Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Patrick Quinn...A Man of Distinction!

(written by Steve Milton: The Hamilton Spectator)

Humble, Fierce, Classy and Passionate,
Pat Quinn never forgot his Hamilton Roots
O.C., O.B.C., JD., LL.D.

In the newspaper industry, you're not supposed to become friends of the people you cover. It is obvious that the suits who preach that rule never met John Brian Patrick Quinn. It was almost impossible not to like and engage with Pat Quinn, who died in Vancouver...Sunday night (November 23, 2014) at the way too-young-age of 71. I covered him, almost relentlessly, for more than a decade; intensely I liked him and engaged with him on many different levels.

And he was my friend. He and his wife Sandra took me into not just their hockey circle, also their family circle. That doesn't make me unique. The Hamilton native had hundreds of good friends...because he was one himself. For a famous man, he was one of the most inclusive people I met.

Quinn grew up in the east end, on Glennie Avenue ~ renamed Pat Quinn Way...went to St. Helen's School, then starred in football at Cathedral High School. He played in the National Hockey League for 9 years, including 2 with the Toronto Maple Leafs...coached Canada to its first Olympic hockey gold medal in half a century...led Canada to the World Junior Championship just 6 years ago...and coached 5 NHL teams over more than 3 decades. He also set an NHL coaching record for most consecutive wins and was the last man to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup semi-finals. Pat Quinn played in and coached more than 2,000 games in the NHL.

Because of all that, over the last dozen years of his life, he had become a 'national icon'...as easily recognizable as Wayne Gretzby or the Prime Minister. But he never forgot his roots, geographic or socio-economic. Quinn and his wife, Sandra, formed a gregarious, welcoming couple and together with their two daughters...until the end. They welcomed people they liked, even sometimes critical journalists like me and the Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger into their lives outside of hockey.

From his earliest days on the outdoor rinks, it seemed likely he was bound for a career in sports. He was big, imposing and understood all the nuances of every sport. He played for Hamilton's Junior A Tiger Cubs, then the farm team of the Detroit Red Wings, who owned Quinn's hockey rights. The Wings sent him to Edmonton (Alberta) for a year and he helped the Oil Kings win the Memorial Cup, emblematic of Canadian Junior Hockey supremacy.

He played minor pro hockey, then made the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1968...and a few months later became notorious across the hockey world for catching the legendary Bobby Orr with his head down during a playoff game. Orr was knocked out and a near riot ensued on the ice, but Orr always insisted it was not a 'dirty check' and the two became, of course, close friends.

A rugged defenceman who didn't score much, Quinn's NHL career lasted parts of nine seasons before an ankle injury took him off the ice in 1977 and he turned to coaching. He was behind the bench for the Philadelphia Flyers ~ whom he led to the Stanley Cup final in 1980. He was General Manager and President of the Vancouver Canucks and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But he always preferred coaching because that was where the most teaching and the most human interaction occurs and frankly, it was the closest to the ice.

Through his playing career he accumulated credits from various universities...graduating with a Law Degree from Widener University of Law. He told me, “The seeds of education were planted years ago by my father and mother. We were in 'wartime housing' on Glennie and a civic bylaw said that those houses had to have a foundation under them. My parents didn't have the money to hire someone, so my dad got my brothers and me out there to dig the foundations ourselves. I was maybe 8 years old and with every shovelful my dad said, 'if you get an education, you won't have to do this.'

That was for a Spec column just before the 2002 Olympics, during which Quinn became a household name in Canada for the way he rallied the team from an inauspicious opening loss to Sweden all the way to the gold medal.

Hamilton was with him everywhere and I got the sense that he and Sandra could make a home on the moon if they had to...because they had home in their hearts and memories. On Pat's first official day as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he spent the night, not in celebration at a luxurious Toronto hotel, but with his parents on Glennie Avenue.

He had money and fame and a legion of admirers, but his Hamilton blood always kept him humble. City Councilor, Sam Merula, recalls that when the city was renaming Parkdale Arena in his honour a decade back, Pat was expecting to have to pay to have his name on it. It must have been hard for an east-end-Hamilton boy to grasp that the city was not only honouring him...but willing to pay for it.

Pat and I were supposed to write his biography together...over the past half-decade; he was hesitating. I now don't think we would have ever written it, because he would have found himself caught in the impossible no man's land between a truthful, educational story and not wanting to bruise anyone's feelings or reputations...even those he didn't really care for.

That was the human side of Pat Quinn,
by far the largest side of large, in so many senses of the word, man.

I only regret that I wasn't able to get to Vancouver to say goodbye...
and more importantly, to thank him for everything.
So, I'm doing it now.

(The foregoing are excerpts from the lengthy detailed article published.)

Goodbye to Hamilton Hockey Greats
Pat Quinn and Murray Oliver were stars in junior hockey with the Hamilton Tiger Cubs…teammates with the Toronto Maple Leafs…NHL coaches…and long time friends. Between them, they made up a big part of this city’s hockey history. On Sunday, they passed away just hours apart…Murray was 77.

Scott Radley writes in the same Spectator issue:
Hamilton’s Murray Oliver carved a16-year NHL career beginning with the Detroit Red Wings of the late 50’s and 60’s. In a 1,127 game career with Detroit, Boston, Toronto and Minnesota, he collected 728 points. After his retirement in Minnesota, he coached and scouted. In the era he played, the wives did everything together…and the players were like brothers. The Quinns & Olivers were close friends.
 Merle Baird-Kerr...written November 25, 2014
To comment...email to:inezkate@gmail.com or mbairdkerr@cogeco.ca

Friday, December 25, 2015

Farah Mohamed

A Woman of Influence, of Inspiration, of Leadership and Integrity...
who forged new paths for others and herself.
Her parents, Aba and Dilshad (Dilu) Mohamed are personal friends. Dilu, I met through a business networking organization several years ago...having maintained a special friendship to this day. So, it is with great pride and pleasure, I introduce you to Farah, one of their two daughters.

Awards: Canadian Diversity Champion, 2012
Top 25 Most Influential Women in Canada, Women of Influence, 2012
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, 2013
RBC Top Canadian Immigrant of the Year, 2014

Early Years: Of Indian heritage, Farah was born and raised in Uganda until 1972 when Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of 80,000 Asian Ugandans...giving them 90 days to leave Uganda. She states, “Many people in our community were initially optimistic...certain the tide would turn and they could stay in their homes, raise their children and run their businesses. Instead, horrific stories of cannibalism, murder and rape motivated most to flee their homes, businesses and the life they knew. Mine was one of the lucky families ~ thanks to the friendship of two world leaders, my father, mother and sister sought refuge in Canada...where my parents rebuilt our family lives.”

With two little girls, Aba and Dilu first settled in St. Catharines where Farah's father obtained a job and her mother developed her 'haute couture' fashion design business. Later moving to Burlington, Farah and Amina attended a local public school. When Farah graduated from Central High School, she enrolled at Queen's University in Kingston, graduating with a degree in Political Science; at Western University in London, Ontario, she earned her Master's Degree in this specialized field.

My 'Sense of Community' Led to My Progress
From a very young age, my parents taught me the meaning of giving back...
being part of a community; and the importance of education
as a way to ensure having choices in life.

Climbing the Ladder to Success: With this education background, she became assistant to The Honourable Paddy Torsney, Burlington's Member of Parliament in 1995.
For 10 years in Ottawa, she worked closely with some of Canada's most senior politicians. She served as the Director of Communications for The Honourable Anne McLellan in her role as Minister of Justice, Minister of Health and Deputy Prime Minister of Canada.

Post politics, Farah served as Vice President, Public Affairs and Community Engagement for VON Canada. At VON, she was successful in building government and private sector partnerships, as well as strengthening the brand of Canada's largest, national, non-profit, charitable home and community-care organization.

Career Highlights: My proudest achievement is the creation of G(irls)20...a non-profit that works to put women at the center of economic decision-making processes globally. Consistent with what my childhood hardships taught me, the organization is built on three things you cannot take away once acquired: education, entrepreneurial spirit and experiences. G(irls)20 places the voices of girls and women at the heart of what is the most preeminent political platform to discuss economic issues. It chooses strategic investments in individuals over charity. It instills the belief that it is only with economic and political prowess that communities are protected. It teaches that strong communities lead to strong countries. G(irls)20 is also the driving force behind Fathers Empowering Daughters.
Farah now serves as CEO of G(irls)20
as it galvanizes the world's greatest resource...girls and women...
and cultivates a new generation of female leaders
through entrepreneurship and education.

Inaugural President of The Belinda Stronach Founadtion (TBSF). Under Farah's leadership TBSF created and launched the Foundation's flagship programs. She also oversaw the Foundation's work in Liberia with President Johnson Sirlear and a $1 M humanitarian relief effort in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
From a very young age, my parents taught me the meaning of giving back,
being part of a community. They didn't talk much about our exodus, but I understand that life would have been very different if we were not thrown out of our country. The combination of my parents' gratitude to Canada, hard work and optimism was highly influential in shaping me to become a social entrepreneur and a political strategist.

International Volunteer Endeavours: Cherie Blair Mentor for Women in Business 2013, International Election Observer, International Democratic Institute (2012 Egyptian elections, Jordan, 2013), Co-anchor, the Clinton Global Initiative's Network on 'Investing in Girls and Women', Advisor, Virgin Unite Canada (Richard Branson's Foundation), 2011.

Domestic Volunteer Endeavours: Vice President, Board of Directors, Canadian Club of Toronto. Board Member, The Harbour Front Centre and Hope Live. Appointed by the Premier of Ontario to serve as a Board Member of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Ontario Science Centre (term served). Member of the Brazilian Ball 2010 and Maharaja Ball 2010.

Just as my parents invested in me, I invested in others.
Just as volunteerism was part of my upbringing, I encourage the recipients of our programs to help others. And just as the entrepreneurial gene seems to be part of my DNA, I hope that the young women involved in G(irls)20 will build socially conscious enterprises. 

 I used to think I came by my progress because I was in the right place...at the right time...with my skills. I now know that it was the events of 42 years ago that shaped my path and led me to my progress.

The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation encourages research, reflection and action in four areas important to Canadians: human rights and dignity...responsible citizenship...Canada's role in the world...people and their natural environment. Working through the four programs, the Foundation grants doctoral scholarships...awards fellowships to distinguished academics...appoints mentors and holds public conferences. Founded in 2001, The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation is an independent and non-partisan Canadian charity. It is governed by an independent and pan-Canadian Board Directors of up to 18 who oversee the approximately $150M endowment and an annual operating budget of $6M.
I am really proud to be joining this Board.
I have always felt that it was because of Pierre Elliott Trudeau
that our family was lucky to come to Canada...
and now I have the opportunity to contribute to his legacy.

Information compiled by Merle Baird-Kerr...April 2, 2015
Comments appreciated...email to:

Postscript:  Farah does more than 'talk the talk'; she also walks the walk ~ right up the 19,300 foot summit of Mount Kilimanjaro...raising $21,000 for the Canadian Liver Foundation and the VON Canada Foundation.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Rumours About Santa Claus

(Courtesy of Sherrie whose friend in Winnipeg sent it to her)

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit it her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: There is no Santa Claus, she jeered...even dummies know that! My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth...and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her 'world-famous-cinnamon buns'. I knew they were world-famous because Grandma said so. It had to be true!

Grandma was home and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. No Santa Claus? she snorted...Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumour has been going around for years...and it makes me mad, plain mad! Now, put on your coat...and let's go. “Go? Go where, Grandma?” I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun. 'Where' turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days!
Take this money, she said, and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car. Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded...full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few minutes I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill and wondering what to buy...and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew...my family...my friends...my neighbours...the kids at school...the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought-out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath...and messy hair...and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess in the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!
I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it.
It looked real warm...and he would like that.”
Is this a Christmas present for someone? kindly asked the lady behind the counter...as I laid my ten dollars down. “Yes, ma'am,” I replied shyly. “It's for Bobby.”
The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag...smiled again...and wished me Merry Christmas.

That evening, when Grandma helped me to wrap the coat, a little tag fell out of the coat bag, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible. Wrapped in Christmas paper and ribbon, Grandma attached a small gift tag saying...To Bobby, from Santa Claus on it. Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was officially now and forever, one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house...she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. All right, Santa Claus, get going! I took a deep breath...dashed to his front door...threw the present down on the front step...pounded on his door...and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together, we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did...and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering beside my Grandma...in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night I realized that those awful rumours about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were...Ridiculous! Santa was alive and well...and we were on his team.

I still have Grandma's Bible with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.”

May you always have Love to share,
Health to spare...and Friends that care.
And, may you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!

Fact about St. Nicholas Day ~ December 6
History of the Man and Myth: According to Bishop Nicholas of Myra in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), 'Nicholas' was a devout 4th-century Christian figure (of Greek descent) whose charitable acts and compassion for the needy, especially chidren, brought him 'sainthood' as his popularity spread across Europe during the Middle Ages. The anniversary of his death, December 6, 343, is known as St. Nicholas Day...and is still widely celebrated in eastern and western Europe, as the main day of gift-giving and holiday merriment.

The Twelve Days of Christmas...
is an English Christmas carol (published in 1780 without music) that enumerates in the manner of a cumulative song, a series of increasingly great gifts given on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas beginning December 1st. The standard tune, now associated with it, is derived from a 1909 arrangement of a traditional folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin.

Here's How Much the “12 Days of Christmas Gifts Would Cost in 2015
(Thanks to Sherrie for this calculation)
If someone bought you all these presents, then that would really be 'true love'!
If one's 'true love' bought all of the gifts mentioned in the song's final verse,
then the bill would come out to: $34,130.99...up from $33,933.22 in 2014 ~
making 2015 the priciest year yet.

Partridge $25...Pear Tree $189.99...A Partridge in a Pear Tree $214.99...2 Turtle Doves $290;
3 French Hens $181.50...4 Calling Birds $599.96...5 Gold Rings $750...6 Geese-a-laying $360;
7 Swans-a-Swimming $13,125...8 Maids-a-Milking $58...9 Ladies Dancing $7,552.84...
10 Lords-a-Leaping $5,508.70...11 Pipers Piping $2,635.20...12 Drummers Drumming $2,854.80.

The foregoing calculations are based on data
from retailers, hatcheries, the Philadelphia dance company PHILADANCO
and the Pennsylvania Ballet Company.
Here's how the Pittsburgh-based bank explained the rationale for some of the notable price changes:
Nine of the 12 items in the index maintained their cost this year. The cost of a 'Partridge in a Pear Tree' rose 3.5 %, primarily due to the Partridges' growing popularity as a gourmet food and in backyard farming. Turtle Doves are up 11.5 % due to increased grain prices... and Lords-a-Leaping rose 3 % due to an increase in salaries.”

Written by Merle Baird-Kerr...November 30, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

True Story of Rudolph

A man named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night. His 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bob's wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home from the hospital. Barbara looked up into her Dad's eyes and asked, “Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?”

Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief...but also waves of anger. It had been the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob. Small when he was a kid...bullied by other boys...too little at the time to compete in sports...and often called names he'd rather not remember.

From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. Bob did complete college...married his loving wife...and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all of their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums.

Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938. Bob struggled to give hope to his child...for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But, if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to make one ~ a storybook!

Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal's story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again, Bob told the story...embellishing it more with each time he related it to her. Who was the character? What was the story about? The story Bob May created was his own personal biography in fable form. The character he created was a 'misfit outcast' like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph...with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time
to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day.
But the story doesn't end there.

The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph.

That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a 'best-seller'.

Many toy and marketing deals followed...and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter. But the story doesn't end there.

Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success...selling more records than any other Christmas song...except for White Christmas.

The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago,
kept on returning back to bless him again and again.
And Bob May learned the lesson...just like his dear friend, Rudolph,
that being different isn't so bad...in fact, being different can be a blessing!

(with many thanks to Marlene and Sydney for the above)

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say,
Rudolph, with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?”

Then, all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,
you'll go down in history!”

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Merle Baird-Kerr...written December 27, 2014
To comment about Rudolph...email:

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Littlest Angel ~ Part 2

The Singer, who was known as the Understanding Angel, looked down at the small culprit, and the Littlest Angel instantly tried to make himself invisible by the ingenious process of withdrawing his head into the collar of his robe...very much like a snapping turtle. At that, the Singer laughed a jolly heart-warming sound and said, “Oh! So you're the one who's been making Heaven so unheavenly! Come here, cherub, and tell me all about it.” The Littlest Angel ventured a furtive look from beneath his robe. First one eye...then the other eye. Suddenly, almost before he knew it, he was perched on the lap of the Understanding Angel...and was explaining how very difficult it was for a boy who suddenly finds himself transformed into an angel. Yes, and no matter what the Archangels said, he'd only swung once. Well, twice. Oh, all right, he'd swung 3 times on the Golden Gates...just for something to do.

That was the whole trouble. There wasn't anything for a small angel to do. And he was very homesick! Oh, not that Paradise wasn't beautiful...but the Earth was beautiful too! Wasn't it created by God, Himself? Why, there were trees to climb...and brooks to fish...and caves to play at pirate chief...the swimming hole, the sun and rain and dawn and thick brown dust, so soft and warm beneath your feet!

The Understanding Angel smiled and in his eyes, was a long forgotten memory of another small boy long ago. Then he asked the Littlest Angel what would make him most happy in Paradise. The cherub thought for a moment...and whispered in his ear, “There's a box. I left it under my bed back home. If only I could have that?” This most Understanding Angel nodded his head. “You shall have it,” he promised. And fleet-winged Heavenly Messenger was instantly dispatched to bring the box to Paradise. And then, in all those timeless days that followed, everyone wondered at the great change in the Littlest Angel...for, among all the cherubs in God's Kingdom, he was the most happy. His conduct was above the slightest reproach. His appearance was all that the most fastidious could wish for. And on excursions to Elysia Fields, it could be said...and truly said...that he flew like an angel.

Then it came to pass that Jesus, the Son of God, was to be born of Mary, of Bethlehem, of Judea. And as the glorious tidings spread through Paradise, all the angels rejoiced and their voices were lifted to herald the Miracle of Miracles...the coming of the Christ Child. The Angels and Archangels, the Seraphim and Cherubim, the Gate-Keeper, the Wing-maker and even the Halo-smith put aside their usual tasks to prepare their gifts for the Blessed Infant. All but the Littlest Angel. He sat himself down on the topmost step at the Golden Stairs and anxiously waited for inspiration. What could he give that would be most acceptable to the Son of God? At one time, he dreamed of composing a lyric hymn of adoration...but the Littlest Angel was woefully wanting in musical talent.

Then he grew tremendously excited over writing a prayer that would live forever in the hearts of men, because it would be the first prayer ever to be heard by the Christ Child. But the Littlest Angel was lamentably lacking in the literate skill. “What, oh what, could a small angel give that would please the Holy Infant?” The time of the Miracle was very close at hand when the Littlest Angel at last decided on his gift. Then on that Day of Days, he proudly brought it from its hiding place behind a cloud and humbly with downcast eyes, placed it before the Throne of God. It was only a small, rough unsightly box...but inside were all those wonderful things that even a Child of God would treasure!

A small, rough unsightly box, lying among all the other glorious gifts from all the angels of Paradise! Gifts of such rare and radiant spendour and breathless beauty that Heaven and all the Universe were lighted by the mere reflection of their glory!

And when the Littlest Angel saw this, he suddenly knew that his gift to God's Child was irreverent...and he devoutly wished he might reclaim his shabby gift. It was ugly! It was worthless! If only he could hide it away from the sight of God before it was even noticed! But, it was too late! The Hand of God moved slowly over all that bright array of shining gifts.....and then paused...then dropped...then came to rest on the lowly gift of the Littlest Angel! The Littlest Angel trembled as the box was opened...and there, before the Eyes of God and all His Heavenly Host, was what he offered to the Christ Child.

And what was his gift to the Blessed Infant?
Well, there was a butterfly with golden wings,
captured one bright summer day on the high hills above Jerusalem.
And a sky-blue egg from a bird's nest in the olive tree
that stood to shade his mother's kitchen door.

Yes, and two white stones found on a muddy river bank
where he and his friends had played like small brown beavers.

And at the bottom of the box, a limp, tooth-marked leather strap,
once worn as a collar by his mongrel dog who had died
as he had lived, in absolute love and infinite devotion.

The Littlest Angel wept hot, bitter tears, for now he knew that instead of honouring the Son of God, he had been most blasphemous. Why had he ever thought the box was so wonderful???
Why had he dreamed that such utterly useless things
would be loved by the Blessed Infant???
In frantic terror, he turned to run and hide from the Divine Wrath of the Heavenly Father...but he stumbled and fell...and with a horrified wail and clatter of halo, he rolled into a ball of consummate misery, to the very foot of the Heavenly Throne.

There was an ominous and dreadful silence in the Celestial City...a silence complete and undisturbed save for the heart-broken sobbing of the Littlest Angel. Then, suddenly, the Voice of God spoke, saying, “Of all the gifts of all the angels, I find that this small box pleases Me most. Its contents are of the Earth and of men...and My Son is born to be King of both. These are the things My Son, too will know and love and cherish...and then, regretfully will leave behind Him when His task is done. I accept this gift in the Name of the Child, Jesus, born of Mary this night in Bethlehem.”

There was a breathless pause...and then the rough, unsightly box of the Littlest Angel began to glow with a bright, unearthly light....then the light became a lustrous flame...and the flame became a radiant brilliance that blinded the eyes of all the angels!

None but the Littlest Angel saw it rise from its place before the Throne of God. And he, and only he, watched it arch the firmament to stand and shed its clear, white beckoning light over a Stable where a Child was Born. Then it shone on that Night of Miracles...and its light was reflected down the centuries deep in the heart of all mankind. Yet, earthly eyes, blinded, too, by its splendour, could never know that the lowly gift of the Littlest Angel was what all men would call forever ~
The Shining Star of Bethlehem!”

Submitted by Merle Baird-Kerr...December 27, 2014
To comment about The Littlest Angel...email to:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Littlest Angel

~ written by Charles Tazewell ~

Once upon a time ~ oh many, many years ago as time is calculated by men ~ but which was only Yesterday in the Celestial Calendar of Heaven ~ there was, in Paradise, a most miserable, thoroughly unhappy and utterly dejected cherub who was known throughout Heaven as 'The Littlest Angel'.

He was exactly four years, six months, five days, seven hours and forty-two minutes of age when he presented himself to the venerable Gate-Keeper and waited for admittance to the Glorious Kingdom of God. Standing defiantly, with his short brown legs wide apart, the Littlest Angel tried to pretend that he wasn't at all impressed by such Unearthly Splendour...and that he wasn't at all afraid. But his lower lip trembled...and a tear disgraced him by making a new furrow down his already tear-streaked face ~ coming to a precipitous halt at the very tip end of his small freckled nose.

But that wasn't all. While the kindly Gate-Keeper was entering the name in his Great Book, the Littlest Angel, having left home as usual without a handkerchief, endeavoured to hide the tell-tale evident by snuffing. A most un-angelic sound so unnerved the good Gate-Keeper that he did something that he never done before in all Eternity. He blotted the page! From that moment one, the Heavenly Peace was never quite the same...and the Littlest Angel soon became the despair of all the Heavenly Host. His shrill, ear-splitting whistle resounded at all hours through the Golden Streets. It startled the Patriarch Prophets and disturbed their meditations. Yes, and on top of that, he inevitably and vociferously sang off-key at the singing practice of the Heavenly Choir, spoiling its ethereal effect. And being so small, it seemed to take him just twice as long as anyone else to get to nightly prayers. The Littlest Angel always arrived late...and always knocked everyone's wings askew as he darted into his place.

Although these flaws in behaviour might have been overlooked, the general appearance of the Littlest Angel was even more disreputable than his deportment. It was first whispered among the Seraphim and Cherubim....then said aloud among the Angels and Archangels that he didn't look like an angel. And they were all quite correct. He didn't. His halo was permanently tarnished where he held on to it with one hot little chubby hand when he ran...and he was always running. Furthermore, even when he stood very still, it never behaved as a halo should. It was always slipping down over his right eye. Over his left eye. Or else, just for pure meanness, slipping off the back of his head and rolling away down some Golden Street, just so he'd have to chase after it!

Yes, and it must be here recorded that his wings were neither useful nor ornamental. All Paradise held its breath when the Littlest Angel perched himself like an unhappy fledgling sparrow on the very edge of a gilded cloud and prepared to take off. He would teeter this way...and that way...but after much coaxing and a few false starts, he would shut both of his eyes...hold his freckled nose...count up to three hundred and three...then hurl himself slowly into space! However, owing to the regrettable fact that he always forgot to move his wings, the Littlest Angel always fell head over halo!

It was also reported and never denied, that whenever he was nervous, which was most of the time, he bit his wing-tips. Now, anyone can easily understand why the Littlest Angel would sooner or later be disciplined. And so, on an Eternal Day of an Eternal Month in the Year Eternal, he was directed to present his small self before before an Angel of the Peace. The Littlest Angel combed his hair, dusted his wings and scrambled into an almost clean robe...and then with a heavy heart, trudged his way to the place of judgment. He tried to postpone the dreaded ordeal by loitering along the Street of the Guardian Angels...pausing a few timeless moments to minutely pursue the long list of new arrivals...although all Heaven knew he couldn't read a word.

And he idled more than several immortal moments to carefully examine a display of aureate harps, although everyone in the Celestial City knew he couldn't tell a crotchet from a semiquaver. But at length and at last he slowly approached a doorway which was surmounted by pair of golden scales, signifying that Heavenly Justice was dispensed within. To the Littlest Angel's great surprise, he heard a merry voice singing! The Littlest Angel removed his halo and breathed upon it heavily...then polished it upon his robe...a procedure which added nothing to that garment's already untidy appearance...and then tip-toed in!

To be continued...Part 2

Merle Baird-Kerr...penned December 26, 2014
To comment about 'Littlest Angel'...email to:

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Prelude to Christmas

Christmas 2014 was highlighted with wonderful family visitations, Christmas brunches and lunches, TV movies: “Guess Who's Coming to Christmas”, “The Tree that Saved Christmas”, “Horses of McBride”, etc. On Sunday, the 21st I attended a majestic “Festival of Carols and Lessons for Christmas” at Port Nelson United Church. Enthralled by the Biblical presentation by the church choir dressed in cassocks of white and blue, the various scripture readers and the resounding music of the Casavant Organ (built in Quebec 1962 ~ 2,968 pipes), I recalled a simple country church Christmas concert of several years ago.

In my early teaching years in Hamilton, I returned weekends to Brantford, my parents' home. On Sundays I attended Central Baptist Church on Brant Avenue ~ participated in their music program, was influential with the Youth Group, initiating a monthly 'news bulletin' called The Fledgling. Sunday afternoons, a small group travelled to a rural community church to conduct a service for the local parishioners. They requested a Christmas Concert for their children and other families to enjoy. “What could we do for them?” was the question.

I had heard about “The Littlest Angel” a beautiful story that not only portrays the Christmas message, but would also 'melt the hearts' of listeners and would be entertaining for these rural families. From somewhere, I obtained this story ~ with inspiration, I rewrote it into a play the following two or three weeks. With a nucleus group of parents, we discussed the essence of The Littlest Angel presentation to be staged. The farm men rebuilt a stage for us...the mothers made costumes for their children...with the old pump-organ, a small choir rehearsed accompanying carols to be sung. My contribution was making gorgeous angel-wings for the children to wear. How excited all these church people became! Throughout the community, word 'spread like wildfire' about the upcoming concert...to such an extent, we scheduled an additional presentation. WOW...I really felt 'on the hook' for the success of this!

Well, my Dear Blog Readers, after these many years, I've located The Littlest Angel...written by Charles Tazewell. Although he called it a 'short story', I've divided it into two parts for 'blog presentation.' I invite you to read this heart-warming story and to envision it presented as a 'stage play' where many children, with a narrator, portrayed little angels, shepherds, adult angels (and archangels), and the 'heavenly host'. Part 1 will be submitted in a few days.

It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the Earth
To touch their harps of gold.
Peace on Earth...Goodwill to Men,
From Heaven's all gracious King!”
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Written by Merle Baird-Kerr...December 27, 2014
To comment about the upcoming publications,

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Salute to December ~ 2015

~ A Mosaic of Musings and Ramblings ~

Christmas Wish:
It doesn't seem like Christmas, no snow to make things white.
And according to the forecast, it's rain storms for the night.
So, how will Santa get here?  He sure can't use a sled.
So, if the rain keeps coming down, he'll need a boat instead. 

The reindeer will just hate it, they get seasick as you know.
They're standing in their stables just praying it will snow.
And what about the presents, all soaked with ocean spray?
The children won't like soggy toys to play with Christmas Day.

So I've thought about another plan to get Old Santa here;
We'll have to hold our Christmas at another time of year.
Then he could ride on sunbeams and land in f ields of green. 
Why, everyone could be outdoors to watch him make the scene.

But no, that wouldn't be the same; I'm sure we all would grieve
If we didn't hear those little bells so late on Christmas Eve.
We'll close our eyes real tight, get on our knees and pray.
I"m sure they will be answered:  There'll be snow on Christmas Day!

A special Christmas poem written by: Phyllis Ham, Resident of Stephenson House.

Distracted Driving: Fines have increased to $490 and accompanied by '3-demerit points'. Novice drivers under Ontario's Graduated Licensing System will face an immediate 30-day suspension on a first offence.
Zit's Cartoon: Jeremy is driving his parents to a 'shelter'...his mother, in the front passenger seat, remarks, “It think it's wonderful that we're volunteering at the shelter for the day.” Father, sitting in the back seat is alarmed as Jeremy comments, “Yeah, I think it's gonna be cool.” Mother states, “We all need to get out of our comfort zones occasionally.” Dad, scared 'out of his wits' due to his son's driving, exclaims, “Those of us in the back seat are there already!!!”

Fire Warning: $25,000 Damage in west Burlington balcony fire. No one was injured when a fire broke out on an apartment-unit balcony. On arrival, firefighters located a small fire on an upper floor. The suspected cause of the fire is improperly discarded smoking materials. The Fire Department strongly advises, “Do not extinguish cigarettes in a plant pot, which often contains a mixture of peat moss, shredded wood and bark that can easily ingnite. Empty ashes into a metal container (not a garbage can) and place it outside.”

ISIS: A Denver-area store called Isis Books and Gifts wants the world to know its name comes from the Egyptian 'Goddess of Healing and Motherhood'...and it isn't a retail store run by terrorists. The co-owner states his suburban Denver store has been vandalized five times in the past year, probably by people who mistake the name for ISIS, one of the acronyms for the Islamic terrorist group.

John Lennon's Guitar Sells for $2.4 Million at Auction: It was an acoustic-electric guitar that he used to record and write, “Love Me Do” , “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and other hit songs. The guitar was one of only two of its type flown from the United States to England in 1962 for Lennon and George Harrison.

Lights on Christmas Tree Sets World Record: An Australian set his third Christmas-themed world record in as many years Friday, by illuminating a tree in downtown Canberra with 518,838 twinkling lights. Guiness World Records confirmed that David Richards had broken the record for the most lights on an artificial Christmas tree that had been held for five years by Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. Richards, a Canberra lawyer and businessman and his team a team erected the dazzling display.

Notable Dates: December 3 (Thursday) ~ “Franklin Expedition” ***
                          December 6 (Sunday) ~ Hanukkah begins
                          December 24 (Thursday) ~ Christmas Eve
                          December 25 (Friday) ~ Christmas Day
                          December 26 (Saturday) ~ Boxing Day
                          December 31 (Thursday) ~ New Year's Eve
*** The Rotary Club of Dundas Speakers Series features Scott Youngblut, the 2014 Fisheries and Oceans Canada expedition's hydrograph in charge of leading the multidisciplinary Arctic mapping mission. Event is 6:30 pm at the Dundas Museum and Archives. For more info, call 905-379-7353.

Wildlife: A Pilot Project in Prince Edward Island will determine if 'remotely-controlled-aerial drones' can deter ducks from eating so-called seed mussels. The P.E.I Aquaculture Alliance wants to replace the noisy cannons that are now used to keep the birds away...leaving tourists and residents aggravated by the noise that can travel more than a kilometre.
Ohio Rhino Travels to Asia on a Mission to Mate! The last Sumatran rhinocerous in the Western Hemisphere is on the way to its ancestral southeast Asian homeland to help preserve the critically endangered species. A Cincinnati Zoo official said the 8-year-old male can mate with at least one of the three females in an Indonesian sanctuary.
Pair of Orphaned Polar Bear Cubs Find New Home at Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg. The 11-month old males are too young to live on their own. How happy they will be!
Common Redpoll Birds can survive winter temperatives to -53 degrees C. During winter months, it is known they'll tunnel deep into the snow at night to stay warm ~ these tunnels are burrowed 10 cm deeply into the snow and can be more than 30 cm long.

Winter Solstice: December 21 is considered the shortest day of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, here on Planet Earth, this date is the day the tilt...the leaning-over-of-the-Earth's axis is pointing as far away from the sun as it can or will. All over Earth, this time of year, winter holidays celebrate light, sunlight and the warmth that will return as Earth's orbit continues and that 'tilt-away' will point back toward the 'life-giving-sun'!

Compiled by Merle Baird-Kerr...November 28, 2015
Comments are welcome: email inezkate@gmail.com or mbairdkerr@cogeco.ca

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Peter Mansbridge

~ A Canadian of Interest ~
(written by Jill Buchner...published in Canadian Living magazine)

For CBC News Chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge,
some of the best lessons happen outside the classroom.

It's hard to picture Peter Mansbridge as a kid, dodging his homework and dressing in T-shirts instead of ties. But the CBC News Chief correspondent is first to admit he hasn't always been the model of intellectual enlightenment.

I was a very average student,” says Peter who attended high school in Ottawa. “ I spent more time looking outside the window than inside the classroom.” Without the marks for university, his education ended after grade 12. He went on to join the navy, but admits he didn't apply himself there. He withdrew from the 7-year program after only 2 years, choosing to leave with an honourary discharge.

I was sort of lost at sea,” he says. “I didn't want to come back home, because it was such an admission of failure, so I bounced around Western Canada for a while.” He landed a job with a small airline that took him to Winnipeg and Brandon, Manitoba...Prince Albert, Saskatchewan...and finally Churchill, Manitoba where he worked a variety of jobs, from gassing airplanes to collecting tickets. “I was 19 and carefree and enjoying the world.”

One day in 1968 while on cargo duty, he was asked to announce a flight over the PA system. “It was something like, Trans Air Flight106 for Thompson, Winnipeg now ready for boarding,” he recalls. As the passengers filed toward the door, one walked straight toward Peter. “You've got a really good voice. Have you ever thought of being in radio?” asked the man. “I thought he was joking,” says Peter. “I had never thought about broadcasting; it never even crossed my mind.”

That man, the manager of Churchill's CBC Northern Service station, wanted to hire Peter for a late-night radio show. He took the job. “Frankly, if I had said no, he would have offered it to the next person he heard. But, as it turned out, Peter was a perfect fit. “At that point in my life, I'd had all these opportunities that I had not handled well...whether it was school...the possibility of going to university...or the navy.”

It was Peter who took the initiative to start the station's first newscast shortly after he was hired. “I was fascinated by news and grew up in a family where we talked about current events all the time.” From that job in Churchill, he gradually moved up the ranks at CBC.

Today, Peter Mansbridge is the authority for keeping Canadians informed about international and national issues. We have come to trust that soothing, steadfastly serious baritone to deliver news on everything from politics to natural disasters. While it's hard to get over the irony that it was his voice, not his education or skill that landed him such an important job. Peter says he owes a lot to real-world learning...constant discussion...and curiosity. “That's what journalism is all about. You ask questions...challenge assumptions...tell people what you've learned,” he says.

Though he gets strange looks when he tells journalism students his unique story, he stands by the belief that formal education is only part of the equation. Education is extremely important! Life Experience is important as well. Some of Peter's early lessons came from moving around the world...thanks to having a military father, who also stressed that success in life depended upon finishing school.

As a journalist, Peter loves constantly learning about the world. While he's had the opportunity to interview major politicians and religious leaders, the most eye-opening lessons come from ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances! Peter has been sharing his stories with Canadians for the past 46 years. He knows one thing to be true:
We never know enough.
We're never familiar enough with our own institutions
and the challenges that face our country.
We never know enough about the world.”

Confessions from the Intellects
with gratitude to Dilu for the following:

Bill Gates: I didn't even complete my university education
Tom Cruize: I was a dyslexic kid.
Lionel Messi: I used to serve tea at a shop to support my football training.
Steve Jobs: I used to sleep on the floor in friends' rooms, returning Coke bottles for food, money and getting weekly free meals at a local temple.

Tony Blair: My teachers used to call me a failure.
Nelson Mandela: I was in prison for 27 years.
Sharukh Khan (Bollywood Actor): I slept on benches and every day borrowed 20R's from friend to travel to film city.

Michell Jordan: During my secondary school, I was dropped from my school basketball team.
Amitabh Bacchan: I was rejected for the job in 'All India Radio' because of my heavy voice.
Dhirubhai Ambani (richest person in India): I used to work in petrol pump.
Rajnikant (Bollywood Actor): At the age of 30, I was a bus conductor.
Friends...there are many such people who struggled.
Life is not about what you couldn't do so far...it's what you can still do.
Wait...and don't ever give up ~ Miracles happen every day.

Here is the News...with Peter Moosebridge
(Published by The Canadian Press...November 16, 2015)
CBC anchor 'leapt at the chance' to do Disney role.
Disney's animated feature “Zootopia” will feature a uniquely Canadian character ~ a news anchor moose-voiced by CBC's Peter Mansbridge. The character of Peter Moosebridge is a moose and co-anchor of the ZTV News, a trusted source of news for the inhabitants of “Zootopia”. Disney says the character was specifically written with Canada in mind and intended to be voiced by a Canadian. The studio reached out to Mansbridge, who said he immediately accepted the cameo.

The comedy-action adventure is about a city where animals from every environment live together. Zootopia opens in theatres March 4, 2016. Not surprisingly, Peter was a natural and we believe audiences will delight in seeing Canada represented in Peter Moosebridge.
Why did he want to do the role? Peter states, “Well, I didn't want to do it for me...
I wanted to do it really for my kids and grandkids”.

Compiled by Merle Baird-Kerr...November 19, 2015