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Sunday Newsletter 2001-18Su.

May 6, 2001.

Well, I'm almost back to full strength this week after a couple of weeks in questionable health. I am however running late (again) in finishing this week's newsletter, so the total number of articles is not quite up to par as of yet. I should be able to have the usual volume of information ready for you by next week. In any case, you can always count on quality information here at FactsCanada.ca regardless of size. Enjoy the read.



= Question of the week
= Biography -- Gaetan Boucher
= Also born this week
= The unlucky artist
= Myth dispelled
= Place names -- Virginiatown, Ontario
= "Unreal" estate
= Joke of the week
= Quote of the week
= Answer to this week's question
= Preview
= Links and resources
= Legal and subscription information



What do Canadians Edward Johnson, Leopold Simoneau and Jon Vickers have in common? As usual, the answer can be found near the bottom of this newsletter.



Gaetan Boucher

This Olympic speed skater was one of Wayne Gretzky's only rivals for the hearts of Canadian sports fans back in 1984, as he dominated the speed-skating world and became Canada's first athlete to win four medals during winter Olympic competitions; one in 1980 and three in 1984.

Born in Charlesbourg, Quebec, on May 10, 1958, Boucher began speed skating to supplement his playing of hockey. By the time he reached 14 he had won his first of many Canadian speed-skating championships. A ninth place finish at only 17 years of age at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, established the fact that he was going to be a contender in the years to follow. In 1977 he was the world indoor speed-skating champion, and in the years 1978, 1980 and 1982 he finished second at the more prestigious World Sprint Speed Skating Championships. It was in the Lake Placid, USA, Winter Olympics of 1980 that he won his first medal (a silver), finishing second to American Eric Heiden in the 1000-metre race. This silver medal was one of only two medals that Canadians won at these Olympics.

Four years later found him competing again at the Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, despite breaking his ankle the previous year. What resulted was the most noteworthy performance ever by a Canadian Olympian -- he won two gold medals; one in the 1000 metres and another in the 1500 metres. He also won a bronze in the 500-metre race, bringing his Olympic total to three for 1984 and four all told (including 1980). He followed up these Olympics by winning both the 1984 and 1985 World Speed Skating Championships and was invested into the Order of Canada as an officer in recognition of his accomplishments. All together he won 19 victories in various international competitions and set 23 track speed records.

Last year the Canadian Press did a Broadcast News survey of broadcasters and newspaper sports editors, asking who they would pick as the top Canadian male athletes of the 20th century. The results were somewhat predictable, with six of the top ten and the top four being from hockey (yes, Wayne Gretzky was number one). Finishing eleventh in this balloting was Gaetan Boucher.

Today Boucher lives in Rosemere, Quebec, with his wife Karin and their four children. He is still closely tied to the sport of skating -- now, however, it is inline skating that dominates his life, as Boucher works in product development with the Bauer-Nike company helping to design in-line skates.



Even after filtering out a few names (70 percent of my original list), I still have a fairly large list for you this week. It seems that this week in May was an extraordinary one with respect to the birth of Canadians who achieved significance in their respective fields of endeavour. So, here is your list:

John Allan Irving, philosopher, born in Blenheim Township, Ontario, May 6, 1903.

Godfrey Ridout, composer, teacher, conductor and writer, born in Toronto, Ontario, May 6, 1918.

Sidney Altman, molecular biologist and educator, born in Montreal, Quebec, May 7, 1939.

George Alexander Drew, lawyer and premier of Ontario (1943-1948), born in Guelph, Ontario, May 7, 1894.

Janina Fialkowska, pianist, born in Montreal, Quebec, May 7, 1951.

Frank J. Selke, sports administrator, coach and National Hockey League Hall of Fame member (builders section), born in Kitchener, Ontario, May 7, 1893.

John Herbert Turner, businessman and premier of British Columbia (1895-1898), born in Claydon, England, May 7, 1834.

William Dempsey Valgardson, short-story writer, poet and novelist, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, May 7, 1939.

Denys Bouliane, composer, born in Grand-Mere, Quebec, May 8, 1955.

Edward Patrick Morris, 1st Baron of Morris, prime minister of Newfoundland (1909-1918), born in St. John's, Newfoundland, May 8, 1859.

John Norquay, premier of Manitoba (1878-1887), born near St. Andrews, Manitoba, May 8, 1841.

Harry Rankin, civic politician, lawyer and journalist, born in Vancouver, British Columbia, May 8, 1920.

Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier, lawyer, magistrate, orator, professor administrator, and writer of the poem "O Canada" (in French) which became our national anthem, born in St-Placide, Lower Canada, May 8, 1839.

George Woodcock, author and essayist, born in Vancouver, British Columbia, May 8, 1912.

Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, judge and first chief justice of British Columbia, born in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, May 9, 1819.

Christopher Dewdney, poet and artist, born in London, Ontario, May 9, 1951.

Bruce Mather, composer, pianist and educator, born in Toronto, Ontario, May 9, 1939.

Donald Charles Frederick "Don" Messer, musician (leader of his band The Islanders) and member of the Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Fame, born in Tweedside, New Brunswick, May 9, 1909.

Shawn O'Sullivan, boxer and Olympic medalist, born in Toronto, Ontario, May 9, 1962.

Barbara Ann Scott, figure skater and Olympic gold medalist, born in Ottawa, Ontario, May 9, 1928.

Clarence Eugene "Hank" Snow, singer, songwriter and member of the Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Fame, born in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, May 9, 1914.

William Albert Fuller, ecologist and conservationist, born in Moosomin, Saskatchewan, May 10, 1924.

Norman Ward, political scientist, author and teacher, born in Hamilton, Ontario, May 10, 1918.

Robert Kenneth "Bob" Baker, film director, actor and teacher, born in Edmonton, Alberta, May 11, 1952.

William Richard Bird, novelist, born in East Mapleton, Nova Scotia, May 11, 1891.

Yves Sioui Durand, writer, film director, actor, producer for stage, television and radio, born in Wendake on the Huron Reserve near Quebec City, Quebec, May 11, 1951.

Nancy Greene, alpine skier and Olympic gold medalist, born in Ottawa, Ontario, May 11, 1943.

George Trakis, sculptor, born in Quebec City, Quebec, May 11, 1944.

Robert Baldwin, lawyer and politician, born in York (now Toronto), Ontario, May 12, 1804.

Frank Clair, Grey Cup winning (five times) football coach, born in Hamilton, Ontario, May 12, 1917.

James Edward Hervey "J.E.H." MacDonald, painter and founding member of the Group of Seven painters, born in Durham, England, May 12, 1873.

Farley Mowat, author, born in Belleville, Ontario, May 12, 1921.

Anne Ottenbrite, swimmer, Olympic gold medalist and Member of the Order of Canada, born in Whitby, Ontario, May 12, 1966.



Although born in Barcelona, Spain, on May 7, 1932, Jordi Bonet decided to visit Trois Rivieres, Quebec, in 1954 and fell in love with our land. His newly-adopted country inspired him until the end of his short life.

As a child Bonet endured the hardships and violence that surrounded him growing up during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). At the age of seven he broke his arm in a fall from a tree. The arm turned gangrenous and had to be amputated at the shoulder. Despite these setbacks, Bonet allowed art to become his refuge and, by the time he was 20, he had his own studio.

Shortly after his 1954 visit (during the same year), Bonet moved to Canada permanently and settled in Montreal. His artistic talents then surpassed just paintings as he became a muralist and sculptor. The next 15 years were his brightest as he produced over 100 murals in addition to his other works. In 1969 he bought the Manor House known as Rouville-Campbell on the banks of the Richelieu River in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec.

In 1973 he fell ill, putting an end to his work. Although he dreamed of more spiritual and sacred art, he was suddenly taken from this world at the young age of 47 on Christmas day, 1979. He left us only the history of his short life, and a body of truly great works.



This is probably only a personal myth dispelled, but perhaps others were also mistaken in their personal recollections.

I was always told, as a child, that British runner Roger Bannister was the first man to break the four-minute barrier for the one-mile race. Although this is true, it is the venue that is in conflict with my what I remember. You see, I thought he accomplished this feat here in Canada in 1954, with the setting being the newly-built Empire Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia. I remember as a child, and a few times in later years, marvelling at the statue of Bannister located on the south side of the stadium dedicated, I presumed, to this historic event called "The Miracle Mile".

Well, the year was indeed correct, but the date was May 6 (47 years ago today) to be exact. On this date Bannister accomplished this feat at Oxford University's Iffley Road track in jolly ol' England, recording a time of 3:59.4. Bannister did again break the four-minute barrier at Empire Stadium, but it was later in the same year at the British Empire Games (now called the Commonwealth Games) in August 1954. At that time Bannister became the first person to break the four-minute barrier on Canadian soil, improving on his old record by clocking a time of 3:58.8. These achievements earned him "Sports Illustrated" magazine's first sportsman of the year honours.

Although I did not have my facts exactly right, Bannister was the first to accomplish this amazing feat in Canada. He was knighted in 1975 and Sir Bannister was a respected neurologist before he semi-retired. By the way, Richard Ferguson of Canada won the bronze medal in the 1954 games in competition with Bannister who, of course, won the gold.



Virginiatown, Ontario

No, Virginia, this town was not named after the American state of Virginia. With a population of around 800 people, Virginiatown is located less than ten kilometres west of the Quebec border along Highway 66. It is located in the Timiskaming District, some 50 kilometres east of Kirkland Lake, Ontario. It was named in 1938 after the wife of George Webster, president of Kerr-Addison Mines -- her name was Virginia Webster.



It has almost been a year since Maurice "The Rocket" Richard died from abdominal cancer on May 27, 2000. His five-bedroom house went on the market last fall with a list price of $649 000. An advertisement invited buyers to "make your dream come true. Live in Maurice Richard's house." Well, things never worked as planned for real-estate agent Gerardo Di Feo, with the house finally being sold for a quarter of a million dollars less than the original price, or a mere $399 000.

The house was built in 1948 and sits on a 9000-square-foot lot in the northern Montreal neighbourhood of Ahuntsic. This waterfront property was home to Richard for about 50 years.

I can't help but wonder, though, if the real-estate agent approached the selling of this property with too much zeal and tried too hard to over emphasize Richard's fame. Di Feo is quoted as saying, "I cannot understand why last year, when Mr. Richard died, they made such a big thing out of it, and now nobody is willing to put up $50 000 to say 'I own the property.'" He followed this up with the comment, "Mr. Richard was a somebody in the province and in the country, [yet] nobody gave two dollars extra for it." Mr. Di Feo said in the end, "Mr. Richard's connection to the house had no impact on the sale."

The buyers, whom he described as a regular family, were attracted by the most common need; "Location, location, location," he said. "They did not overpay. They got a decent deal, like it was nobody's house." Richard's sons Norman and Maurice, who are handling the estate, do not wish to comment on the sale. Di Feo said, "They are disappointed by the outcome, but want to move on."



Q. Why are 1990 Canadian dollar bills worth more than 1989 Canadian dollar bills?

A. Because $1990 is worth more than $1989.

Now how many of you were thinking of the arrival of the loonie and how it would tie in? Be honest.



"The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were invented not to fight the Indians, but to prevent white renegades from the United States from demoralizing the Indians." --Pierre Burton, author and media personality, 1976.



At the beginning of this newsletter I posed the following question: What do Canadians Edward Johnson, Leopold Simoneau and Jon Vickers have in common?

The answer is that they are all, or were, opera singers. More precisely, they all are categorized as tenors.

Edward Johnson was born in Guelph, Ontario, in 1878. His career highlight was the joining of the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1922 where, for 13 seasons, he remained one of its most highly-acclaimed singers. He retired back home to Canada.

Leopold Simoneau was born near Quebec City, Quebec, in St-Flavien in 1918. Also a teacher, he has recorded all of the Mozart tenor roles, most notably "Cosi Fan Tutte" with Herbert von Karajan conducting.

Jonathan Stewart "Jon" Vickers was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, in 1926. He has recorded "The Messiah" and has appeared in the operas "Rigoletto", "Carmen" and "The Rape of Lucretia".



Next Sunday I profile Tom Cochrane and Marie Chouinard, tell you about Disraeli, Quebec, tell you about the Canadian connection to the mystery behind the "Mary Celeste", list a few world records held by Canadians or set in Canada, bring back the pet peeves section, give you some background on Mother's Day, and answer the question, "What are the Bessie Awards?"


So long until next week, when I will be anxiously awaiting the return of my slave-driving partner Craig.



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