On a recent Thursday morning, as drivers made their way to work in pounding rain, three runners jogged along Topsail Road holding a banner.
“Terry Fox lives,” it read.
And Terry Fox does live. He lives in every person who walks, runs or wheels in his name. He lives in all those whose lives have been touched by cancer.
Terry Fox was alive in the people who stood outside in cold, driving rain to see the new Terry Fox Mile 0 memorial unveiled at the foot of Temperance Street in the St. John’s Port Authority yard April 12.
We’ve come a long way from the wooden marker which first marked the spot where Terry dipped his foot in St. John’s harbour 32 years ago, noted Steve Marshall, chairman of the port authority.
“The weather turned bad today in honour of Terry Fox,” he added, referencing the 0 C temperature and the rain, drizzle and fog that greeted Terry and his friend Doug Alward on that morning 32 years ago.
“This is a weather recreation.”
I brought my available children down to see the remaining members of the Fox family come together with dignitaries and officials to remember the powerful impact Terry’s life and death had on a nation. The children didn’t complain about the cold or wet. How could they?
Even though they were not yet born when Terry Fox died, they know all about the sacrifice he made. They know he averaged a marathon a day for 143 days despite weather a lot nastier than the day of the unveiling. They know he ran 5,373 kilometres along highways with tractor trailers whipping by a little too close for comfort. They know he often ran alone while the wind howled and the rain, hail and snow raged. They know how, as he ran, the stump of his right leg bled as it rubbed against the prosthetic, and his lungs, filled with cancer, burned.
So last week they were honoured to listen when Terry’s recently widowed father, Rolly, spoke, moving the crowd to a standing ovation.
When we lived in B.C. several of the children had met Betty Fox, Rolly’s wife of 56 years who, ever since Terry’s death, had worked tirelessly in her son’s name to attempt to eradicate cancer. Betty was here on this same site two years ago when plans to build a fitting monument were announced. Now she lies next to her son in an unassuming cemetery in Port Coquitlam.
The children had also met Terry’s older brother, Fred, last fall when he came here to speak to thousands of school children so that they too could know Terry’s dream. But they had never seen Terry’s other siblings.
No. 2, who wears his navy blue Terry Fox hoodie year round, is the same age now as Terry’s younger brother, Darrell, was when he jumped on a plane and headed east to support his brother. The pressure of living in a smelly van had taken its toll on both Terry and his friend, Doug Alward, who had put his life on hold to help him realize his dream of running across the country. Darrell provided a well-needed buffer between the two, a big responsibility for someone his age.
“Run” a young adult novel by Eric Walters is a great read to help your children understand how difficult things really were. The Marathon of Hope wasn’t all meeting hockey stars and sleeping in cushy hotels.
And No. 4 is now the age Terry’s only sister, Judi, was when her brother died. Judi is now director of the International Terry Fox Foundation, which has raised more than $600 million for cancer research. The Fox family didn’t sign up to be spokespeople for the importance of cancer research. The job was thrust upon them. And they have valiantly stood up to the challenge.
It was an honour to be in their presence as hundreds of seagulls squawked and deafening rain beat down on a rented tent. The Shallaway choir sang a tribute to Betty Fox, and Kelly-Ann Evans, accompanied by Bill Brennan on piano, sang “Never Give up on a Dream,” the song written by Bernie Taupin, Jim Cregan and Rod Stewart and recorded by Stewart in honour of Terry Fox.
Can you imagine doing something so inspirational that a British rocker would record a song in your honour?
Mayor Dennis O’Keefe explained how Terry Fox is not just a hero to Canadians and recounted how, on a recent trip to Taiwan, the president proudly shared the fact he leads the Terry Fox Run in his country.
Terry Fox Runs take place all over the world. So next fall, if you’re in Abu Dhabi, Perth or Havana, join in the run and make a difference. You can volunteer to be a road marshal or to register participants. Or you can take your family for a bike ride in Terry’s honour.
If you’re in this province, get in touch with Heather Strong, provincial head of the Terry Fox Foundation, and see what you can do. A lot of high school courses and extracurricular programs like the Duke of Edinburgh program require volunteer hours. Heather can find the perfect job for you.
And, of course, you don’t have to be recognized for your work. A large part of the reason St. John’s finally got a statue of Terry Fox is because Donna Ball, who met Terry when he came to St. John’s in 1977 to compete in the Summer Games, wrote a letter to government members asking why St. John’s had no statue.
Ottawa has a statue of Terry Fox; Thunder Bay, Ont., has a statue of Terry Fox; Victoria, Port Coquitlam and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia all have statues of Terry Fox.
But up until this year, the place where the Marathon of Hope began had no statue. It is because of people like Donna that St. John’s now has a statue of Terry Fox. It is because of people like her that the federal government, the City of St. John’s and the St. John’s Port Authority all kicked in some cash to finance the larger-than-life bronze statue by Luben Boykov and the beautiful landscaping by Fred Hann.
As Steve Marshall said: we’ve come a long way since the site where Terry began his Marathon of Hope was marked by a wooden stick.
I used to recommend every visitor to St. John’s see the Veiled Virgin in Presentation Convent. And they still should. But now I recommend every visitor to St. John’s see the statue of Terry Fox at
1 Water St. East.
Finally, when John Crosbie spoke at the ceremony, he quoted Plautus (B.C. 254-184) — “He who dies for virtue, does not perish.”
He was correct. Terry Fox will never die.
Susan Flanagan recommends the following books to share with your family. They can be purchased at terryfox.org or from Heather Strong at the Provincial Terry Fox Foundation office at 835 Topsail Rd. (576-8428):
“Terry Fox: A Story of Hope” by Maxine Trottier,
and “Terry” by Douglas Coupland.
Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doreen Williams writes: “It was interesting to read this piece as it brought back many memories. We were one of those parents who were up on the Salmonier Line all night waiting for our son. I can’t believe it was 15 years ago.”