The Family of George Blackburn

November 17, 2006 10:00 ET

Death of Famous Canadian Author and Order of Canada Recipient George Blackburn

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 17, 2006) - BLACKBURN, George G. Peacefully, in his sleep, at 11:11 a.m. November 15, 2006, in his 90th year at Ottawa's General Hospital where he'd been diagnosed with cancer. Predeceased by his wife of 60 years Grace Fortington, four years ago. Survived by three children, daughter Andrea of Tallahassee, Florida, his sons Mark of Winnipeg and Ron of Ottawa. George G. Blackburn is also survived by grandchildren Kim, David, Aaron, Ben, and Maxine, and by great-grandchildren Victoria, Matthew, Thomas, Emily and Lochlan.

A man of many talents, including gifted pianist/composer, he suddenly found himself, late in life, with hundreds of new friends from around the world after authoring a WWII book trilogy, the first of which "Guns of Normandy", was winner ten years ago of the Ottawa Citizen Book of the Year Award (1996). The books provided a first hand account of Canadian soldiers in action but didn't include details of how the author, as a young artillery officer, was awarded the Military Cross in 1944 for helping save a key bridgehead at the Twente Canal in Holland. Late-in-life awards included the Order of Canada, the French Legion of Honour, the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction. Earlier awards included honours for plays and films of note.

After a pre-war stint as reporter for the Ottawa Journal in Pembroke, Captain George Blackburn returned from Europe to serve as Director of Information, and Director of Fair Employment Practices, for the Federal Department of Labour. Starting in the 1950's he became producer of the longest-running radio show "Canada at Work", as well as an award-winning documentary film script writer, which films included topics on the Older Worker; Anti-Discrimination; a film starring Wayne & Schuster called "You can Go a Long Way", encouraging teenagers to stay in high school rather than drop out; and the country's most successful government campaign, "Why wait for Spring? Do It Now!" Winter Works Campaign, which revolutionized winter construction and employment during the winter months.

Born in 1917 in a farmhouse near Wales, Ontario, a village which disappeared beneath the waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway, George Blackburn would later commemorate the "saga of the Seaway", in his musical play "A Day to Remember" whose songs were among hundreds for which he composed words and music. His musical was professionally performed for two summers, at a theatre of his own creation, near Upper Canada Village.

His last expressed wish was that "young people" be made aware of the sacrifice made by (generations of) soldiers on behalf of Canadian freedom." Only weeks ago, he'd made his final, annual visit to Manitoba's Camp Shilo - to address Canada's young artillery officers. On a personal note, George Blackburn never "talked the talk" of organized religion - though he believed in a creator God. But he "walked the walk" never allowing anyone to "pick up the tab" at any event he attended, and providing a life long banquet for widows and others who could never replay him in kind.

A great man, profoundly missed by those who survive him. A celebration of George's life will be held on Saturday, November 18, at Pinecrest Visitation Centre, 2500 Baseline Road, Ottawa, from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

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