Monday, 9 November 2015

REMEMBERING THE RUNNING WARRIOR

I’m thrilled that HIVE EMPORIUM on Gabriola Island has included my play, Running: The Alex Decoteau Story, on its bookshelf of local authors. The cover, designed by local Gabriola publisher Morri Mostow of FictivePress.com, shows Alex Decoteau’s portrait overlaid on an Edmonton scene of people gathered to read about the outbreak of WWI.

This play continues the tradition of the friends and family of Alex Decoteau, telling the inspiring story of Canada’s first Aboriginal policeman, also an Olympic runner, killed by a sniper while running a message at the Battle of Passchendaele on October 30, 1917.


A poignant story about Alex is recounted by Izola Mottershead, his great-niece, in her book before-Alex Decoteau-after.

Over sixty years after Alex was shot, Avis McKenzie wrote her memories of meeting Alex when she was a girl in 1916. She described going with her mother to the Sarcee Military Camp where her father introduced her to Alex Decoteau. That fall the soldiers helped on the farms near Red Deer, and Avis and her cousin Darwin got to know Alex. They hiked with Alex and he taught them about interesting plants and animals. She credited Alex for fostering her love of the outdoors.

She described saying good-bye to Alex when he left for the battlefields, and then a year later meeting her cousin when she went to get the mail. Darwin said, “They got Alec.” A week later when she got home from school, Avis learned that Darwin’s father had also been killed.

Avis and Darwin never forgot Alex. Avis introduced her account by saying he was one of the finest men it had been her privilege to know. She wrote that when she and Darwin discussed Alex decades later, they asked each other if he was really the man they thought or if it was just hero worship. They agreed it was not hero worship. Avis concluded, “Alec Decoteau was my friend.” In my 2001 Edmonton Fringe production of Running: The Alex Decoteau Story, I tried to preserve Avis’s memory of Alex by having a character in the play say, “He was my friend.”

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