Stability and Honesty (almost an alien concept for this Argentine-born and sometime Mexican). Stability and honesty is how I would define John Turner.
They say that coincidences are more often than not.
When I first saw my Rosemary from the rear (she was yet to be my Rosemary) I marvelled at her legs. They matched the excellence of my mother’s. Both my mother and Rosemary shared that upbringing of being gracious and well-mannered. From my grandmother Lolita Rosemary “inherited” that special talent of knowing when to move on when a near future was not predictably a good one.
My grandmother as a widow took her three children from Manila to the Bronx and they prospered. Just before the stock market crash, they moved back to Manila. She saw a war coming and again they moved, this time to Buenos Aires in 1938. In 1954 with Perón in charge of Argentina we moved to Mexico City.
It was in 1974 that Rosemary told me that she thought that Canada would be a better place for our two daughters. She said that Montreal would be tough as I knew no French and that I would not like Toronto because of the snow.
We moved to Vancouver and to this day I cannot fault her decision. Nor can I fault her insistence that we purchase a house in Kerrisdale in 1986. Thanks to that decision we sold well recently and were able to inherit our two daughters while we are still alive.
But there is one more thing about my Rosemary’s foresight. It has been in Canada where I have enjoyed stability (unknown in my Argentina or in Mexico). This includes a stability of good electricity, fresh air and clean water.
I participated in a coup as a conscript sailor. I met a young
lieutenant who years later slit the stomachs of left-wing prisoners and dumped
them into the River Plate from a helicopter. I was used to that and almost found it normal as it was to bribe Mexico City traffic cops.
In Mexico the four of us lived with the corruption of politicians, police and a terrible postal system.
All that, is gone. And there is one incident that has always been in my memory and my heart. And this is of going to a neighbourhood meeting hosted by Prime Minister John Turner. There were no police or soldiers with machine guns outside. We were served coffee and doughnuts. I could not have imagined that anywhere else.
I believe that the scandals that happen in any country are to be expected but, the little ones here in Canada in comparison, are events that still allow me to sleep nights.
I remember years ago when Premier Vander Zalm when he was at the bottom of his popularity wanted to show the CP rail yard behind the CP Station to a mayor friend from Holland. I was hired by CP to take the photograph. I waited outside the station. Vander Zalm arrived. He parked and put coins into the meter and crossed the street with his friend. The Premier was wearing a very nice leather jacket. He had no body guards. Only in Canada!
I wrote about taking a portrait of John Turner for Vancouver Magazine here and how that became memorable in connection with Audrey Hepburn.
John Turner died yesterday. I remember his easy going way, his honest smile and the fact that he remembered me in that restaurant so many years ago.
Yes, it is strange how my Rosemary inherited all those talents from my family. And it did help that Rosemary is Canadian.
And I am too.