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Not a year goes by that Greg Pierce
doesn't pay tribute
to champion speed skater Charles (Champ) Gorman
By MIKE MULLEN
A simple but generous act of love can have a powerful
impact on a young life.
Greg Pierce, an 86-year-old Halifax man who still pays tribute every Feb.11 to
Saint John's legendary world champion speed skater, Charles I. (Champ) Gorman,
by placing an In Memoriam notice in Saint John's newspapers.
died in 1940 at age 42, but Mr. Pierce's notice to his "beloved friend" this
year - nearly six decades later - was a simple, but tell-tale verse:
He lives in memory with us
Not just for today,
But always will.
Pierce's boyhood hero, the good-hearted Mr. Gorman won a friend for life - and
in death, as it has turned out - by purchasing a new bicycle for the young lad
that enabled him to become a top-notch messenger with CN Telegraph.
That day -
July 17, 1929 - is indelibly inscribed in Mr. Pierce's keen memory.
In order for
Mr. Pierce to land a job with CN Telegraph, which was looking for new recruits
after buying out Western Union, the then- 16 year old had to be willing to work
full-time and have a bicycle. He borrowed an old bike from a friend before
going off to CN Telegraph on Waterloo Street for his interview.
hired, the ecstatic young man biked to Gorman's service station on Mill Street,
where old Union Station stood, to tell his hero the good news.
'Champ, I got a job as a messenger,' " he recalls.
that old wreck," Mr. Gorman responded, giving the borrowed bike a disapproving
look. "You go get yourself a new one.
Mr. Gorman telephoned Emerson Bros., a leading sporting-goods store on Germain
Street that exclusively handled CCM bikes.
Greg Pierce over and I want you to give him the best bicycle on the floor," Mr.
Gorman, who would later become a member of the Saint John and Canadian Sports
Halls of Fame, informed the store clerk.
acquaintance with Mr. Gorman, whom sportswriters dubbed "The Human Dynamo,"
began early in life. He grew up in the North End where Mr. Gorman had the first
of his three service stations, and K. C. Irving's first in this city, at the
corner of Portland and Main Streets.
"I lived on
the opposite block, on both Main and High streets, around where Keddy's Hotel
is today," says Mr. Pierce. "I knew the Champ from the time I was six.
As he grew
into adulthood, he befriended Mr. Gorman - even going on vacations and out
bicycle, which helped him to get his foot squarely in the door at CN, was used
later the same year to deliver three-cent-a-delivery telegrams to frenzied
Saint John stockbrokers when Black Friday hit Wall Street.
all night delivering messages," he recalls of the day that fortunes were
moved up the corporate ladder with CN.
just once, he was asked to don a messenger's uniform in 1930 to be U.S.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's personal messenger when the
polio-stricken summer resident of Campobello paid a visit to St. Andrews, where
he boarded a train.
father, barber John Pierce, died before he was a year old, forcing his widowed
mother Margaret King - into the workplace.
remarried a few years later, but Mr. Pierce's stepfather, Charles Comeau, was
killed in an accident at Maritime Nail Co., which used to stand at the foot of
who still has relatives in this city, was raised mostly by his grandmother,
Sarah Gallagher King. She operated King's Confectionery and a little grocery
store on Brooks Street.
In 1996, Mr.
Pierce and his wife the former Kathleen Somers of Moncton - lost a daughter to
June, my dear wife passed away," he sadly reports. "We would have been married
54 years in October. We married in Saint John. She also worked for CN.
last surviving member of his immediate family, but has three living children -
daughter Gretchen of Edmonston, wife of Rod Ziegler, a member of the editorial
staff of the Edmonston journal; son Graham, a librarian in the Cole Harbour
area of Dartmouth, N.S.; and son Evan, who lives with him in
who retired from CN Telecommunications after 49 years of service in 1978, still
fact he's now more than twice the age his good friend Charles (Champ) Gorman
was when he died, Mr. Pierce has never really retired. And he's still a
messenger of sorts.
he's run errands for an old pal from New Brunswick Campbellton native Maurice
Doucet, who runs Maritime Billiards Ltd., a wholesale beauty supply business
and a number of other interests, in Dartmouth.
Maurice's office now, "he says, excitedly, relishing yesterday's telephone call
from a reporter that afforded him another chance to talk about the Champ's
generosity. "I just picked up the mail. I also do the company banking. And I
still do the odd delivery when something needs to be done in a hurry.
have worked with him say the charitable approach to living taught to him by Mr.
Gorman and his grandmother has rubbed off on him.
the way I am," Mr. Pierce says. "If somebody does me a good turn, I never
forget them. My psychology has always been, it is better to give than receive.
That's why I haven't got a million dollars."
rich in other ways.
remains "pretty good. He's still able to drive his car. And he has a heart
filled with love that prevents him from letting a year go by without paying
tribute to the Champ.
It's a love
story for the ages. One that makes it seem only appropriate that Mr. Gorman,
who planted the seeds of caring in the fertile heart of a young man, was buried
on St. Valentine's Day, 1940.
Taken from the Times Globe,
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