In Memoriam: Gerry Brown, Winnipeg (1919-2018)

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“I remember a slight woman in an olive military suit who held the room spellbound.”

I was saddened recently to find out that Gerry Brown, a long-time fan and supporter of Dr Lotta Hitschmanova, had passed away in Winnipeg at the age of 98.

Gerry was one of USC Canada’s most dedicated volunteers and Board members. She first met Lotta in Vancouver in 1944, and decades later she joined USC’s legendary group of Winnipeg volunteers at Firehall #5.

Here is a biographical note that Gerry wrote in 2012.

David Rain Continue reading

Globe and Mail letter to the editor: “A force for humanity”

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This wonderful testimonial about Lotta Hitschmanova was published today in the Letters section of the Globe and Mail:

Re One Man’s Continuing Quest To Honour A Humanitarian (Jan. 23): The attempts to honour Lotta Hitschmanova on a commemorative postage stamp brought back memories of how she made the Unitarian Service Committee famous in Canada in the years after the Second World War, when so many were trying to survive in brutal circumstances.

I was a high school principal and invited her to address the student body in the late 1970s on one of her cross-country fundraising tours. She was a diminutive figure in her unique uniform and I heard some of the “cool” students snicker as she headed to the stage. She soon had them eating out of her hand, and the student council voted to donate the whole proceeds of the next school dance to the USC. Dr. Lotta was a force for humanity and deserves to be commemorated.

Kerry Johnston, Toronto

Before there was “Giving Tuesday”, there was Lotta Hitschmanova!

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that Lotta was the greatest fundraiser that our country has ever known. Indeed, she wrote the book on fundraising long before there were professional fundraisers, or any fundraising books at all.

Today is November 28th, “Giving Tuesday”, and thousands of Canadians will be responding to fundraising appeals from charities and non-profits across the country.

Coincidentally it is also the 108th anniversary of the birth of Dr Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-1990), a WWII refugee to Canada who profoundly shaped the society she encountered in her adopted homeland, and indeed, she planted the very seeds for the “Giving Tuesday” that we are celebrating today. Continue reading

Special Bank of Canada Update #1: Elsie MacGill and Lotta Hitschmanova ranked highest in cross-Canada survey!

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Lotta Hitschmanova on a Canadian bank noteWhen the Bank of Canada announced its short list of 5 women candidates to appear on a Canadian banknote, I was a bit surprised to read that Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-1990) wasn’t on the list. I wondered, perhaps I had been mistaken, and Lotta’s story no longer resonated with Canadians to the degree I thought it did.

Recently the Bank of Canada has published the full details of the cross-country survey of 2,000 Canadians who voiced their opinions about the women (including Lotta) who had made it onto the long list of 12 “bank-notable” Canadian women.

In my upcoming series of Lotta56sparks.ca blog posts, I will highlight some of the results of this cross-Canada survey. Here is today’s key finding: Continue reading

Little known Lotta facts for a Friday: They danced till they dropped in North Vancouver!

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From the 1940s to the 1980s, Lotta Hitschmanova inspired thousands of Canadians to empty their pockets to support USC Canada‘s work with the needy in far off lands.

Teenagers were by no means immune to Lotta’s appeals for help, as this small nugget from Clyde Sanger’s biography of Lotta indicates:

Continue reading

Sharing a Lotta Story: “Dad and Dr. Lotta”

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“In any world menu, Canada must be considered the vichyssoise of nations–it’s cold, half-French, and difficult to stir.” — Stuart Keate

“They made an interesting couple.”

Thus wrote Kathryn-Jane Hazel, recalling the remarkable personal connection her father, noted B.C. newspaper publisher Stuart Keate, had with Lotta Hitschmanova.

NB: Stuart Keate was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame in 1974 and received the Order of Canada in 1976. Future blog posts will bring out more of the special Stuart Keate – Lotta Hitschmanova connection. Continue reading