Terry Fox St. John’s memorial deserves better

The Terry Fox "Mile 0" marker in St. John's, NFLD.
The Terry Fox "Mile 0" marker in St. John's, NFLD. photo:Vince Versace

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.

terry_fox_running

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.

A closer look at the Terry Fox memorial marker.
A closer look at the Terry Fox memorial marker. photo: Vince Versace

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.

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7 thoughts on “Terry Fox St. John’s memorial deserves better

  1. Dara

    I agree with you. Finding the marker is near impossible. I was once a resident of St. John’s, but have been away for many years. I knew nothing about the marker until reading that same letter in the Telegram. Now I am visiting St. JOhn’s and having spoken with my son about Terry Fox (after the School Run day) I wanted to take him to see it. Your’s is the only place I could find information. This is disgusting. What makes it worse is that we’re all hypocrites. Newfoundlanders always talk about the special tie we feel with Terry Fox because he started his run here. Too bad we can’t even give this marker the respect it deserves!

  2. Tyler Graham

    I’m doing a cross Canada bike trip, and I’d really like to find out where this monument is so I can start there. Any help would be appreciated.

    (editor note: we have corresponded with Tyler, helping him with his request.)

  3. Debbie

    I just returned from St, John’s and agree with you about the Terry Fox memorial there. I found it by accident and would not have even been in that part of the area had a fellow delegate told me where to look. The grass was not mown, dandelions were everywhere, a garbage container was on the site, no indication of a special tribute to Terry. I really like the memorial statue itself but it needs better presentation. perhaps a bench, a little garden, a sign describing the start of the Marathon of Hope. I was so disappointed. I knew Terry personally and think he deserves better. Since my return I have had conversations with others who also knew Terry and have seen this memorial and felt the same disappointment. So lets do something about it. Ideas? Suggestions?

  4. Let me know if anyone finds out who is in charge of the location. If emails or social media mention will help out I will gladly assist where I can.

    There needs to be more awareness so when families, tourists and especially kids visit this city that this spot is visited. The story needs to be told and Terry’s determination needs to be shared with the children of this Country.

  5. Count me in — if there’s a contact website or email address to help, let me know and I’ll tweet about it to spread the word!! I’ll also post it on FaceBook.
    Donna Carrick
    @Donna_Carrick

    PS Our children have been deeply moved by their study at grade school of Terry Fox’s monumental run. Terry is a shining examply of what is good about this country. Let’s not keep him “off the map”.

  6. We take it for granted that there are caretakers looking after important sites and memorials and long experience with these matters should have taught me better. It’s a shame that Terry Fox’s starting point is going largely unremarked. I was in St. John’s only a week ago and went walking in the harbour area. I would have gone to have a look and pay my respects. Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention. Let’s hope it gets action.

  7. Garth Elrick

    Nice to see improvements are on the way for the St.
    John’s Memorial. We wrote to The Telegram, Premier
    Danny Williams and the PM’s office basically telling
    everyone should be ashamed of the condition of the
    memorial when we returned from our 11 week RV trip in
    August of 2009. Got positive responses from all and
    Heather Strong of the Nfld Terry Fox office and Fred
    Fox from the Terry Fox foundation head office.
    Many thanks to all for correcting this embarrasing
    situation, especially Premier Danny Williams who most
    likely brought everyone together to get it done !

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