Terry Fox has been an inspiration for millions of people around the world and during his Marathon of Hope in 1980, he received a lot of fan mail.
All of those letters were kept over the years and are now part of a travelling exhibit currently at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria. Former teacher, Winston Joseph, was one of those writers and his family recently had the surprise of finding his letter derived from the archives.
Joseph had been working at A.W. Neill School in December 1980 and started following Terry Fox’s run across Canada.
“I had just learned about him and was so pleased by this young man doing such a great thing,” Joseph said. “I was moved by him doing this for so many people.”
At the time, Joseph was also facilitating a local Positive Thinking class for adults and encouraging others to be proactive in their own lives. He wrote the letter to encourage Terry Fox during the challenge he was undertaking.
“I believe in positive thinking and Terry Fox was a positive person,” Joseph said. “Not only did he think he could do it, he showed he could.”
Little did he know, Joseph’s letter was kept by the Fox family and is now a part of the “Running to the Heart of Canada” exhibition, along with many other iconic items from Terry’s life. Joseph’s daughters, Janis and Jay had a chance to attend in April with their families.
“Someone mentioned to me last year that the exhibit was in Ottawa and when we saw that it was in Victoria, we took the kids,” Janis said. “There is an archive of all the letters written to (Terry) and when we typed in Dad’s name, his letter came up on a massive screen.” Just as she found it, Janis sent a text to her sister to meet her at the museum.
“It was one of those special times as a family to be able to see that,” Janis said. “It was also special for Dad to be recognized by someone doing something so big. It’s important for students and the community to know that you don’t have to be someone big or a politician to write a letter.”
Janis remembers learning about Terry Fox as a teenager. “I was about 14 or 15 and working for Parks and Rec,” she said.
“I came home one day and saw on the news that he had passed away.”
Winston, a long-time A.V. Lions Club member, was one of many Canadians who continued to keep the legacy alive. Always an active walker, he took part in the annual Terry Fox Run and wore the T-shirts every year.
“It was a big deal for him to see this young man running across Canada with such dedication and determination,” Janis said.
“I encourage anybody to go see the exhibit because every year we do the run, but this is a day to take the family and pause to think about what he did.”
Janis is also hoping there might be Winston’s requested autographed photo at A.W. Neill School. Anyone who remembers seeing it can send her a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.