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YOUR HISTORY: 32 years later, Terry Fox’s story still inspires young athletes
For myself, this time of year makes me think of times beginning and times ending — in nature as well as life. We say goodbye to the spring season and welcome summer with the solstice, which began locally on June 20 at 10:04 p.m.
Lately, it seems our seasonal weather patterns have gone in reverse, with memories of excellent sunny weather way back in April and now suffering through the usual “June-gloom” of the last few weeks.
This time of year also signifies the end of another school year, with young children eager to get on with their summer holidays, while others are graduating high school, also eager and a little apprehensive, to get on with their future lives.
In June of 1976, the graduating class of Port Coquitlam Senior Secondary High School were also getting set to move on. Their time was now and they were preparing to work towards achieving their goals in life. Amongst them was a determined and driven young man named Terry Fox.
Terry had gone to Mary Hill junior high school prior to PoCo secondary and it was at PoCo where he learned many of life’s lessons that would serve him later in his endeavours. He had many fine teachers and coaches there, among them Terri Fleming and Bruce Moore, just to name a couple.
The latter wrote in Terry’s annual that last year:
“Terry, it’s a pleasure to see one of my players make athlete of the year. Thank you for being a part of my coaching career and experience at PoCo. I’ll always remember your contribution to soccer.”
Terry received a $100 dollar CTA Bursary for Simon Fraser University, where in the fall of 1976 he began a course in kinesiology, the study of human movement. He made the junior varsity basketball team at SFU under tough coach Alex Devlin, who saw that Terry was not the most gifted or skilled athlete physically, but made up for any shortcomings by sheer will, preparation and determination.
In March of 1977, Terry was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer that strikes the young and healthy and his right leg was amputated above the knee. The night before his operation, Terry’s basketball coach from PoCo secondary, Terri Fleming, brought him a magazine with an article about Dick Traum, an amputee who had run the New York City Marathon with a prosthetic leg.
After the operation, Terry would have to learn how to walk, then run again, all the while undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the B.C. Cancer Control Agency facility in Vancouver.
There were long months and years ahead for Terry Fox, times of triumph and sorrow that would eventually culminate with his passing at age 22 on June 28, 1981.
Earlier this week, I was walking the near-deserted hallways of Terry Fox secondary on Port Coquitlam’s north side, the high school that was built in 1999 and named in his honour.
I stopped to view Terry’s No. 4 Ravens basketball jersey, now retired and on display, and the words below:
“In the locker room, every day we hear ‘Terry never gave up, Terry never gave up.’ We play with his name on our jerseys and here we are, champions.”
A new generation inspired by one man and his fight to end cancer.
The last days of June always remind me of life and times beginning and ending, and the lasting legacy of Terry Fox.
• Your History is a column in which, once a month, representatives of the Tri-Cities’ three heritage groups writes about local history. Bryan Ness is a member of the Port Coquitlam Heritage Society.