SSSS email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-07-19 published
WEEKS, Ernest Poole
By Arnold SIMESTER, Page A16
Proud Maritimer, Rhodes scholar, civil servant, world traveller. Born January, 1912. Died January 23, in Ottawa of pneumonia, aged 94.
Ernest WEEKS was the son of Rev. E.S. WEEKS, a Methodist minister. Ernest had two sisters, Pearl and Jean. As a boy growing up in Murray Harbour, Nova Scotia, he could remember things such as hearing the Halifax Explosion rattle all the windows in his house and experiencing the Spanish Flu of 1918.
After attending Mount Allison University he won a Rhodes scholarship in 1933 to study economics. He travelled Europe where he saw Mussolini giving a speech, and saw Hitler, dressed in his brown shirt, driving through rapturous crowds in Hamburg. He also visited collective farms in the Ukraine as he rode through Russia. The memoir Ernie published in 2004 (Memoirs, 90 years, 1912-2002: Canada and Elsewhere) is an amazing first-hand account of his witnessing "a sort of twilight of the fabulous Empire, and a time of revolutionary changes in Europe." He also met personalities such as Churchill and George Bernard Shaw through different Oxford connections.
In Hamburg, he met a German woman named Gerda WUENSCH (through study and travel he became fluent in five languages) and when the Second World War occurred he found himself in Britain with a young family living through the Blitz. He worked for the Ministry of Information preparing propaganda, including foreign radio broadcasts at the British Broadcasting Corporation. One night during a very severe raid, with his wife and son by his side, he heard the whistle of V-1 "buzz bombs" coming from directly overhead. From experience he knew the Germans flew the V-1s in lines of threes so they heard the explosion of the first bomb, then the second bomb hit closer. The third bomb just missed his flat and levelled a house 100 yards away.
He returned to Canada in the 1950s and worked as an economist for the federal government; he worked for a wide variety of departments. He shared an office with a young Pierre Trudeau at one point and he counted C.D. Howe and Jack Pickersgill as his mentors. He served as executive director of the Atlantic Development Board, assistant deputy minister of the Department of Regional Economic Expansion, and the chairman of Canadian Saltfish Corp.
Although he moved and worked in privileged circles he never took himself seriously. He established the Semi-Senile Snow Shoeing Society (or the SSSS as the members called it) in Ottawa. This group of Friends met for more than 50 years on Saturdays to explore the woods in western Quebec or in the Ottawa valley. After so many miles a bonfire would be built and stories would be told as they ate lunch and sipped their snowshoeing drink (half whisky and half maple syrup). The group came from all walks of life, largely through Ernie's wide involvement with organizations such as the Young Men's Christian Association, his church, the press club, the Rideau club, and the Canadian Geographical Society.
Charlie Hurst, his best friend, described Ernie as a man who "knew the name of every tree and flower, who could talk about international politics for hours, always with all the details, who could tell a good story -- and who would listen, too. He was a fantastic man with a fantastic mind." They only stopped snowshoeing in 2002, when every other member of the original group had died.
A testament to his spirit is that, as Ernie's body grew frailer in the last few years and as he was reduced to a cane and then finally to a wheelchair, the most he would concede to his health when an inquiry was made might be a casual "Last week was tough, but, you know, I'm making progress." After which -- inevitably he'd meet your concerned look with a smile and say, "But tell me how you're doing."
Arnold SIMESTER is Ernie's step-grand_son.
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