April 30, 2022
A very special friend and an even more special human being had a memorial service Thursday, for reasons I am not going to share I was unable to attend.
I first heard of John Rae when as president of OPSEU Local 714, I attended Members with Disability caucus meeting at OPSEU Convention. He always seemed to have another meeting or event he had to be at. I finally met him in person when a group of us got together to do a proposal for the formation of OPSEUs Disability Rights Caucus (DRC). It didn’t take long to find out just how busy John was. Through out their time on the caucus John Rae and Carol McGregor were the knowledge on the caucus, not just on issue related to disabilities, but on politics and activism as well. I recall there was hearings on the AODA and the OPSEU brass ask us to present. We advised them we were already presenting: me for DRC in Thunder Bay, Carol McGregor with Suresh Paul for OPSEU human Rights Committee and John Rae as president of the AEBC in Toronto. John gave his written presentation in braille. “This is how I feels when I can’t access braille” he told them.
We certainly connected on equity issues, but it was are shared love of music and sports cemented our friendship. (And got me past “centre of the universe” = Toronto”.
John took me to my first folk festival or maybe I took him, as it was in a small northern Ontario town called Red Rock. My perspective on this weekend has changed since Johns passing. Prior to his passing my memories were of sharing the musicians van, no plan leading to us using the musicians van, Valdy is not good with names. that changed when, then DRC staff Miriam, was reminiscing with my wife about John and I, after his passing. Mariam remembered us both calling her after the festival and complaining about the other. Ya, I had a lot to learn that weekend about folk festivals, John and even me.
I am sure John thought he was taking the Greg who could stand up in front of a thousand OPSEU members and tell them their doing a shitty job of accommodating it’s members. I am mostly not like that. I thought we were going to an event where musicians to play and you paid to listen. When not being an activist I like to be invisible. Folk festivals aren’t like that. JOHN Is not like that. After every workshop John would want to talk to someone, and I would think we were bothering them and try to discourage him. I wanted to be invisible they’ll know I was there when I purchased their CD. At the end of the day we went to a lot more music festivals and events so he must have thought I was “getting so much better all the time”.
I was able to be in Toronto during OPSEUs Convention. As I do when ever I am in Toronto I connected with John. We had a nice dinner at Red Lobster and caught up with each other. The next day I met John at the location of OPSEUs Convention. Although we’re both retired we still had an interest in OPSEU activities. John loved checking out the tables outside Convention. We found the DRC table which was being womaned by our good friends Cindy and Susan. We waited for convention and my wife, Sandra, to break for lunch. Then Sandra, Cindy, John and I went for lunch. We had a really good morning filled with laughter and friendly conversation. Then John and I headed towards his credit union. Unfortunately we never made it.
I will miss you my friend. I hope you know how how many lives you have helped. There people living with disabilities who will live more enriching lives because of your activism and they will never know your name or your role in it. But we do. Thank you for being in our lives.