Live Well, Do Good

Who Could Be Brandon’s Most Famous?

Brandon Sun, April 20, 2006 - David McConkey

This month’s column takes up the challenge thrown out by Community News Edition co-ordinator Grant Hamilton: “Who is the most famous Brandonite ever?”

I find the question intriguing. I delight in trivial (and important) pieces of knowledge. Also, the question relates to thriving, sustainable communities.

Well, who is the most famous?

First, check the Internet. There is a section titled “Famous Brandon People” in the “Brandon, Manitoba” entry of the on-line Wikipedia encyclopedia. That list contains six names.

I’ll bet that few people from Brandon could guess who is on the list. Are they even really that “famous”? Are they even “Brandonites”? Actually, they don’t appear to qualify under Grant’s rules: either they don’t come from Brandon or they achieved fame only after they moved away.

Who are the six famous Brandon people, according to Wikipedia? They are: Samuel Bronfman, Mae Moore, Clifford Sifton, Israel Idonije, James Ehnes, and Douglas Peters. Who knew?

In case you don’t recognize who they are, perhaps these descriptions will help: liquor dealer, singer, politician, football player, musician, and economist / politician.

To that list, I’m sure many would add the names of famous people born in / from Brandon such as Dr. Wilfred Bigelow (surgeon), Henry Champ (broadcaster), Ron Hextall (hockey player), Fred McGuinness (journalist), or Amanda Stott (singer).

You could add Tommy Douglas and Stanley Knowles, who both lived here for a while. (By the way, if you really would like to add these or any other names, you can actually do it. Wikipedia can be edited by anyone.)

Now, to get back to Grant’s challenge. Who is the most famous Brandonite? After watching the recent W5 documentary, “Hockey Brawl: Battle on Thin Ice,” I‘d consider promoter Darryl “Beef” Wolski.

Wolski reaped international fame for his effort to stage a battle among hockey “enforcers.” After all, how many people from Brandon are interviewed on Dennis Miller Live, or are the subject of a W5 program?

However, checking the Internet again, I see that Wolski was originally from Selkirk. Disqualified, eh, Grant?

Here is someone who I think does meet the qualifications for the most famous Brandonite ever. Although he now lives in Ottawa, he was born in Brandon, lived here (on and off) for a number of years, and achieved fame while here.

That description is of my friend Pat Mooney, who is famous as a political activist and campaigner for biodiversity and stewardship of seeds. He is now making a name for himself in the new field of nanotechnology.

As a teenager in Winnipeg, Pat Mooney was inspired by another famous person from Westman, Maurice Strong, to drop out of high school and make his mark in the wider world. He started by organizing “Miles for Millions” walks in the 1960s, and has never looked back.

While living in the Brandon area in the 1980s, Mooney gained worldwide attention. He was recognized with, among other honours, The Right Livelihood Award. This award, dubbed the "Alternative Nobel Prize," was presented to him in the Swedish Parliament.

Doing a Google search of Pat Mooney now, I see his name mentioned in stories from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, CNN, Fox News, CBC, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and on, and on. That’s famous!

Grant asked a provocative question as part of his challenge. “I sort of think,” he mused, “that ‘famous’ and ‘living in Brandon’ are mutually exclusive. Why is that?”

Thoughts on that question will be in my next column:  Can We Nurture and Retain Famous People in Westman?

* * * 

See also:

ETC Group

Brandon: What Kind Of A City Do We Want?

Take a Brandon Ghost Walking Tour

Youth May Soon Lead Change

Authors Offer Food for Thought

Manitoba History - A Citizen Appreciation

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