Unlikely Soldiers is one of the best historical books I’ve ever read and it left an indelible memory. I think about these two brave, young Canadian men at this time of year.
An assignment at the London Free Press a decade ago was to interview the author of this book, Prof. Jonathan Vance from Western University. He spent two years doing research for his book, published by HaperCollins.
Ken Macalister was a Rhodes scholar and Frank Pickersgill was a doctoral student in classics at l’Université de Paris. They both became double agents for the Resistance in France.
Pickersgill had previously worked as a freelance journalist for several newspapers back in Canada for a time.
With Britain’s Special Operations Executive, the men could have chosen any job in Ottawa during the war effort, Vance told me, but they chose the most dangerous.
Parachuted into France in 1943 with false identities, they were captured by the Nazis, tortured and sent to Germany.
Vance said they suffered appalling abuse but refused to reveal anything to the Nazis.
Pickersgill and Macalister were hung on meat hooks and their bodies incinerated.
“The thing that is most important about Remembrance Day, when the moment of silence comes, is to have a person’s face to think about. If these two guys can provide us a focus for remembrance, I’m delighted with that,” Vance told me.
Crushed to hear of the death of Denis Ten in Kazakhstan on Thursday.
The silver medalist from the World Figure Skating championships in London made a lasting impression on me when he was here.
Denis Ten gave me a couple of fantastic interview at the worlds. He was engaging, always smiling and excited to talk about his freedom fighting ancestor from Korea.
The then 19-year-old took the time to talk to everyone.
It was shocking to hear that he had been stabbed multiple times over car mirrors in Kazakhstan, where he was born.
Reports stay Ten was stabbed after confronting thieves who were stealing his car mirrors. He bled to death.
Ten won the silver medal in London and nearly beat Canadian Patrick Chan for gold.
Ten skated a memorable long program to The Artist .
His choreography and interpretation of the music was superlative and he stood out among the world’s best.
So amazing was his performance that a petition was started to try to get him the gold.
Ten had the best free skate of the night with a personal best of 174.92. Chan scored 169.41 on the long program, with 267.78 overall. Ten nearly caught him, finishing at 266.48.
An emotional Ten got down on his hands and knees at centre ice at Budweiser Gardens after his skate and kissed the ice. He touched his heart and blew kisses to the audience. Two Kazakhstan flags were seen in the crowd. Later he had one of them as he skated around the arena.
When I talked to Ten about his skating he said it was great-great grandfather who brought him courage on the ice.
Ten’s ancestor was Korean freedom fighter General Min Keung-Ho, who sacrificed his life for Korea’s independence in the early 20th century and is much revered there.
“Sometimes I skate and I think that he watches at me and I have no chance to fail him, to disappoint him. It’s sort of an additional responsibility to me,” he said.
“I wish I could meet with him and talk to him because I know how strong he was. All this helps me when I realize my great-great-grandfather was such a great man.”
Maybe he’ll get his chance to meet his great-great grandfather now. It’s the only consolation as I think of such a ruthless and senseless act that took Ten’s life.
Fr. John Devine was our parish priest at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Sarnia when I was young.
The school my brother and I attended was next door to the church and Fr. Devine was a constant presence as we walked to and from school past the church and when he came into classrooms frequently to talk to the children.
Many of my classmates became altar servers at the request of Fr. Devine and many of the servers were girls.
It was at a time when there were no female altar servers. We didn’t know it but we were breaking new ground.
We loved working with Fr. Devine and he made us feel appreciated and respected. He joked and laughed with us frequently. He answered all our questions, including, “Do animals go to heaven?” and taught us to love and respect every human being.
He worked with a nun named Sister Mary and they were a formidable team. She was his equal always and we knew that as children.
Moving is tough when you’re a kid and you leave the familiar. When our family was leaving the city for Lambton County, Fr. Devine gave me a gift before I left. It was a beautiful lantern that I still have to this day. It was to light my way. It always has.
His kindness has never been forgotten by me and countless others.
Today my son’s basketball team won a thriller in double overtime in the semifinal at the Ontario high school championships – OFSAA – in Pembroke.
They now go on to the gold-medal game tonight.
The students at Mother Teresa high school in Northeast London had a chance to watch the game, thanks to a livestream provided by media studies students at Pembroke, where the OFSAA tournament was held.
It is the first time the school has had a boys basketball team at OFSAA.
Even if you don’t play sports, the win was a big one for the school and student body, who celebrated wildly.
These kids will remember this game winning shot as time ran out by Oren Rusagara for the rest of their lives.
One of the really cool things about ofsaa is how it pulls communities together. Hearing from friends, past players, students, and staff is special. Our journey continues today and that support inspires and strengthens us. #OFSAAPembroke2018