News of the death of Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander brings back memories for Mike and for me. I met him once in the late 1980s, and I knew I was in the presence of greatness. He was visiting the church I attended, St. Mary Magdalene’s Anglican in Toronto, and he joined us afterwards for coffee hour in the basement. The old, unfinished, unattractive basement, where we nonetheless socialized and had some good times.
Alexander was standing by himself against the wall, tall, slim, elegant, handsome and totally intimidating. No one dared approach him. But this was church, where we were told that everyone is the same in the eyes of God, and he was a visitor, and alone. That didn’t seem right. So I swallowed, took a breath and approached him.
I don’t remember what I said, probably thanking him for coming, and that it was an honour to meet him. And I don’t remember what he said in reply, but he immediately started an easy conversation that I could take part in, and that drew others to him. And that is how I knew that he was a great man. He was able to put everyone at ease and make it effortless to engage with him.
Mike met him a few times in recent years, at the annual Warriors’ Day Parade at the CNE grounds, and Mike says that Alexander remembered him from meeting him the time before. That is a trait that good politicians have, to be able to remember people, to focus on one individual at a time and make that person feel good about the meeting. Another sign of greatness.
Here are a few more photos of Lincoln Alexander that Mike took at the Warriors’ Day Parade lunch in 2010.
Do you have memories of Lincoln Alexander?
Here is a statement from Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott:
Lincoln Alexander was the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario when I was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1990. When he came into the Chamber at Queen’s Park for a Throne Speech or other special occasion, he had a regal bearing and manner that ironically seemed to be down-to-earth at the same time. But it was his sense of humour that endeared him to everyone who knew him. He visited Wellington County on August 2, 2008, to help unveil an historical heritage plaque at Glen Allan. “Good afternoon, your Honour,” I said, as I greeted him. “They said there’d be some big shots here,” he replied. I smiled, protesting that I didn’t see myself as a “big shot.”
“All you MPPs think you’re big shots,” he retorted. We both laughed, remembering that he too had been a parliamentarian, and so was, by his own
definition, a “big shot” himself.
Lincoln Alexander grew up in an Ontario that was far less tolerant and inclusive than the province we know today. But as Sandra Martin wrote in the Globe and Mail, he had the capacity
to “turn rejections and despicable slurs into a personal challenge to excel.” Excel he did, as a student, as a young professional, as a husband and father, and as a community leader…culminating in his election to the House of Commons as a Progressive
Conservative in 1968. He held his Hamilton riding through five elections, becoming Canada’s Minister of Labour in
1979. Retiring from partisan politics, he later served as the Chair of Ontario’s Workman’s Compensation Board, and then represented Her Majesty the Queen as our Lieutenant Governor.
Next, he became the longest serving Chancellor of the University of Guelph, inspiring thousands of young people with his life story and example of overcoming discrimination, pursuing
excellence, and working for a better Canada.
Today his remains lie in state here at the Ontario Legislature, but the memory of His Honour Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander will live on at Queen’s Park forever.
Gloria, I’m glad you asked members of the Halton-Peel Communications Association if any of us ever had the chance to meet Lincoln Alexander because, as a matter of fact, I did, as did my wife and father.
Glynis met him when he was Chancellor at the University of Guelph in 1993 or 94. She had enrolled as a mature student and delayed going to convocation until our kids were old enough to go with us to enjoy the event. After looking at Glynis, who was proudly wearing her graduation gown and closing in on 40 years young, Lincoln Alexander smiled and said, “Congratulations. It took you a while to get here.” So, you can add sense of humour to his many other attributes. Glynis was very touched and vividly remembers that special moment to this day.
I met Lincoln Alexander many years later when we took my Dad, who was in his early 90s, to the official ceremony welcoming the H.M.C.S. Haida to Hamilton. Linc and Dad had quite a long chat. Dad didn’t serve on the Haida, but as a bandsman (trumpet) in the Royal Canadian Navy Stadacona Band, he was on the stern of the H.M.C.S. Riverton to musically welcome home the Haida and play her into Halifax harbour. It turns out that Lincoln Alexander served in the Royal Canadian Air Force the same three years my Dad was in the Navy (42-45), which might explain why they talked longer than one might normally expect.
Those are my Lincoln Alexander stories Gloria. I enjoyed your article and pictures in Niagara Escarpment Views. Lincoln Alexander was a great Canadian and I have never met anyone who thought otherwise.
Thanks for sharing your memories. They are fine tributes.
He was a great man to know and he was a great supporter of the Warrior’s Day Parade. His presence at the Parade was always well appreciated by the parade participants and the audience.
Rest in Peace
Thank you so much for sharing these fine memories of meeting my late husband. Linc had a way about him that made you remember him, not because of what you said, not because of what he said, but because of the way he made you feel. A true Prince. I miss him. ❤️