Category Archives: People

International Women’s Day

It’s International Women’s Day and I am going to celebrate by introducing you to some of the amazing women I’ve met on my international travels.

This is Wayan in her restaurant and health shop in Ubud, Bali. Wayan is one of the main characters in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love. Wayan opened her business to support herself and her daughter after leaving her abusive husband.

This is Por Ko, the principal of Goldstone School in Phnom Penh Cambodia. I volunteered at Goldstone and so admired how Por Ko ran a school in a huge old house where she had turned the bedrooms into classrooms and made do with limited resources and staff to provide the best education possible for 150 students.

These are domestic workers in Hong Kong enjoying their Sunday fellowship. They work a six-day week and Sunday is their only day off. They leave the Philippines to go to Hong Kong and work for wealthy families. Their earnings are sent back to help their families in the Philippines. Many of the women leave their own children behind to care for the children of wealthy Hong Kong residents. I interviewed a group of these women for an article in the Winnipeg Free Press. I so admired their courage, resilience and faith.

This is Beatriz a fellow grandmother and a fellow teacher in Merida Mexico who led a workshop we took about making chocolate. It was a delight to get to know her and visit with her. Her teaching supports her family and she is helping her son and his fiancee get their chocolate-making business off the ground.

Victoria was a university student from Odesa who served as our guide on a walking tour of Kyiv. Intelligent, articulate and engaging Victoria was studying languages and she and a friend came up with the idea of practising their English by giving free tours of Kyiv and then asking people to make a donation when the tour was over. Their self-initiated business had drawn the attention of the local television station and they interviewed my husband Dave to see how he had enjoyed his tour with Victoria. We took Victoria out for lunch after our tour and heard a little of her life story. I so admired her many talents and her vision for the future.

When I was volunteering at a tutoring centre in Runaway Bay Jamaica I went to visit an affiliated daycare set up by this amazing woman named Claudette Brown. She runs a daycare for 140 children on a tiny piece of land in a ramshackle old building with four small rooms. Six other women work with her. She receives no government support. Sometimes parents forget to pick children up at the end of the day so Claudette takes them home with her.

Dee Dee, a woman in her early 30s was our snorkelling guide on a trip to Boracay in the Philippines. Her sister cares for Dee’s Dee’s seven children while she acts as a guide on her brother-in-law’s touring boat. After our snorkelling trip, Dee Dee invited us to her home. Made from bamboo, with a concrete floor and thatched roof it does not have running water. Dee Dee’s Dad who is debilitated from a stroke lives with her. Dee Dee depends on the tourists who come to Boracay for her income. When I asked her what keeps her going despite the many challenges she faces, she said it was God. “I know God is always watching over me.”

We met this marvellous young woman Ayaka when we were touring a kaleidoscope museum in Kyoto. She was a museum worker and was very friendly. We struck up a conversation with her and she offered to meet us after her shift and show us the sights of Kyoto. She explained how the subway worked, took us to her favourite restaurant and spent the evening filling us in on what life was like for a young woman in Kyoto. Ayaka had big dreams and a desire for new experiences. We have kept in touch since our first meeting.

Rong was our bicycle guide on several of our visits to Yangshou China. She was an incredible young woman who biked into Yanghsou every morning from her home 15 miles away. The money she was earning as a guide would help her younger brother go to school and help with her mother’s medical expenses. Rong had lost the sight in one eye in a childhood accident but that didn’t hold her back from being a fabulous guide. I wrote a story about her for the Winnipeg Free Press.

These four women and I formed the high school English Department at an international school in Hong where I taught for six years. They were the absolute dream team to work with- dedicated, hard-working, innovative, caring and collegial. Meena was from India, Rebekah from the United States, Vanessa from Hong Kong, I was from Canada and Liz was from Australia. We were truly an international group of educators.

Other posts…………….

Meeting Wayan From Eat Pray Love

This Woman Should Be A Jamaican Saint

Faithless? Definitely Not!


Filed under Holidays, People

The Power of A Poem

As far as I’m concerned the poet stole the show at yesterday’s inauguration of American President Joe Biden. Standing full of promise in her bright yellow coat and bold red hat twenty-two-year-old Amanda Gorman’s voice rang true and clear across her country and the world as she recited the rich and rhythmic words she had written especially for the occasion. What passion! What poise! What purpose! I’ve listened to Amanda recite her poem The Hill We Climb about half a dozen times now and so far I just can’t choose which is my favorite line.

We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another

Even as we grieved we grew, even as we hurt we hoped, even as we tired we tried

Victory won’t lie in the blade but in all the bridges we’ve made

We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one

If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

Let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left

For there is always light if only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.

I have a feeling Amanda’s poem will be read or listened to in many classrooms this morning. By yesterday afternoon my Twitter feed was lighting up with ideas from teachers about how they might share The Hill We Climb with their students.

I was thrilled about that. I taught high school English for six years and inevitably when I would introduce our poetry unit there would be groans in the classroom. Teenagers thought poetry was boring, hard to understand, and certainly not something they could write. I loved to watch them develop personal preferences for certain poems and poets, learn that a poem could mean something different and true to every person who read it, and realize they too could be poets.

Amanda’s poem will certainly become one that is oft-recited and loved and its words will be interpreted in a myriad of ways as people think about how its message applies to them. I wonder if it may have the power to inspire a whole generation to believe they can be poets and also practical people of principle who dream they can change the world and then go out and do it.

A very young and incredibly gifted Black female poet stole the show at yesterday’s American presidential inauguration. What could be more fitting or give the world more faith in the future?

Other posts………

Poetry and Teenagers

Artistic Inspiration For Our Time

The Comfort of a Poem

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Filed under People, Poetry, Politics

Who Is That Interesting Man With You MaryLou?

I am with my Uncle Herb Fransen in Scottsdale Arizona.  My uncle is a retired surgeon. With Uncle Herb, you never run out of conversation topics. He’s interested in all kind of things- Mennonite history, travel, medicine, athletics, nature, photography, family and politics.  Uncle Herb is a retired surgeon, who practised in the mid-western United States and he and my Aunt Mary have also lived in Asia and Europe. For a time when I was a toddler, he and my aunt shared a home with my parents. My uncle practised medicine in Newton Kansas and he and my aunt retired to a property in Arkansas. We met him in Arizona when we were holidaying there and he was staying at his daughter’s home for a time. I don’t get to see my uncle very often but when I do we always have lots to talk about.  I am with the author Mark Twain in Hannibal Missouri. Of course, Mark Twain died in 1910 so the man I am actually with is actor Richard Garey.  I attended his one-man show on a visit to Missouri.  Standing on a stage crammed with Twain memorabilia, Garey did a lively and educational re-creation of one of Mark Twain’s lectures and storytelling presentations. Mark Twain travelled across the United States entertaining crowds of people in the late 1800s. His real name was Samuel Clemens. A pipe-smoker, with little formal education, he loved cats, was an abolitionist and notoriously bad at handling his finances. He was born and died in years when Halley’s Comet passed by the earth.  Mark Twain is a character in my novel Lost on the Prairie which will be published this spring.

I am with my friend Lot Sze in Hong Kong.  Lot, who was a well-known actor, television director, and radio host in Hong Kong was an exchange student in my hometown of Steinbach in the seventies. When he found out some people from Steinbach were in Hong Kong, even though he didn’t know us, he called and introduced himself and said he wanted to return the hospitality he had received during his time in Steinbach. We had so many good times with Lot during our six years in Hong Kong. He took us for meals at gourmet restaurants and gave us a tour of his radio station. He took us to movie premieres and on a trip to the city of Guangzhou.  Lot was a good friend to us and we were so sad in 2018 to hear the news that he had died. I am with Thomas Alva Edison on the estate he and his wife owned in Fort Myers Florida.  Edison is known as the greatest American inventor of all time.  On my visit to his southern home, I learned he proposed to his wife in a Morse Code message and that his parents were both Canadians.  He took out patents for over a thousand inventions including the first record player and movie projector. He made hundreds of movies but perhaps is most well known for inventing the first practical long-lasting light bulb. Edison was technically deaf and was good friends with Helen Keller.  An avid fisherman he was very interested in botany and gardening.  He loved baseball and played the piano. 

If you were going to share a photo of yourself with an interesting man who would it be? 

Other posts…………

Getting Up Close and Personal With a Famous Inventor

Good-Bye Lot Tze

Visiting Uncle Herb


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His Dream Came True

In 1986 Dennis Toews was a frustrated and confused ten –year- old boy. His family had just arrived in Canada, and Dennis was trying to learn to speak English in a special class at Southwood School in Steinbach, Manitoba. If you had told him then, that someday he would be living in Hong Kong, and working as a pilot for one of the top-ranked international airlines in the world, he would never have believed you. When I was living in Hong Kong I interviewed Dennis and he told me his dreams do come true story.

Dennis, who is the son of Cornie and Maria Toews, immigrated to Steinbach from Paraguay with his family in April of 1986. He attended Southwood and then Elmdale School, the Steinbach Junior High, and eventually the Steinbach Regional High School. During grade eleven and twelve he worked part-time at a car dealership Penner Chev pumping gas and washing cars. He took a full-time job there when he graduated from high school.

Waldo Neustaeder, his boss, had an incentive and education program to bring in new business. He sent his workers to customer relations seminars in Winnipeg and every six months he rewarded the employee who had referred the most new customers to Penner Chev, with a thousand dollar travel voucher. Dennis won the reward three times and decided to use his travel money to go on a trip to Hong Kong with his friend Ed Wiebe.
Ed’s brother Wilf was a pilot for Cathay Pacific Airlines and Ed and Dennis flew to Hong Kong on a plane Wilf Wiebe was piloting. Wilf asked Dennis if he’d like to sit in the jump seat in the cockpit during the Vancouver to Hong Kong leg of the journey. Wilf also arranged for Dennis and Ed to spend time in the flight simulator Cathay Pacific housed in its Hong Kong headquarters. Dennis was hooked! For the next two nights, he woke up sure that his bed had sprouted wings and he was flying. He decided then and there that he was going to be a pilot and fly for Cathay someday.

It was January of 2000 when Dennis arrived back home in Steinbach from his trip to Hong Kong. Before saying anything to his parents about his new career plans he went to Harv’s Air Service to find out about getting his pilot’s license. Owner Harv Penner told Dennis he could take his first ground school class for free. Five minutes into the first class Dennis knew he’d been born to fly. He went home and told his parents he was going to be a pilot. During the next five months, while still working at Penner Chev, he got his pilot’s license and upgraded some of his high school courses so he would qualify for admittance to Mount Royal College in Calgary where he earned a Diploma in Aviation.
After both his first and second years of college, he gained valuable experience flying fishermen up to the Grass River Lodge near Flin Flon owned by Ike and Liz Enns from Steinbach. A tip from a college classmate landed him a job at an aviation company called North Write in the fall of 2002. He worked for them for four years. He flew Cessna 172s and Twin Otters often landing on water or ice with pontoons and skis. He delivered personnel and supplies for oil and diamond exploration, brought cargo to northern communities and flew hunters and fishermen to vacation spots. 

While working for North Write he was able to log the 1500 hours of flying time he needed to have a chance at a job with Cathay Pacific. He also had to study for two difficult written exams. He went to Calgary to write the exams and then decided to fly to Hong Kong and personally hand in his resume at Cathay Pacific headquarters. In December of 2006, they gave him a job.

In 2009 when I interviewed Dennis in Hong Kong he was flying the AirBus 340 and 320 to London, Paris, Johannesburg, Rome, New York. Bahrain, Sydney, Auckland and many other destinations. He loved the opportunity to see the world and travel to so many different places. From what I could find out from Linked In and Facebook Dennis continues to live in Hong Kong today, has been promoted to the rank of captain and still flies for Cathay.
Dennis said the question he gets asked most often when he tells people he is from Steinbach, Manitoba is whether he is related to Miriam Toews- since he and the well-known Canadian writer share a common last name and hometown. While he can’t claim Miriam Toews as kin, her father Melvin was his teacher at Elmdale School, so he does have one connection with the best selling author.
Dennis says he never would have believed during his childhood in Steinbach that someday he’d be a pilot for Cathay. He has a photo he’s kept to remind him of his dreams come true story. The day he came home from his first flying lesson at Harv’s Air Service he asked his sister to take a picture of him standing in his bedroom pointing to a model Cathay plane he had hanging from the ceiling. He told his family that someday he was going to fly planes for Cathay. And that is exactly what he does!

Other posts…………

Tom Lamb- Mr. North

Miriam Toews Has A Complicated Relationship With Her Home Town

She Persisted


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Little Women- Getting To Know A Character In A New Way

Florence Pugh plays the role of Amy March in 2019’s Little Women 

Our family saw Little Women when it opened on Christmas Day. One of the things I enjoyed about the film was that director Greta Gerwig gives more prominence and depth to the character of Amy March, the sister who is the artist in the family, and one who has not always seemed that likeable in previous movies based on Louisa May Alcott’s book. Amy matures and shines in the new movie. My favourite scene is one in which she makes a really impassioned speech about the limitations placed on women in the 1800s. 

Photo of Abigail May Alcott and portrait of her painted by her Paris roommate Rose Peckham

I always knew that the novel Little Women was semi-autobiographical and after seeing the movie I wanted to learn more about what Amy March had in common with Louisa May Alcott’s younger sister Abigail who was known as May to her family.  As it turns out, like Amy in the book, May was also an artist. With the income from her writing, Louisa was able to help her sister May study art in Boston and Europe.  

Still Life With Bottle by May Alcott exhibited in the 1877 Paris Salon and La Négresse by May Alcott exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1879

May who was a writer, as well as an artist, wrote a guidebook for other woman called Studying Art Abroad and How To Do It Cheaply. Although it wasn’t easy to be a female artist and get your work exhibited in the late 1800s May had several of her paintings accepted into the famous Paris Salon, something very few women managed to achieve. She was friends with American artist Mary Cassatt who also exhibited at the Paris Salon.

Lulu Alcott, May’s daughter came to America to live with her Aunt Louisa when she was ten months old

While living abroad May met and fell in love with a Swiss businessman, Ernest Nieriker, and they were married in a quiet, private ceremony in Paris. Theirs was a happy marriage but sadly May died shortly after the birth of her little daughter Louisa, who they called Lulu. At the dying request of her mother, Lulu was sent home to America to live with her Aunt Louisa. 

the other alcottI have ordered the novel The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper to help me further explore the woman on whom Louisa May Alcott based her character, Amy. 

I think one of the reasons Greta Gerwig’s film Little Women is proving so popular is because she gives us new insight into some of the characters in the much-beloved novel, helping us see them through a modern lens in ways that are both engaging and intriguing. 

Other posts………

Celebrity Sighting At Breakfast

Ojibwa in Paris

Who is She? 

Why Do We Share Our Worst Selves With Those We Love the Most?


Filed under Art, Movies, People

Kindred Spirits

Last week I spent a morning in Carmen Manitoba talking to a group of some twenty -five women about my life and travels.  Susan Mooney had invited me to speak. She and her husband Tom are long-time residents of Carmen, but Tom’s parents Isaac and Lottie Mooney lived in the Steinbach area from 1944-1980.  One Christmas Lottie gave her son Tom and his wife Susan a gift subscription to The Carillon and they have been subscribers ever since. Susan has been reading my newspaper column Viewpoint since I first began writing it in 1985.  She had always wanted to meet me and decided inviting me to Carmen, as a speaker for her women’s group, would be a way to do that.

I was interested to learn that the group, which meets at the Carmen United Church, has been in existence for almost forty years. Every Wednesday they invite a speaker to make a presentation and then they ask questions and have a discussion. In the weeks prior to my October visit, Theresa Oswald, a former Manitoba Health Minister had been a speaker as had Jean Friesen a university professor and spokesperson for the Treaty Relations Committee of Manitoba. The week following my visit Nilufer Rahman a Muslim community builder and filmmaker was scheduled as the guest and after her retired Canadian senator, Joanne Buth was speaking.  I was told authors Miriam Toews and recent Governor General award winner Joan Thomas had presented in past years.

The women began their meeting by introducing themselves and then answering a question posed by Susan Mooney. She said since she had always wanted to meet me she wondered who might be a person the other women had always wanted to meet. A number thought they would like to meet Queen Elizabeth while several named favorite childhood authors like Lucy Maude Montgomery, Beatrix Potter, and A.A. Milne. Others mentioned the Dali Lama, Michelle Obama, Margaret Atwood, and Eric Clapton. One woman was looking forward to meeting a refugee family that would be arriving in Carmen shortly. Hearing the women’s answers was a great way for me to get to know the group a little better. I told them I already felt like we were kindred spirits. 

In my talk, I used examples from my own life to expand on an idea I was first introduced to at my son’s university graduation many years ago.  On the journey of life we have a choice to be pilgrims or tourists.  Which will we be?   After my presentation, the women asked questions and made comments and their ideas and contributions were thought-provoking and meaningful.  During our lively discussion, I learned more about the women’s families, travels, reading preferences, community work and faith affiliations.

The women take turns bringing soup for lunch each Wednesday, so I was treated to a hearty bowl of hot vegetable soup and some fresh bread before beginning my drive back to Winnipeg.  The women in the group are busy with all kinds of other interesting things.  The woman to my left at lunch had come to our meeting from her yoga class and the one on my right told me she was headed off to a community choir practice.

Before I said goodbye the women posed for a photo with me.  I wanted a reminder of my morning with them. I gave Susan Mooney a hug and thanked her for inviting me. Two other women who also happened to be near the church door as I left gave me hugs too.  I left Carmen enriched, blessed and delighted to have spent a morning with such a group of caring, engaged and intelligent women. 

Other posts…………..

Strong Women

I’ve Been A Newspaper Columnist for Decades

Women Were Honored?  Think Again John Kelly. 


Filed under manitoba, New Experiences, People, Retirement

A Visitor from Bangkok

This past week Dave and I have had a houseguest from Bangkok staying with us here in Winnipeg. 

joop in 2007 highschool

Joop in high school in Manitoba in 2007

We first got to know Joop  Rathlertwongse in 2007 when he was an international exchange student at the Steinbach high school where Dave and I were teachers. He was living with a host family but when they went away on a trip Joop came to stay with us for a while. During his year in Steinbach, Joop learned to love Mennonite food, got to try skiing, ice-skating and snowmobiling.  He even learned how to build a quinzee. Before coming to Manitoba Joop was attending an all-boys school during the week and spending weekends at his family home in Bangkok. Joop enjoyed learning about Canadian culture during his year in Manitoba.  He made lots of friends. 

We next saw Joop when we made a trip to Bangkok in 2010.  Joop picked us up from the airport and spent a day showing us his home city. joop dave water marketHe took us to a water market and…down to the riverfront,    and out for a great Thai dinner.

Joop also took us to the Mahidol University where he was working on a social science degree. At the time he was hoping for a career in international relations and was about to go to Myanmar to do research for a paper he was writing on the elections there.

In 2011 Joop came to visit us in Hong Kong just before we moved back to Canada. I took him to visit the famous Che Kung Temple.  We went out for Italian food one night and we took Joop along to our final karaoke night in Hong Kong. 

Fast forward to 2019 and Joop is back in Manitoba this time to attend the wedding of the daughter of his host family in Steinbach. He decided to stay for ten days or so to meet up with old friends and that included us.  We have hosted him for several nights. Last night he took us out for some great Thai food at the Sabai Thai Eatery. Lots of things have changed in Joop’s life since we saw him last.  He has graduated from university and has established a successful career in procurement with a major oil and gas company.  His job takes him regularly to Papua New Guinea and he works closely with colleagues in other countries. He has his own condo in Bangkok now and drives out to see his parents and two brothers on weekends.  He is still looking for adventure and thinks about taking a job posting in another country or continuing his studies in Canada.

Joop will be here with us till Monday. It is interesting how often our paths have crossed with Joop’s in the last fifteen years.  I’m wondering if they won’t again in the future? 

Other posts……….

Ivan Was Here

Introducing Visitors from India and Hong Kong to Mennonites

The Temple of Dawn


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Filed under People, Thailand

Friendly and Polite

I’m on the bus and suddenly it pulls over to the side of the road.  A transit van is there to meet us and two transit employees board the bus and move to the rear.  We all turn around. A man is lying on the floor.  The transit employees try to wake him up to no avail.  They call the paramedics. A fire truck pulls up and four paramedics jump out.  They gather around the man and speak to him in the most polite and kind way.  Calling him “my friend” or “buddy” or even “sir.”  Trying to gently shake him awake.  Taking his vital signs. Asking him politely if he has taken some medication. Reassuring the rest of us that they will try to settle the situation quickly. Finally supporting the man on both sides they are able to get him to walk off the bus and we continue on our journey.  The entire time the man is treated with respect and civility.

I’m at the Millenium Library. The guards who screen my purse and bag at the front door do so respectfully.  They are friendly and polite.  They ask me how my day is going. I am looking for about a dozen books I want to read by authors who will be presenting at a children’s writing conference I plan to attend. I no sooner enter the children’s section than a helpful technician approaches.  “Can she be of assistance?”  I hand her my list and within five minutes or so she and her colleague have found every book for me.

I’m breezing through Winnipeg Square hurrying to the bus stop on Graham.  A young man just ahead of me stops at all four sets of doors we pass through to hold them open for me. What a gentleman!

On the bus, a young woman in a nurses’ uniform who looks like she has just finished a long day of work, gets up as I make my way down the aisle of the crowded bus and offers me her seat.  Do I look that old? I thank her but tell her I will stand. 

There are plenty of well mannered and neighborly people in this world. I see them every day and experience their kindness and courtesy every day.  Yes, there are some folks who are rude or let their anger get the better of them but I want to be more diligent about noticing and appreciating the way most people are friendly and polite. 

Other posts……..

So Polite

A Terrifying Story Politely Told

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Your One Wild and Precious Life

“Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

On Sunday the theme of the sermon in our church was that question from the poem The Summer Day by Mary Oliver. Our pastor talked about people she felt had done incredible things with their one wild and precious life.

One example she gave was Rachel Held Evans a 37-year-old best selling author of four books and mother of two young children who died suddenly on May 4 from a brain infection. I have been reading Rachel’s blog for many years and admired her.  

Rachel was an evangelical Christian but she spoke out long and loud about making the church a place where everyone was welcome including those who were part of the LGBTQ community.  She was a Christian feminist who advocated for an equal role for women in the church and in society.  I especially respected her common sense approach to the issue of abortion.  She encouraged people to vote for political candidates who would actually bring about the changes in society that research has shown reduce the abortion rate. She encouraged hard questions and firmly believed you didn’t need to sacrifice your intellectual integrity to be a person of faith. Rachel was respected and loved by millions. She became an articulate and powerful spokeswoman for people of faith who believed in a very different kind of Christianity than the one espoused by the supporters of Donald Trump.

Evidence of the importance of Rachel Held Evans life was clear as almost every major news source in the United States ran stories about her death.  The Washington Post, The New York Times,The New Yorker, The Atlantic,CNN,CBS,NPR, Fox,  Newsweek and hundreds of others.   A Twitter hashtag #Becauseof RHE soon garnered a host of moving testimonies from people who said their lives had been changed because of her. These tweets were shared thousands of times worldwide. 

Rachel Held Evans was indeed a person who made the very most of her one wild and precious life. She inspires us all to emulate her.

Other posts………

Inspiration from Poet Mary Oliver

Meet Priscilla

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

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Filed under People, Religion

Another Children’s Book Lover

I have been reading Helen Norrie’s regular column about children’s books in the Winnipeg Free Press since she first started writing it in 1978. So it was a real pleasure to share a table for lunch with her at an event at the University Women’s Club earlier this week.  

I asked Helen how she chooses the books to write about in her column.  She told me the Winnipeg Free Press delivers boxes of new children’s books to her home, books they have received from publishers who want the newspaper to review their latest offerings for children.  Helen then chooses the ones she will write about giving preference to books by Manitoba and Canadian authors. I asked her what she does with all those books she receives and she told me she donates most of them to local libraries and other charities that distribute books to kids.

I was also curious about how she had started writing about children’s books for the newspaper.  She said she had been working as a teacher librarian at the time and was writing book reviews as a part of that job.  She decided to send some of the reviews to the Free Press and they printed them.  She has been reviewing children’s books for the newspaper ever since. She has also taught courses in children’s literature for the education department at the University of Winnipeg. 

Helen Norrie at the site of the library to be named after her and her husband Bill

Since I serve on a Winnipeg Library Advisory Committee I was aware that a new library is being built in River Heights and will be named after Helen and her husband Bill Norrie who served as Winnipeg ‘s mayor from 1979 to 1992.  Helen told me she is particularly pleased about that for her husband’s sake. We chatted a bit about how the role of libraries is changing dramatically. I told Helen I had grown up in Steinbach, a town without a library at the time, so I had relied on books from the University Extension Library as well as trips to the Good Will Store in Winnipeg as a source for reading material. bill norrie mural winnipeg - Version 2I work together with Michel Saint Hilaire at the Winnipeg Art Gallery so I knew about the colorful mural the talented Winnipeg artist had a hand in creating to honor Helen’s husband Bill’s  life.  Helen told me she had been so pleased with the mural on the corner of Ellice and Langside since it reflected Bill’s interests and love for the city of his birth.  

We also chatted about our families.  I told her about my son’s career as a professional musician and the birth of my new granddaughter.  She told me about her great-grandchildren.

One thing I forgot to mention to Helen was how impressed I had been with the address her husband gave on the occasion of our son’s graduation from the University of Manitoba in 2003. Bill Norrie was the chancellor of the university at the time and I wrote one of my columns in the Winnipeg Free Press about the inspiring speech he gave to the graduates about celebrating diversity and building bridges between all kinds of people and communities. He ended with a prayer by Sir Francis Drake I have often quoted since. You can read it here

I so enjoyed my conversation with Helen Norrie.  It was lovely to meet a woman who loves children’s books as much as I do.  

Other posts………

A Cache of Great Children’s Books

Picture Books Have Changed

My Childhood Reading Heaven


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Filed under Books, People