Fox for the 'fiver'
By Jim Poling Sr.
I can’t think of a better person to put on future $5 bills than Terry Fox, the most inspirational Canadian of the last half century.
The Bank of Canada is redesigning the banknote, sometimes called a “fin” or a “fiver,” and has invited nominations from the public on whose picture should appear on the front of the new bill. Nominations close March 11.
Port Coquitlam. B.C., Terry Fox’s hometown, has mounted a full-out campaign urging people across the country to nominate their most famous citizen.
“Terry has just an amazing legacy, not only here in his hometown of Port Coquitlam, not only in British Columbia, not only in Canada, but around the world,” says the city’s Mayor Brad West. “He has inspired, and he continues to inspire, millions of people.”
Terry Fox was an athletic teenager in 1977 when he was diagnosed with cancer in his right leg. The leg was amputated but he continued long-distance running on a prosthetic leg.
After the amputation and 16 months of chemotherapy Fox concluded that his life had been saved by medical advances and decided to raise money for more research and to help other cancer patients have hope and courage.
In the spring of 1980, he began a Marathon of Hope in which he planned to raise money by running across Canada from St. John’s, Nfld., to Vancouver. He ran for 143 days, covering 5,373 kilometres before having to give up when the cancer returned, this time to his lungs.
Forty years later, many people, me included, continue to be powerfully impressed by the courage and selflessness of Terry Fox.
He is a true hero in my eyes and my memories of him have been little dimmed by the passage of four decades. One reason they remain so bright and clear perhaps is because our lives intersected at several points.
In 1980 I was a journalist working for The Canadian Press news agency in Vancouver and news of Fox’s Marathon of Hope was a story of great interest. When he dipped his leg into the Atlantic Ocean at St. John’s we journalists in Vancouver began thinking about news coverage plans for when he got close to home.
Fox was well into Northern Ontario in August when I got news that my mother was ill in Sault Ste. Marie. I went there to be with her.
She died and I was in charge of carrying out her last wishes, including bringing her body to Thunder Bay to be buried with my father. Crazy as it sounds, that included written instructions to have her body driven from the Soo to Thunder Bay because she had a lifelong terror of airplanes.
I could not ignore her wishes and her body was driven around Lake Superior, passing Terry Fox and the Marathon of Hope along the way.
In Thunder Bay, I stood on the steps of the funeral home waiting for visitors to arrive for my mother’s wake when I saw flashing red lights down the street. They were at St. Joseph’s Hospital, a place I knew well because I was born there and my father died there.
A passerby informed me that Terry Fox had just been brought into the hospital. I started running towards the hospital until I realized that being at my mother’s funeral was more important than covering a story, as big a story as it appeared to be.
Terry was brought back home for hospitalization and treatment. Nine and a half months later, on June 19, 1981, I found myself at a New Westminster, B.C. hospital with Leslie Shepherd, one of the finest journalists I have worked with. There at 4:30 a.m. we flashed the news that Terry Fox had died.
It was an incredibly sad event, even for journalists used to covering sad things. But with the sadness came the realization this was not just another passing story. It was a story that would live and inspire for decades.
It has and I hope it will continue to live and inspire with Terry Fox’s face on the $5 bill.
Also, putting Fox on the fiver would be a tribute to young Canadians, whose talents and achievements are not often recognized enough.