TFox Statue


TFox Map

The other day - April 12, 2010 - was the 30th anniversary of the day Terry Fox dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean in St John's, Newfoundland and began his Marathon of Hope, running across Canada.

In news coverage of the anniversary, it was requested that people share their memories of Terry Fox:

Marathon of Hope: Your memories of Terry Fox, CBC, Apr 12, 2010 (...How are you remembering Terry Fox? Tell us what your community is doing to mark the 30th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope. Send us your photos and videos.)

Motivated by that request (and being on a Terry Fox bender right now - see my recent articles HONOUR TERRY FOX NOT LENIN-MAO and TERRY'S FRIEND DOUG CARRIES TORCH) I'm inspired to share my Terry Fox memories.

I remember the day - back in the summer of 1980 - when I first really started paying attention to Terry Fox (although fleetingly I'd heard about a young man with one-leg running across Canada). It was the day Terry Fox ran into Toronto, Ontario and there was a crowd of thousands to welcome him. There was live coverage of his speech at City Hall on TV and all of a sudden everyone in the country - including me - was jumping on the Marathon of Hope bandwagon.

watch Terry Fox running into Toronto, YouTube

I was living in a town three thousand miles away in British Columbia (still am) and a local radio station ran a Terry Fox pledge-drive asking listeners to phone in with donations to be presented to Terry when he ran through our town on his way to Vancouver.

I had one child at the time - a four-year-old son - and he got so excited about Terry Fox coming to our town that he phoned in to pledge the money he had in his piggy bank. We could hardly wait until the day when we would be standing on the side of the highway waving to Terry Fox as he ran by.

It was a sad, sad day when - less than two months later, on September 1, 1980 - it came over the news that Terry Fox was ending his run, that his cancer had returned, and that he would be flying back home to Vancouver to go into hospital. I remember my son saying "Will Terry Fox still be coming here?" - not understanding that the run was over.

Then came the even sadder day when - ten months later, on June 28th, 1981 - the news announced that Terry Fox had lost his fight with cancer, and had died.

A few days after that, on July 2nd, I was driving to Vancouver Island to visit friends. It was the day of Terry Fox's funeral and I was listening to it live over the car radio. My son was asleep in the back seat and I was crying my eyes out, non-stop, for the entire duration. Sometimes the tears were so strong I could hardly see where I was driving - it was as though the windshield was covered with rain, even though it was a sunny day.

Then, a year after Terry Fox's death, almost to the day, on June 27th, 1982, our second child was born.

Fourteen months later, in September 1983, we particapted in the 3rd Annual Terry Fox Run.

TFox Run End TFox Run JGB TFox Run Start

We entered in the bicycle section of the race, with him riding in a child-seat behind me. See us in the first photo, second from left, with him in a blue snowsuit and white hat. My seven-year-old son is on the bike behind us, you can see his blond hair and blue sweater. The next photo shows his friend running with his parents (his dad died of cancer in 2005, shortly after being inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame for his contributions toward amateur boxing). The last photo shows us crossing the finish line.

For Christmas one year, not long after that, we received the book TERRY FOX: HIS STORY as a gift, and it's been living on a shelf down in the rec room ever since.

TFox Bk 81

Then the years went by and in 1989 my husband and me and our two boys - now ages 13 and 7 - drove from BC to Ontario (where I grew up and had family to visit in Toronto and Georgian Bay). We drove through the United States on the way there but on the way back we drove through Canada.

When we got to Northern Ontario, and started heading west along the Great Lakes, we became very aware of being in "Terry Fox Country":

TFox Map

For people who have never driven across Canada - and that would be millions upon millions - it's hard to comprehend just how huge the province of Ontario is. It seems to take forever to get out of Ontario - longer than it takes, at least that's how it feels, to drive across the entire three prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta put together.

As the miles go on and on and on - not that the scenery isn't beautiful, because it's spectacular - a person begins to wonder if they'll ever see the end of Ontario and have it BEHIND them instead of AHEAD of them.

It really sends the message home about the monumental feat Terry Fox accomplished. If this is what it felt like DRIVING across Ontario, can you imagine what it felt like RUNNING across Ontario? Actually, it can't be comprehended - not the way he did it: a marathon a day on one leg - and therefore it really MUST be a miracle.

We were camping all the way, pulling into campgrounds at the end of the day, and fishing and swimming in the lakes.

Cliff Lake Car Tent Campsite Tent

Fishing Swimming

It's always exciting getting to Wawa (whenever a person drives across Canada) because they've got the biggest Canada Goose in the world there.

TFox Wawa

When Terry Fox ran through Wawa, he was greeted by hundreds of people lining the highway. Already he'd become a national icon - a legend in his own time.

We even stayed in Terrace Bay, near the place where Terry Fox swam with the little boy who'd also lost a leg to cancer.

watch Terry & Greg Scott swimming, YouTube

Then almost at the end of Lake Superior - the largest freshwater lake on the planet (presently being threatened by Asian carp) - you come to the place where Terry Fox ended his run, just before Thunder Bay.

TFox Statue TFox Statue

We stopped and paid homage to Terry Fox at the statue there - a memory we'll cherish forever.

Recently I read that Terry's mother asked him one time why he didn't start his run in BC, instead of in Newfoundland, and he told her that psychologically he wanted to be running west, in the direction of home.

And that's the direction he's facing in the statue - running west. And he's almost out of Ontario, with just three prairie provinces and a mountain range to go through, and then he's home.... "and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep".

Godcidently, there was a TV crew following Terry as he was running toward Thunder Bay. They had no idea they'd be capturing the last steps of his run, and his last time entering the Marathon of Hope van.

watch & listen to Terry Fox describing the run, YouTube

But Terry had known that this might be his last mile. He'd told Doug Alward to stop the van as soon as he got past the spectators on the highway, and then to take him to the hospital. That footage - seen in the video above - is a picture worth a million words.

In 2002 (by this time the boys were 26 and 20 years-old and not coming with us on holidays anymore) we drove across Canada again.

Wawa 1975   Wawa 2002

We stopped for the traditional photo of the Wawa goose (just as we'd done together in 1975, the year we got married and were moving from Ontario to BC). In 1975 there was no Terry Fox statue down the road - it being five years before his run.

When we got to Thunder Bay - where the Terry Fox statue used to be - it had been moved across the road to a larger location overlooking Lake Superior - and this stretch of the Trans-Canada had been renamed TERRY FOX COURAGE HIGHWAY.

TF TB02 Back   TF TB02 Front

The statue was now 22 years old - the same age as Terry when he had stood on this very same ground. And it will be there for the next 22 years, and the next, and the next, and some day - if we keep the dream alive - our children's children's children will visit this spot - and learn about Terry Fox - Canada's most honoured hero - a legend in his own time.

A footnote to my memories of Terry Fox is that my son, the elder one, is 33 years old now. And, Godcidently, he has a son who was born on July 28, 2008 - the same day as Terry Fox's 50th birthday. I think that's pretty neat. ~ Jackie Jura

"I just wish people would realize
that anything is possible if you try
...dreams are made if people try...
I believe in miracles... I have to...
Because somewhere the hurting must stop."

~ Terrance Stanley Fox
July 28, 1958 - June 28, 1981


Terry Fox Monument, Thunder Bay (The monument currently sits atop a cliff overlooking both the harbour as well as its former home alongside the TransCanada Highway, which has been renamed the Terry Fox Courage Highway along this stretch between Nipigon and Thunder Bay. The statue of Terry Fox stands over 8 feet tall, atop the granite base. It was sculpted by Manfred of Oakville who was moved by Fox's determination: "That boy really had something inside driving him on. I don't know what it was, but it was very strong."...)

Map and Terry's Journal Entries, Terry Fox Foundation
...August 12: 4,675 km, Sault Ste Marie, ON - When a Sault Ste. Marie radio station broadcast that a spring had snapped in Terry's artificial limb, a welder jumped in his car to make a road call. In 90 minutes, the spring was repaired and Terry was on the road again.

August 18: 4,901 km, Wawa, ON - The Montreal River Hill, just south of Wawa, is 3 km long. Those who knew it were making the analogy of the hill being Goliath and Terry being David. Terry's t-shirt that day read: MONTREAL RIVER HERE I COME, with I'VE GOT YOU BEAT on the back!

August 27: 5,153 km, Terrace Bay, ON - Terry meets up with 10-year old Greg Scott of Welland, who had also lost his leg to bone cancer. "Greg rode his bike behind me for about six miles and it has to be the most inspirational moment I have had! At night we had a beautiful reception in Terrace Bay. I spoke about Greg and couldn't hold back the emotion."

Sept 1: 5,373 km, Thunder Bay, ON - "People were still lining the road saying to me, "Keep going, don't give up, you can do it, you can make it, we're all behind you." Well, you don't hear that and have it go in one ear and out the other, for me anyway… There was a camera crew waiting at the three-quarter mile point to film me. I don't think they even realized that they filmed my last mile… people were still saying, 'You can make it all the way, Terry'. I started to think about those comments in that mile, too. Yeah, I thought, this might be my last one."

Runner's World, January 2007, pages 94-95
...In Sudbury, I have lunch with a man named Lou Fine, who, in 1980, as District Supervisor of the Canadian Cancer Society accompanied the Marathon of Hope over its final six weeks. "I told one lie to Terry" Fine confesses to me. "When we got to the town of Marathon, halfway between Wawa and Thunder Bay, he got tendinitus so bad in his good leg that he couldn't go another step. One of Terry's supporters got us a small plane, and we flew to the Soo to see a doctor. The doc looks at his leg and says, "You gotta take a day or two off, son, or at least cut down to 13 miles a day." Terry of course says the hell with that. "We were all set to fly back to Marathon and that's when I told Terry my lie. I made up a story that fog had closed the airport in Marathon. We would have to catch a bus, and wouldn't you know it, there wasn't another bus coming through town until the next day." Lou give a dry laugh. "To my amazement, Terry bought my BS. He let himself rest for two days - two of the three days he took off out of the 143 days on the road.

On his way to Wawa Terry had followed a convoluted course through heavily populated southern Ontario, adding hundreds of draining miles to his route in order to collect as much money as possible for cancer research. Finally, in mid-July, he worked clear of the Toronto megalopolis and began running up Highway 69 along the eastern shore of Lake Huron, onto the edge of the rocky Precambrian Shield and the great boreal forest carrying north to the Arctic.

In Sudbury Terry picked up Highway 17, the southern arm of the Trans-Canada Highway, which carried him due west, into the morning fog and muskeg, along the blue deeps of Huron and Superior, through Blind River and the Soo and finally, in mid-August, to Wawa. Now, late on the Monday afternoon, he was about to speak at the Community Centre. Shelly [a teenage girl living in Wawa] raced across town and squeezed into the arena as Terry took the stage. In front of 700 citizens, Terry looked exhausted.

On this day, number 129 of his run, he had completed one of the hilliest portions of his cross-country expedition, and yet was only 30-minutes off his scheduled 3 p.m. arrival. "I guess I was spurred on by the challenge of it. Everybody kept talking about the hills - Montreal River, Old Woman Bay, especially Montreal River," Terry told the crowd. Shelly listened intently. "But when I got to the top of it, I said, 'Is that it?'" Shelly broke into a smile. Watching him, her first thought was that this must be what it was like seeing the Beatles. He had curly hair, a deep tan, and a white smile. He was pure muscle from all the running. At the same time, the angular machinery of his prosthetic leg made him seem like a vulnerable little boy. Shelly and her girlfriends were practically passing out looking at him. And besides being gorgeous, he was modest. "I'm not the one who is important here," Terry told the crowd. This whole thing isn't about me at all."

The people in and around Wawa raised more than $15,000. Donations included $500 from a Wawa motel, $88 from the sale of homemade blueberry pies, and the donation of a gold-plated goose. Another $1,000 or so came from motorists who donated directly to the caravan. Terry told the people of Wawa, before leaving the centre, why every dollar was important. "I've been on the road for four months and I'm sore. It's hard for people to comprehend what it's like getting up and running every single day. All we're trying to do is help this cause."...

Runner's World, January 2007, page 110
...On the third Saturday in September, a month after my trip through Ontario, I drove north from my home in Portland Oregon, through Washington State, under the Peace Arch border crossing, and into British Columbia. I spend the night at a motel in Port Coquitlam, just outside of Vancouver, watching a replay of a 2005 TV movie about Terry Fox and the Marathon of Hope. I'm impressed by the actor playing Doug Alward. The next morning I meet the real Doug Alward, a shy, intensely private man, and together we go to the Terry Fox Hometown Run in Port Coquitlam.

Near the starting line before the run, Alward shows me the various memories of Terry that have been gathered on a bulletin board. Noting Alward's interest, but having no idea who he is, a race volunteer asks him if he has any stories to share. Alward starts to speak, then catches himself, gives an awkward smile, and decides to walk away. I follow him.... There are still a few minutes before the start of the race and in the interval I ask Alward about his memories of Wawa. "Everything about that day was a blur," he recalls. "I vaguely remember the big white letters etched into a hillside on the side of the highway". Doug explains that their start that morning had been delayed because a film crew wanted to get a shot of Terry running up the nearby Montreal River grade. At his habitual 5 a.m. starting time, however, Terry would have been climbing the hill in darkness. So they waited an hour so the crew could shoot in daylight. "At the end of the day we had to pay the price," Doug tells me. "After leaving Wawa Terry still had to run another 90 minutes to reach his quota for the day." At that moment, the ribbon is cut at the starting line. Alward, a 2:45 minute marathoner at age 48, takes off into the morning drizzle....












Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~