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Woman finds families of soldiers connected to 102-year-old letter about Vimy Ridge

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A Steinbach, Man., business owner has successfully located the families of two soldiers connected to a 102-year-old letter found in a pile of papers.

Last week, Amanda Kehler, of Prairie Pickers Cafe, stumbled across the letter in a box of old papers she’d bought for a dollar. She got the box from a local man who buys and sells items from estates.

The letter was written in May of 1917 by Earl Sorel, a 20-year-old soldier from Selkirk, Man. Sorel was recovering in hospital after being wounded at the battle of Vimy Ridge.

In the letter, Sorel explains to a Selkirk woman how her brother, Gordon Rochford, had saved his life before dying in the battle.

The story of the letter, and the two friends’ poignant wartime experience, captured lots of attention.

“Goodness, probably over 200 people have either called my business or emailed me or messaged me on Facebook,” Kehler said. “The last few days have been unbelievably overwhelming.”

Through a mixture of publicity, social media tips, interested historians and help from the Canadian military, Kehler said descendants of both men — four in total — have been found. 

Gordon Rochford’s grandniece sent this photo to Amanda Kehler after reading about the 102-year-old letter. (Family handout)

She said the grandniece of Rochford contacted her shortly after a CBC interview.

“I was getting a number of people calling claiming to be descendents, and they couldn’t actually validate that,” Kehler said. “But these folks were a little bit different. They knew specific details, they had pictures, they were very friendly and understanding.

“Honestly it was a fantastic experience to get to know these people a little bit.” 

Kehler also spoke by phone with the grandniece of Sorel, who has two grandnephews as well. She said all of the relatives would like to remain anonymous for now.

“They were very excited to hear that their family member was being honoured this way,” she said. “They were thankful, and grateful, and it was a really great experience. I feel very close to these families now because I spent so much time researching them. ” 

She said everyone agrees the letter should go to a museum, because both families have claim to it.

The hope is to get the letter displayed at the visitor education centre of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France and Kehler has already been in contact with someone from the Canadian military about making it happen.

Prairie Pickers Cafe owner Kehler, right, and employee Felicia Wall with the letter, which was sent from a military hospital in May 1917. (Submitted by Amanda Kehler)

She believes the letter should also be shared publicly, because of the interest and tips she received while searching for the soldiers’ families.

“Because of the story … it’s young men who went to war, and they were friends,” she said. “They lived only a few minutes apart … signed up for the military on the same day.

“The letter basically outlines the fact that Gordon saved Earl’s life, and then unfortunately passed away.”

Rochford’s military records show he enlisted on Aug. 2, 1915 and embarked for France a year later.

Kehler has learned that Sorel came back from the war and moved to Winnipeg with his mother. He married in 1935 but had no children. He died in October 1969.

Kehler said she is touched by the thoughtful comments and notes she received from strangers about the story.

“It’s been a little bit emotional for me,” she said. “I find myself very attached to this letter and these families. It’s been a really good experience though.”

The faded address on the letter says Miss P. Rochford, Manitoba Avenue, Selkirk. Her brother Gordon died at Vimy Ridge. His friend Earl Sorel writes how Gordon saved his life. (Submitted by Amanda Kehler)

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Ottawa Book Expo 2020 – Authors, Publishers look forward to a top-notch Canadian book fair

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Diversity has always been a complex issue, no matter where you look.Case in point, world-famous writer, Stephen King, has recently come under criticism for his views on diversity. The best-selling author had stated, “I would never consider diversity in matters of art, only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.” Many criticized the novelist as being out of touch and “ignorant,” but one cannot deny that King’s opinions on diversity, mirror the thoughts of a whole lot of people in the creative industry.

The Toronto Book Expo is coming back in 2020, with a multi-cultural concept that aims to include marginalized authors.  The Expo intends to celebrate literary works of diverse cultural backgrounds, and the entire literary community in Canada is expectant. Book-lovers and writers alike, are invited to three days of uninhibited literary celebration where diverse cultural works will be prioritized. At the event, authors will be allowed to share their culture with a broad audience. The audience will be there specifically to purchase multi-cultural works.

Multicultural literary expos do not come every day. In Canada, there is a noticeable lack of literary events celebrating other cultures. This leads to a significantly lower amount of cultural diversity in the industry. The Toronto Book Expo would aim at giving more recognition to these marginalized voices. Understandably, more recognizable work will be prioritized.

The Toronto Book Expo is making a statement that diversity is needed in the literary community. The statement is truly motivating, especially if you consider the fact that this could mean more culturally diverse works of literature.

There is a lot of noticeable cultural ignorance in literature. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and books are one of the best means of improving multi-cultural diversity in literature. The Toronto Book Expo is going to fully utilize books to fight ignorance in the literary industry.

Real progress cannot be made if there is a substantial amount of ignorant people in the industry. In spite of advancements made in education in recent years, there is still a considerable percentage of adults who remain unable to read and write.The Toronto Book Expo aims to bring awareness to social literacy issues such as illiteracy.

It is important to uphold high literacy levels in the community and to support those who are uneducated. A thriving society cannot be achieved if the community is not able to read their civil liberties and write down their grievances.

The major foundation of a working and dynamic society is entrenched in literature. Literature offers us an understandingof the changes being made to our community.

The event would go on for three days at three different venues. Day 1 would hold at the York University Student & Convention Centre at 15 Library Lane on March 19. Day 2 would be held at the Bram and BlumaAppel Salon Facility on the second floor of the main Toronto Reference Library near Yonge and Bloor Streets in downtown Toronto on March 21 and day 3 of the expo would take place at the internationally famous Roy Thomson Hall.

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A Week In Ottawa, ON, On A $75,300 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.Attention, Canadians! We’re featuring Money Diaries from across Canada on a regular basis, and we want to hear from you. Submit your Money Diary here.Today: a biologist working in government who makes $75,300 per year and spends some of her money this week on a bathing suit. Occupation: Biologist
Industry: Government
Age: 27
Location: Ottawa, ON
Salary: $75,300
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,930
Gender Identity: Woman

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Ottawa doctor pens nursery rhyme to teach proper handwashing

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An Ottawa doctor has turned to song to teach kids — and adults, for that matter — how to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs.

Dr. Nisha Thampi, an infectious disease physician at CHEO, the area’s children’s hospital, created a video set to the tune of Frère Jacques and featuring the six-step handwashing method recommended by the World Health Organization.

Thampi’s 25-second rendition, which was co-authored by her daughter and Dr. Yves Longtin, an infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, is featured in the December issue of The BMJ, or British Medical Journal. 

Thampi said as an infectious disease physician and a mother of two, she thinks a lot about germs at home and school.

“I was trying to find a fun way to remember the stuff,” she said. “There are six steps that have been codified by the World Health Organization, but they’re complex and hard to remember.” 

Thampi said she came up with the idea to rewrite the lyrics to the nursery rhyme on World Hand Hygiene Day in May, when she was thinking about how to help people remember the technique. 

She said studies have shown that handwashing is effective in reducing the risk of diarrhea-related illnesses and respiratory diseases. 

“So I’d say it’s one of the most important and easiest things we can do.”

The video includes such often-overlooked steps as “wash the back,” “twirl the tips around” and “thumb attack,” which pays special attention to the first digit.

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