I hardly know where to start. Tuesday night I spoke at the awesome Beachville Historical Society about the book above. Featured prominently on the cover is Ron Calhoun because he volunteered his whole life to help others. He was The Man Behind the Marathons.
Most famous of the 5 walks/runs across Canada where he made his mark behind the scenes is, of course, Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. Ron was the man who came up with that winning title. Jesse’s Journey with John Davidson and his son, Jesse, was very popular in and around London where their two Journeys across Ontario and Canada helped raise money to fight Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Ron lent his considerable talents to both the first and the second of those Journeys. The book also tells about Ken McColm and Steve Fonyo. Imagine a blind man with diabetes and another one-legged youth walking across this vast country, again to raise money to help others.
In the banner above is also a picture of me presenting Ron with his very own copy of the finished book. We did that in his apartment in Byron (London) Ontario with Ron Cougler taking the photo. I’m not sure which of us, Ron Calhoun or me, was happiest that day. It was a few days before the first launch in London on June 24th, Ron’s 86th birthday. That was the best gift I ever gave anyone! And look closely to see Ron’s framed print of Cliff Kearns’ rendering of Terry Fox. Cliff gave me permissions to use that image on the cover of the book. Such a warm and thoughtful person.
The book was the culmination of 2 years of work on my part and innumerable interviews and meetings between Ron and me. He was a joy to work with, always a gentleman, never wanting to denigrate anyone (even when they definitely deserved it!), and sharing the many boxes of documents, mementos and photos he had collected over the many years of volunteering all across the world.
Last Friday we got the call in the wee small hours of February 7th that Ron Calhoun had passed away.
Since then I’ve mostly carried on with my life even though a very great friend is no longer in it. I told the people I needed to tell, I wrote a Facebook entry and I wondered how I should change my talk on the coming Tuesday. For I’ve become the person who wrote a book about someone who is gone. It’s a strange responsibility but I take comfort in the fact that I worked very closely with Ron about my ideas for the structure of the book. He gave me input all along the way and thanked me numerous times for the two years work I did. That was just Ron. He always made you feel that your contribution was fantastic. [Watch for audio and video recordings that I did with Ron.]
When I asked Ron what he most wanted out of life, he told me he wanted to leave the world a better place. Well, that he did. Tributes have been pouring in to the special FB page his daughter, Lori, set up, each one a testament to Ron’s caring and giving nature. A list of many of his accomplishments I had to include at the back of the book even though creative non-fiction doesn’t usually have that.
Ron’s funeral is next Monday. A good part of my family and Ron’s huge extended family–actual relatives or not–will definitely be there to send off this hero in fine style.