send him positive thoughts and encouraging words, that would be better than any birthday party. Please join me in making my very original son feel special on his day."

Colin was in for a surprise on his birthday. As I write this column, Colin's birthday Facebook page had received more than 1.8 million Likes, and growing. I spent some time going through the comments being made, and they reflect an outpouring of affection and understanding from people all over for Colin, along with suggestions like the Best Buddy Club to help him make friends.

It made my Valentine's Day. In a society which so often today seems divisive, sefish and uncaring, the support being shown to this one child because of an action taken by his mother, shows we still have the ability to focus on those things that bring us together rather than those that divide us. And without spending $17.3 billion to show our love.

Or perhaps, you may wish to undertake your own Act of Random Kindness, keeping in mind the the following quotation, attributed to Etienne de Grellet, (1773-1855), a Quaker missionary,  and others. "I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

Happy Valentine's Day. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Addenda... This is an update of a column I wrote in 2014 for the now defunct Cranbrook Guardian. His Facebook page is still going strong.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ernie Gilbert 'hard act to follow' served on council honoured as King of 1979 Chapleau Winter Carnival

Ernie with faithful dog Rusty
Ernest Lucien "Ernie" Gilbert, after retiring as an engineer on the Canadian Pacific Railway, decided to enter municipal politics in Chapleau, was elected in the 1972 election, and served several two-year terms, as a councillor.

Ernie, as he was known also served as Deputy Reeve, and in 1979, was honoured by being selected to be King of the Chapleau Winter Carnival, a Taste of the North.

I first met Ernie at an all candidates meeting in the Legion Hall for the 1972 election, and happened to follow him in the speaking order. 

After listening to his speech, my first comment was "That's a hard act to follow."  And he was in so many ways as I was to learn over the next few years. We were both elected, and  became good friends. 

No matter the time of day, Ernie was on the job as a councillor. and chair of Public Works, and I recall several cold winter nights when he would get me up to attend at a water main break, bringing coffee for the Town Gang who were on the job repairing it.
Nick Card, T Way-White, Dr Young, MJ, Ernie

Recently I have been in touch with his grandson Brad who retired in 2013 after 30 years service with the Ontario Provincial Police, and asked if he would assist with a column about his grandfather.  Brad agreed.

Brad related that his grandfather was "the 7th son of a 7th son which in the early 1900’s was believed to bless you with the gift of healing. On Sunday afternoons, people would come to the Gilbert home to have my grandfather (then a young boy) rub their ailing parts, such as swollen feet and legs. As an adult, he became well known in the community for having the power to cure warts. Children would come to him with their hands covered in warts.

"He would rub a penny on each wart and bury it in a location only he would know and before long the warts would disappear and so goes the legend.

Ernie and Marcel Bougeault in 75th anniversary water parade with passenger MJM
"I grew up experiencing many of his home remedies, such as hot mustard plasters and a combination of sliced potatoes covered in black pepper, held in place over your forehead with a folded handkerchief to cure a fever. Many nights, I endured the pepper potatoes sliding down into my eyes and burning like fire. I’m not sure if it cured the fever or just made you stop complaining about it."
King Ernie, Bonhomme, MJM

His grandfather was a  French Roman Catholic and at the age of 23 married Alice the love of his life. "They raised four girls during the depression years. These were very challenging times and he learned many trades to support his family, such as lumberjack, fisherman, guide, miner, trapper and wood whittler.

"After the depression he became an engineer for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was well known on the railway line as the engineer that played 'Shave and a Haircut' on the steam whistle no matter what time of day or night he was passing through town."

He  "loved and respected the bush and he loved to go brook trout fishing. He took great pride and enjoyment in sharing with his grandchildren the adventures of getting up at the crack of dawn and heading out to catch some speckled trout in little streams that you would never believe held such amazing trout. As kids and even later as adults we suffered the wrath of black fly and mosquito season when fishing with Grandpa. We spent more time swatting flies than we did fishing but Grandpa always seemed unaffected by them and always came home with the most fish."

"He was very active on his trap line. As a young boy growing up, I spent many weekends spent on the trap line with Grandpa. Many valuable life lessons were learned during those outings. Grandpa always had a pocket full of hard candies and offered them up often. I learned to pass on the generous offer as they were usually covered in pocket lint with a mixture of beaver hair and twigs. In the winter months, we would travel by snowmobile. Grandpa was usually driving and I was been pulled on a toboggan behind. I learned early on to hold on for dear life because to fall off always meant a long walk to catch up because grandpa seldom looked back as he was looking ahead for animal tracks. His memory lives on in the Chapleau Museum where a beautiful black wolf was donated by him and is on display."

On one occasion when Ernie was out on his trap line with his faithful dog Rusty, during his years on council, he fell and broke his leg. Rusty helped him back to his vehicle and Ernie managed to drive himself back into town to the Lady Minto Hospital. I asked Brad about it and he recalled that Rusty went right into the hospital with him and did not want to leave. Finally Stan Tokarchuk, who worked at the hospital and was their next door neighbour brought the dog home.

By the time Brad, who was attending school arrived at the hospital, obviously concerned about his grandfather, Ernie was telling stories to the nurses. 
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On the night of the next council meeting, we did not expect Ernie to attend, and no sooner had everyone commented, than Ernie arrived. He had managed to get up the stairs to the council chambers in the old Town Hall, and never missed a meeting even though one leg was in a cast.

He was a founding member of the Chapleau Senior Citizens Club in 1973 serving as a vice president, as well as on the board of Cedar Grove Lodge. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus and Ontario Trappers Association.

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Back to Brad: "My grandfather had many skills and gifts but his legacy is the happy, loving memories that his family has of him. Only a few weeks ago, I was going through a photo album of my grandfather and reminiscing about our time together. I started to cry, not a trickling single tear but a full blown ugly cry. That’s who my grandfather was. A man who made such an impression on me that memories of him generated that response, 18 years after his death."

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE