A few weeks ago I was walking along the waterfront and suddenly became aware of something that I had missed on many prior occasions. This statue:
I had seen the statue many times before but always from behind. I had always assumed that it was Steve Fonyo but it's not. It's Terry Fox. People may know of Terry Fox. If not, this is about him (have a tissue ready):
Terry Fox was a top notch human being. I remember being very affected by him and, as a 12 year old kid, donating all my paper route money to his 'Marathon of Hope.' I remember when he had to stop running across Canada and his subsequent death the next summer; my JFK moment.
Years later Steve Fonyo, another man affected by cancer like Terry, decided to do a similar run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. He completed the run in May of 1985 right near where the above statue is. This area is called 'Mile 0' and is the western most point of the 'Trans Canada Highway'. It's a popular start/end place for cross-Canada trips.
I skipped out of school to witness the event. Thinking back, if it had been Terry Fox I suspect schools would have been closed so that everyone could go and see Terry.
But poor Steve, he got flack left, right and centre for the whole duration of his run. He was deemed a copycat and that he was only doing this for his own personal gain, that he was riding on Terry Fox's coat-tails, that this was just a publicity stunt and various other playground taunts.
I remember standing there, in the drizzling May rain and feeling completely saddened by the lack of people out to cheer Steve Fonyo on his finishing his run and the lack of recognition and celebration of his achievement. I felt disgusted by my fellow citizens. I can only imagine how Steve must have felt.
Years later, I read that he had gotten into a lot of trouble with alcohol and drugs and had been arrested for drunk driving and assault and had various other problems. It didn't really surprise me. Here's someone who tried to make a positive impact on society, and received a smack in the face for his troubles.
To me the above statue is another example of that. I admire Terry Fox immensely but his likeness should not be at Mile 0, Steve Fonyo's should be. But then, this is a city built on milking tourists of the money. The suits at City Hall know that busload after busload of people are going to stop to have their photos taken in front of (the more famous) Terry Fox. They understand marketing. It's an insult to Steve Fonyo and it's an insult to historical accuracy.
On the plus side, Steve did get the beach where he dipped his artificial leg into Pacific Ocean named after him.
And it's a fine beach. It's actually 'my beach' - the beach where I go to think.
And I'm happy to share it with him.