My friends and I regularly run through Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. Why, you may ask? Well, traffic is light, the roads are paved and in good repair. The hundreds of species of trees provide shade in summer and in winter, its hardworking staff plow and sand the roads way before Toronto’s regular streets.
I first saw Mt. Pleasant Cemetery walking across the ravine bridge on St. Clair Avenue West. New to Toronto, my curiosity was piqued by what appeared to be small Greek temples set in distant greenery. These mythical structures proved to be the mausoleums of worthies such as the Eaton family, tombs that wouldn’t be out of place in a vampire movie.
Our futures can indeed prove strange. I had no idea then that I would end up living next to the cemetery, nor that my friends and I would run and bike through it almost daily. For the record all you bikers and hikers, once around the cemetery is about 7 kilometres.
Mt. Pleasant was established in 1873 on a 200-acre farm outside the city limits. Initially, only Roman Catholics or Anglicans were allowed to be buried here, but times fortunately have changed. Its 168,000 permanent residents now reflect Canada’s multi-cultural heritage in nationalities and faiths.
Which brings me to the resting place in the photo above. My running buddy and I spotted the little brass dog that guards the grave of Peter Worthington, founder of the right-leaning Toronto Sun newspaper and well-known journalist. What people may not know is that he was an eye witness to the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby on November 24, 1963, as depicted in this world famous photo below.
A far sunnier and uplifting fact is that Peter Worthington was a strong believer in animal welfare and a long-time supporter of the Toronto Humane Society. We like to think that the little brass dog was once his pet who now stands by him forever.
Unusual things have happened to me all my life. Perhaps my friends are right: I possess a dark aura that attracts surreal experiences.
Last July, my son-in-law, Mitch, was in the throes of moving himself and our daughter to Montreal. Buried by boxes and worn out by the family dog, Pips, who’s mostly Jack Russell terrier, he seriously needed rescuing. The two of us escape up the street to the local Italian bakery for a much-needed café latte.
Standing by the cash register, I become aware of a mountainous presence and look up – way, way up into the kindly face of the largest man I have ever met.
Jerry Sokoloski, a true gentle giant, stands 7’8″ in his size 25 shoes. His fingers span 12 inches: he holds out his hand offering me a comparison. My size 8 hand looks like an infant’s!
Jerry is at the café to be interviewed. He sits at one of the elevated tables where ordinary mortals stand to drink their coffees. Mitch and I are struck by the difficulties Jerry faces in daily life: driving, riding the bus or streetcar, getting clothes that fit, attending a movie theatre. The list goes on and on.
Jerry trained with the NBA and recently completed filming David and Goliath. (Three guesses which role he played.) I invite you to meet this sweet and patient man in this Youtube video.
Mitch and I head back to packing. At 5’9″ I rarely feel short. Meeting unusually tall people, feels welcome, yet at the same time, somewhat overwhelming and intimidating. I tell Mitch this but he is having none of it.