Saturday, September 5, 2015


Somewhere a young man owes his life to Gary Marshall. It's not every day one meets a hero stepping out of an orange kayak in a remote Ontario Provincial Park!

Born in Watford, northwest of London, England, he moved at 18 months old with his family to Canada in search of better opportunities. Growing up in Scarborough, Ontario in east Toronto, Gary eventually moved his own family to Pontypool. A sweet name for a sweet spot on the rural landscape in the Kawartha area of Ontario.

Gary has a big family with five kids spanning 12 years. A family man, he loves to come to Arrowhead Provincial Park every year with his kids to play, relax and enjoy time away from the stress of work. When he is not home with family, he is a paramedic working out of Toronto. He has been saving lives for the last 32 years.

GARY'S HEROIC FACT: About 10 years ago, he and his family were again at Arrowhead enjoying the area around Stubb's Falls. The water that year flowing through the falls was very full. While walking his dogs below the falls he heard his wife's panicked call. A boy had slipped into the falls and was lodged under a rock below the rushing water.

Muscle memory, instinct and training took over. Running, he grabbed his kid's boogie boards and made it up the steep incline where he positioned the boogie boards up-flow of the boy to help divert water away and hold the boy's head out of the current. He was integral in keeping the boy from slipping back down under the rush of water for 45 minutes until police and ambulance came to assist. Dog leashes were tied together and wrapped around the boy's chest and were used to help dislodge the child from the flow with the help of police and other paramedics.

After a night in hospital and warming up after hypothermia, a large cardboard sign was placed at the park entrance thanking all those who helped save the boy's life.


Friday, September 4, 2015


"I could write a book," says taxi driver Terry Austin. There are those callings for which silence is sacrosanct: lawyers, clergy, bartenders. Terry and his cab is one of them!

Born in Burk's Falls, Ontario, a town of just over 1,000 people, Terry' approachability and friendliness are only matched by the size of his enormous blue sedan. He is part of the local history in this area of Ontario. Of his extended family in the Huntsville, Muskoka area, "Oh God, all kinds of them! About 9 generations on my mother's side and 12 generations on my father's side".

A driver off-and-on for the past 15 years, he has seen and heard it all from his front seat. With a warmth and comfort about him, he loves what he does, "I enjoy meeting people and making them laugh," he says of his very public job. Its not always an easy job, "One woman, a while ago, she threw up down the back of my neck! And people coming back from the bars late at night have loose lips. I could write a book!" But of course, it is the code of drivers – silence and tight lips are part of the job. "I could be a multi-millionaire with the stuff I've heard. But I don't say a word"!

TERRY FUN FACT: The town of Huntsville is small, but his fares often extend far away to other parts of the province. "I took a gentleman to Sarnia not long ago. He paid me handsomely, $740," he says of that particular 475 kilometre fare. He has also driven people to Toronto (233 km), Bellville (269 km), New Liskeard (277 km) and Ottawa (342 km). "I enjoy driving. I enjoy the sights. There are still lots of places I haven't been to." With that, the radio crackles to life and he is off to fetch another fare.


Thursday, September 3, 2015


Spending the last week before school begins, exploring downtown, school friends Ashlee and Vanessa have found a cool place to have fun. Like Mel, in the previous post, these girls have discovered the colourful street art of the inner city.

Originally from the Philippines, Ashlee and her sister moved to Canada in 2011 to join her mom who was already living here. Her English, which she taught herself, is flawless! She is heading to a high school next week with her friend Vanessa. She has a big interest in drawing and animation and is thinking it might be something to consider after high school. 

Born in Toronto, 13 year old Vanessa is going into Grade 9 too with her friend Ashlee. She is not exactly looking forward to it – after all, she is having too much fun this summer! Vanessa loves to play soccer and sing.  "She's really good," says Ashlee to the shy laughter of Vanessa who is inspired by Taylor Swift.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Francesco Russo's light blue eyes dance when he speaks of being born in Calabria. He was born in the the picturesque "toe" of Italy, but moved to Canada in 1972 after visiting as a tourist. Francesco had a sister living in Canada, so thought this would be a good move also.

He has always worked construction, even at the age of 13, Francesco was operating a dragline excavator in Italy! Its in his blood and he loves it.

For the past 41years, he has been working for Coreydale Excavating where he feels at home. He quickly breaks into a broad leathery smile as he rhymes off many of the large projects he has been involved with.  He has worked many feature condo builds for Daniels corporation, like the one where he stands in this photo on the site of the old Guvernment night club on Toronto's waterfront.

A father of two, and grandfather of two, Francesco's lively spirit is friendly, warm and engaging. He chuckles when I ask him about his fun fact.

FRANCESCO FUN FACT: "I used to collect rocks" he says laughing, "nature put them there, and I take them out and give them to people". These are not fist or mellon-sized rocks. These beautiful boulders, you guessed it, need and excavator! It gives him great satisfaction when he sees the boulders adorning in front of people's homes.


Monday, August 31, 2015


"We are just so lucky to have this lake here. It keeps me grounded every day," says local Beach resident, Audrey Robertson as she looks past Toronto's boardwalk to Lake Ontario. 

Born not far from here, Audrey's family moved east to Pickering while she grew up. Leaving home, she returned to her roots along Toronto's waterfront where she comes to walk and revel in the beauty of a simple sunset each morning.

In technology sales, specifically sim cards for a French company, Audrey works from home. Having attended Queen's University for biology, then art history, she laughs at the circuitous route that brought her to working in the tech industry. Recalling a job at Microsoft, "You know, my biology and art history degree were very good for the computer industry," she laughs sarcastically at the how strange life can be!

Other interests that keep her occupied and balanced are reading, going to films and cooking. "I like to try all sorts of new recipes. The odd time I bake, but mostly cooking."

AUDREY FUN FACT: "I've gone on stage many times either to play an instrument or to dance," she says, laughing at the concerts she has attended and was so moved by the music, she thought she should contribute! "I was in New Orleans once. I went on stage and played a washboard. They took it pretty well," she recalls of her French Quarter debut. We understand adult beverages were also involved in those scenarios!