When CBC held its “The Greatest Canadian” competition a few years back my vote was for Terry Fox, to millions of people around the world his run left us with a most precious gift: hope.
During my recent stay in St. John’s a friend mentioned there was a memorial in town which marks where Fox started his famous, historic attempt to run across Canada. This epic run was the genesis point which has helped raise over $400 million worldwide for cancer research in Fox’s name since. For all the greatness associated with his feat, you would never be able to tell that by how hard it is to find the memorial and its location.
Fox started his run in St. John’s on April 12, 1980 “with little fanfare” report’s the Terry Fox Foundation website. He ran 42 kilometres (26 miles) a day through Canada’s Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Ontario until September 1st, after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles). He stopped running outside of Thunder Bay- cancer had appeared in his lungs and he passed away on June 28, 1981 at the age 22.
The memorial for Fox in Thunder Bay is solemn and beautiful, when I first saw it on a cross-country drive, I and others there were moved by it. This memorial and its location is fitting of Fox’s feat. I’m not saying the St. John’s memorial should rival the Thunder Bay one in scope or size but what currently is there is lacking.
The fact that not one single tourist brochure or map of downtown St. John’s even mentions the memorial is what really bugged me. When I asked a few hotel staff about it, I was met with the “why do you want to see that” gaze, in fact, one said, “no one ever asks about that, I think it is over here somewhere” and pointed at a wide swath of one far corner of downtown.
The memorial is found at the far end of downtown off a parking lot which belongs to the Port Authority of St. John’s. The location is not very welcoming at all to the public, in fact, you feel like you are trespassing just visiting it.
The tablet itself is beautiful but there is not a single indicator or marker on how to find it downtown. How did I eventually find it? Well, a letter to the editor in The Telegram gave me all the little clues I needed for my search.
This memorial marks the spot where Fox dipped his foot in the waters of St. John’s to start his epic run. This is where the Marathon of Hope was born. No one is asking for a monolith but at least some better recognition and indication of its location is needed and deserved.