Sandwiched between an article announcing that the new MacDonald-Stewart Art Centre would be opening in November, and pictures of the visiting Canadian Hearing Society’s mobile van on page 3 of the July 17 edition of The Daily Mercury was a notice. A young man named Terry Fox was running his way across Canada in a “Marathon of Hope” in order to raise money and awareness for cancer research, and his long journey was to bring him to Guelph that coming Tuesday.
There was still about a month and a half, and 1,500 kilometers before Terry was forced to give up his marathon when the pain of the spreading cancer became too much for Terry to run anymore, but Guelph had been watching for 100 days and 3,700 kilometers as Terry came closer, and in the Monday July 21 issue of the Mercury, Terry stood with Governor-General Edward Schreyer in a Canadian Press photo. By this point in the run, Terry had raised three-quarters of a million dollars for the Canadian Cancer Society, but the exertion of the run, and the as-yet-unknown toll of the cancer, were beginning to show.
Fox himself called into the Mercury from a payphone outside of St. Mary’s to say he was doing okay. “I’m getting along fine,” he said, “Don’t believe everything you hear. One of the radio stations said I would be in the hospital for three days. No way.” There had been, apparently some issues with his artificial leg that required a bit of tune up from Vancouver prosthetist Ben Speicher. In an instance of candor not familiar to modern media trained spokespeople, Speicher was concerned for Terry. “He’s not the type to complain about it, but he’s got to be hurting,” he told the Mercury.
On Tuesday morning, Day 101 of the Marathon of Hope, Terry made his way down Highway 7 under a “dismal grey and rainy” sky, said the Mercury. In spite of the early hour, and the weather, a number of people were along the road to cheer on Terry as he arrived, even though the real festivities would be at City Hall later on during the noon hour. Fox had stared his morning at 5 am, 13 kilometers outside of town near Breslau. He then jogged down Woodlawn to the Parkview Motel where he rested till 11 am.
Full coverage of Terry’s visit was in the Wednesday edition of the Mercury, under the headline “Guelph Cheers Cancer Fighter.” Staff writer Martha Tancock wrote, “Hundreds gathered Tuesday at noon to cheer one-legged runner Terry Fox as he approached Guelph’s City Hall almost halfway through his cross-country marathon to raise funds for cancer research.”
The Royal City added $19,000 more to Terry’s cause thanks to donations from the Italian Canadian Club, employees of the Wellington Country Board of Education, the seniors living at Delhi Court and Marlborough Court, Barry Cullen and his staff at his Chev-Olds dealership, and Heather Gaudette of Roller Alley, who held a special skate to raise money that day from 12 am till 3 pm. (Roller Alley was typically closed on Tuesdays.)
Mayor Norm Jary was amongst the dignitaries that welcomed Terry to Guelph at City Hall, and paid tribute to “this remarkable young man.” Fox has ushered into the downtown core by members of the Roadrunners Association, a great many Guelph Police officers, and a dozen Cancer Society workers. Jary declared Tuesday July 22, 1980 to be “Terry Fox Day” in Guelph, and the runner was presented with a plate inscribed with the City’s insignia. Terry was magnanimous like always and said that he was “not going to give up no matter how tough things were going to be,” and that his cancer treatments were “a lot harder than what I’m going through now.”
There wasn’t much time for ceremony though, because Terry was back on the road and heading down to Halton Hills for that evening. Georgetown Mayor Peter Pomeroy welcomed Terry to town a bit later than anticipated, but the runner was presented with over $12,000 in donations including cheques for $7,500 and $2,500 respectively from the Georgetown and Acton branches of the Cancer Society. Terry would have to backtrack to just outside Acton on Wednesday morning; he had to abandon his run in order to make the Georgetown reception on time.
To show that it wasn’t all serious, a small article on page 11 of the Wednesday Mercury was headlined “Girl, Fox Just Friends.” An Acton high school student named Marlene Lott refuted that there was anything “extra-curricular” about her friendship with Terry, she was just acquainted with Terry’s sister and was part of his volunteer support crew one day in Toronto. Although he’s become rather timeless nearly 40 years later, it’s worth remembering that at the time Terry was 21 years old, and a celebrity. Lord knows what the rumour mill would be like now for him.
By Thursday, Terry had moved on and so had the local paper. The front of the July 24, 1980 edition of the Mercury chronicled the opening of an investigation by the Ontario Fire Marshal into a blaze that gutted the Super Great Submarine shop on Macdonell, while workers at Fiberglas Canada walked off the line in a wild cat strike at their Yord Rd plant. Also front page news was the sudden passing of Peter Sellers, who died in the intensive care unit of the London Middlesex Hospital after suffering his third heart attack in 16 years. But looking back at the coverage, at the time, of Terry Fox and his inspirational run, the words of the Mercury editorial page are still apt today.
“For Fox, the marathon is his personal and often painful commitment to hope. Few individuals have so captured the imagination and hearts of Canadians as Fox has done by his sacrifice,” it said. “Years from now when we recall his daring, maybe we can say that he became our way and we were moved by his bravery.”