Friday, September 28, 2012

Soeur Sourire: The Saga of the Singing Nun

Back in the 1960s, around the time of John F. Kennedy's assassination, a nun from Belgium gained international fame with a hit song.  Her birth name was Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers and she was born in Brussels almost 79 years ago, on October 17, 1933. You may remember her as The Singing Nun.

Jeanine's parents, Lucien and Gabrielle Deckers, encouraged their daughter to take over the family bakery in Brussels.  She had other ideas and briefly enrolled in a Paris art school.  She later attended the Catholic University of Louvin and became a high school art teacher.  While in her 20s, she studied art, played guitar and became distraught over a broken engagement.  In 1959, at the age of 25, she entered the Dominican Fichermont Convent in Waterloo, Belgium, taking the name Sister Luc Gabriel (a combination of her parents' first names).  At the convent, the talented nun wrote, sang and performed her own songs.  Her music was so popular with the other members of the order and at retreats that she was encouraged to record an album.that visitors to the monastery would be able to purchase.

The nuns approached the Philips Record Company's office in Brussels about recording some of Sister Luc Gabriel's songs.  Philips was so impressed with her record that they signed Sister Luc Gabriel to a contract.  It was agreed, however, that all royalties from her recordings would be donated to her order as she had taken a vow of poverty. Her album became so popular in Europe that Philips began importing the disc to North America.  It was released in the United States as The Singling Nun.  A single from the album, "Dominique,"  became an international hit.  Sister Luc Gabriel had written the song as a tribute to Saint Dominic, he 13th -Century saint who founded her order.  It was recorded to raise funds for a church mission in Africa.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, the obscure Dominican nun attained celebrity status.  This shy, bespectacled woman became the unlikeliest of pop stars.  She found herself in the midst of a whirlwind of fame that changed her life irrevocably.  She used the stage name Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile), a  moniker devised by Philips, and she also performed concerts . . . reluctantly.  By late 1963, both her album and her single had risen to the top of the charts in the United States..

After the death of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, grieving Americans were ready for a softer, more soothing sound.  "Dominique" filled the bill.  It is the first Belgian song to become a number one hit single in the United States.  It held the Billboard top spot in  the U.S. for four weeks beginning on December 7, 1963, holding back The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" from reaching Number 1.  Versions of "Dominique" were recorded in Dutch, German, Hebrew and Japanese and the song was charted in many different countries.

On January 5, 1964, The Singing Nun reached the pinnacle of her fame when she appeared, via tape, on the Ed Sullivan Show.  She performed a brief rendition of Dominique and was interviewed by Ed Sullivan,  At the conclusion of the interview, Sullivan commented that the nation "feels so much closer to nuns now."  In 1964, The Singing Nun put forth her second album, Her Joy, Her Songs.  The album did not receive much attention and was quickly forgotten.

Sudden fame had been difficult for the unassuming nun to handle.  In 1965, she returned to the protective confines of her convent.  In 1966, an MGM musical called The Singing Nun was released.  It was very loosely based on the life of Jeanine Deckers, although she was referred to as Sister the film.  The Singing Nun starred Debbie Reynolds in the title role and featured Ricardo Monalban, Greer Garson, Katherine Ross, Chad Everett and Agnes Moorehead.  Ed Sullivan portrayed himself.  The film was dismissed by Deckers who described it as "fiction."  It was, however, nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment.

In 1967, Deckers left her convent before taking final vows.  She had decided to pursue her  music career on a full-time basis.  This time she performed under the name "Luc Dominque" as Philips Records owned the rights to her original stage name, Soeur Sourire.  That same year, she released another album, I Am Not a Star in Heaven.  The album's title track included the following lyric: Sister Smile is dead, God is the only star . . .  Deckers' disdain for the spotlight was made abundantly clear.  Perhaps that is one reason why he album did not sell well.  It was a commercial failure.

Although deeply religious, Deckers became increasingly critical of some Catholic doctrines, particularly the Church's teachings on birth control.  In fact, she strongly advocated the use of artificial contraception.  Her album I am Not a Star in Heaven contained a song called "La Pilule D'Or."  It's English title is "Glory Be to God for the Golden Pill." and it is a song about how God sent The Pill to women.

Jeanine Deckers was never able to duplicate the success of "Dominque," and was destined to become a one-hit-wonder. With her singing career going nowhere, Deckers opened a school for autistic children in Belgium with her companion, Anne Pecher.  Anne (also known as Annie) was the author of a book on psychomotor therapy with regard to autistic children.  Published in 1977, Individual Experiences in Psychomotor Therapy deals with a therapy that involves the relationship between conscious metal activity and physical movement.  Although Pecher did not invent psychomotor therapy, she used it in the treatment of autism.

Jeanine Deckers and Annie Pecher were plagued by financial difficulties.  In the late 1970s, the government of Belgium claimed that Deckers owed a large sum of money in back taxes (about $63,000 U.S.).  Deckers argued that she was liable for payment of the taxes because the royalties from her recording were donated to the convent and her religious order.  She lacked proof,  however, because she had neglected to ask the convent for receipts.

In 1982, Deckers lost her final court  case with Belgian authorities.  Facing the financial pressure of rising legal fees, she became so desperate that she attempted to revive her singing career with a disco synthesizer version of "Dominique.". Its promotional video featured Deckers traipsing around the ruins of an abbey with her acoustic guitar.   Not surprisingly, it failed to rejuvenate her career.  Click below to watch the promotional video of the disco version of "Dominque."

The true saga of The Singing Nun does not have a happy Hollywood ending.  Anxious about their mounting debt and despondent about the prospect of closing of their school for autistic children, 51 year-old Jeanine Deckers and Annie Pecher (born 1944) enacted a suicide pact.  On March 29, 1985, the two women deliberately overdosed on barbiturates and alcohol  On April 1, 1985, their bodies were discovered in their apartment at the Green Horizons Building at 144 Chaussee Bruxelles in Wavre, Belgium  They are buried in a cemetery in Wavre together.

Below are the English and French lyrics to Dominque.

Lyrics to Dominique :
Dominique, nique, nique,
over the land he plods along
And sings a little song
Never asking for reward
He just talks about the Lord
He just talks about the Lord

At a time when Johnny Lackland
Over England was the King
Dominique was in the backland
Fighting sin like anything

Now a heretic, one day
Among the thorns forced him to crawl
Dominique with just one prayer
Made him hear the good Lord's call

Without horse or fancy wagon
He crossed Europe up and down
Poverty was his companion
As he walked from town to town

To bring back the straying liars
And the lost sheep to the fold
He brought forth the Preaching Friars
Heaven's soldier's, brave and bold

One day, in the budding order
There was nothing left to eat
Suddenly two angels walked in
With a loaf of bread and meat

Dominique once, in his slumber
Saw the Virgin's coat unfurled
Over frairs without number
Preaching all around the world

Grant us now, oh Dominique
The grace of love and simple mirth
That we all may help to quicken
Godly life and truth on earth


Dominique, nique, nique s'en allait tout simplement
Routier pauvre et chantant
En tous chemins, en tous lieux, il ne parle que du bon Dieu

Il ne parle que du bon Dieu
A l'e poque ou Jean-sans-Terre de' Angleterre etait Roi
Dominique, notre Pere, combattit les Albigeois
Repeat first 4 lines: Chorus

Ni chameau, ni diligence il parcout l'Europe a pied
Scandinavie ou Provence dans la sainte pauvrete

Enflamma de toute ecole filles et garcons pleins d'ardeur
Et pour semer la Parole inventa les Freres-Precheurs

Chez Dominique et ses freres le pain s'en vint a manquer
Et deux anges se presenterent portant de grands pains dores

Dominique vit en reve les precheurs du monde entier
Sous le manteau de la Vierge en grand nombre rassembles

Dominique, mon bon Pere, garde-nous simples et gais
Pour annoncer a nos freres la Vie et la Verite

- Joanne

Paul Henderson should be in Hockey Hall of Fame

Paul Henderson's winning goal easily ranks as the greatest hockey moment in Canadian history. The Summit Series transcended hockey.  It united our nation like never before.  Henderson clearly belongs in the Hall.

- Mark Reid
Editor-in-chief of Canada's History magazine

Forty years ago today, Paul Henderson scored the goal that had a nation rise up in jubilation. There has never been a goal like it, and there never will be.  The '72 Canada-Soviet Summit Series can never be re-created.  The temperament of the times was unique. Although Sidney Crosby's goal in the 2010 Winter Olympics was wonderful, it will never be as special as Henderson's goal.  It will never be The Goal.

Forty years after scoring The Goal, Paul Henderson is still not in the Hockey Hall of Fame.  That's right!  The hero of the Canada-Soviet series is not a member of hockey's greatest shrine.  Yet former NHL president Gil Stein was initially inducted into the Hall until he was forced to resign after allegations that he had rigged his own nomination.  Former Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard, a man convicted of fraud, theft and tax evasion, was inducted to the Hall in 1977.  Ballard, who mdiismanaged the Leafs horribly, was inducted in the builder category.

Critics argue that Paul Henderson's career statistics are lacklustre and not worthy of the Hockey Hall of Fame.  Henderson played 13 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) and five seasons in the World Hockey Association (WHA).  During his 18-year professional career, he scored 376 goals and 758 points in over a thousand games.  True, those aren't Wayne Gretzky numbers, but statistics aren't the only measure of a player's contribution to a sport.

The 1972 Canada-Soviet series was the grandest hockey tournament ever played.  Not only did Paul Henderson score the winning goal in the eighth and final game of that unforgettable series, he scored the game-winning goals in the sixth and seventh games too.  In the greatest battle for hockey supremacy, Henderson shone like a beaming star.  He played with one of the most outstanding displays of determination, tenacity and sheer will power in the history of the game.  That alone should qualify him for the Hall of Fame.
Paul Henderson is now 69 years old.  In 2009, he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.  Cancer treatments prevented him from attending the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Summit Series in Moscow.  The exclusion of this Canadian hockey hero from the Hockey Hall of Fame is a wrong that must be righted.  The mistake should be rectified soon.

EDITOR'S UPDATE (July 17, 2013): On July 8, 2013, the Hockey Hall of Fame announced the names of the 2013 inductees.  Paul Henderson's name was not on that list.  Brendan Shanahan, Chris Chelios and Scott Niedermayer were selected.  In addition, Geraldine Heaney beame the third woman to be inducted and the late Fred Shero, who coached the Philadelphia Flyers, was elected as part of the "Builder" category.

- Joanne

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Romney's tax return: Too little, too late

The issue has never been Romney's 2011 tax return - in fact it is a distraction from the real issue.  All the important compliance and policy questions relating to Romney's personal tax matters relate to the past.
- Edward D. Kleinbard
Law professor, University of Southern California and former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation

After much urging, U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has finally released his 2011 income tax return.  Mr. Romney could have spared himself a great deal of criticism had he done so much sooner - and he is not out of the woods yet!  His 2011 tax return has sparked some more questions and some more criticism. Not only that, but the release of his 2011 tax return is not sufficient.  Romney has failed to release any tax return prior to 2010.  That's just not good enough for a man who aspires to be President of the United States and it has cast suspicion on his financial dealings  His opponents will not stop questioning him on the matter.

Romney and his wife, Ann, paid $1.94 million in federal taxes on an income of $13.7 million in 2011.  That's an effective tax rate of 14.1 per cent.  His tax rate of 14.1 per cent is less than many Americans because most of it is derived from capital gains.  Capital gains are taxed at 15 per cent.  The bulk of Romney's income is from investments held in blind trust.

President Barack Obama's tax return for 2011 showed that he and his wife, Michelle, paid $162,074 in federal taxes on an adjusted gross income of  $789,674.  That is an effective tax rate of 20.5 per cent.  The couple's income has plummeted from $1.7 million in 2010 and $5.5 million in 2009 due to declining sales of President Obama's best-selling books.

The point is that Romney's finances are a great deal more complicated than Obama's.  He is more wealthy and his investments are more spread out - particularly his offshore investments and his now-closed Swiss bank account.  In order to have a clearer picture, his pre-2010 tax returns need to be released.  By not releasing them, Romney has cast suspicion on his financial dealings.

Mitt Romney's own father, the late George Romney, released 12 years of tax returns prior to entering the 1968 presidential campaign. When asked why he was revealing so many years of tax information, the elder Romney replied, "One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show."  Perhaps if Mitt had the good judgement and the integrity of his father, Americans would trust him more.

- Joanne

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Laura Secord: A Woman of Courage

This is the face of a courageous woman.  It is not the portrait of the young Laura Secord that appears on the boxes and wrappers of the chocolate company that bears her name.  It is, however, the only authentic drawing of this heroic Canadian, though she lived to the ripe old age of 93.

Today is the 237th anniversary of Laura Secord's birth.  She was born Laura Ingersoll on September 13, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, less than a year before the Americans declared their independence from Britain.  Her father, Thomas Ingersoll, supported the American revolutionaries during the War of Independence and he served as a lieutenant in the American militia from 1777 to 1781.

In 1793, Thomas Ingersoll and his family immigrated to Upper Canada after receiving a land grant of 27,000 hectares (66,000 acres) from Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe.  Thomas named the new settlement Oxford-on-the-Thames.  Charles Ingersoll, Laura's younger brother, later renamed it "Ingersoll" in honour of his father,  In 1852, it was incorporated as the "Village of Ingersoll" and it is now the site of the town of Ingersoll, Ontario.

In 1795, Thomas Ingersoll moved to the Niagara region and operated a tavern at Queenston, now part of Niargara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. His eldest daughter, Laura, married James B. Secord, a Queenston merchant in 1797.  The couple lived in Queenston and Laura gave birth to seven children, six daughters and a son named Charles Badeau Secord (1809-1872).  The daughters were Mary Lawrence (born c. 1790), Charlotte (1799-1868), Harriet Hopkins (1806-1877), Apollonia (1811-1828), Laura Ann (1815-1850)  and Hannah Cartwright (1820-1877).

When the War of 1812 broke out, James Secord, a staunch United Empire Loyalist, served as a sergeant with the 1st Lincoln Militia.  On October 13, 1812, James was severely wounded in the Battle of Queeston Heights.  Upon hearing of her husband's wounding, Laura Secord immediately went to the battlefield and climbed the hill to search for him.  After finding him with his shoulder and knee bleeding profusely, she brought him home, dressed his wounds.and nursed him during his convalescence.  In short, she single-handedly saved his life.

In June of 1813, Queenston was occupied by American troops and James was still recuperating from his battle injuries.  The Secord family was forced to billet some American soldiers in their home. At that time, Laura learned of a planned American attack on a British outpost at Beaver Dams (near present-day Thorold, Ontario).  Since James was unfit to make the trip to warn the British, Laura  undertook the difficult journey herself.  Early on June 22, she set out for the stone house of United Empire Loyalist John De Cou, in Thorold Township, Upper Canada, near present-day Brock University.  During De Cou's absence, the house was being used as a British army detachment headquarters commanded by Lieutenant James FitzGibbon.

:James FitzGibbons

Laura's remarkable 30 kilometre (18 miles) journey was fraught with peril.  The terrain was rough and she had to take a circuitous rote in order to avoid Amrerican sentries.  She walked through the woods until she reached a Native encampment on the Twelve Mile Creek. The aboriginals escorted her to the British outpost where she delivered her message to Lieutenant FitzGibbon. Within days, FitzGibbon and his forces ambushed the Americans and they surrendered.  Although Laura Secord never revealed exactly how she obtained knowledge of the planned American attack, it is probable that the American soldiers were less discreet around her because she was a woman.

In 1828, James Secord was appointed registrar of the Niagara Surrogate Court and promoted to judge in 1883.  The Secords left Queenston in 1835 when James became a customs officer at the Port of Chippawa.  His new position came with a home  in the Village of Chippawa (part of present-day Niagara Falls).  Son Charles took over the Queenston home.

James died of a stroke on February 22, 1841 at the age of 67.  After her husband's death, Laura moved to a red brick cottage in Chippawa on Water St. (now a historic house at 3800 Bridgewater Street). She was quite destitute after James' death because his war pension had ceased and she was unable to make a profit from her land holdings.  In addition, Laura's own petition for military pension had been denied.

Laura Secord did not receive any official recognition for her bravery until she was 85 years old.   In 1860, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) visited Canada and Laura presented him with a memorial detailing her contribution. She added her signature to a list of War of 1812 veterans who had prepared to address him.  Upon returning to England, the prince sent her 100 pounds sterling for her service.  Laura Secord died at Chippawa on October 17, 1868 at the age of 93.  She is buried next to her husband in the Drummond Hill Cemetery in Niagara Falls, Ontario.


So how did Laura Secord's name become associated with a chocolate company?  In 1913, Frank P. O'Connor founded a small candy business on Toronto's Yonge Street.selling hand-made chocolates.  He expanded his business across Canada and into the United Stated.  In the United States, it is known as Fanny Farmer Candy Stores.  O'Connor said that he named his company after Laura Secord because she "was an icon of courage, devotion and loyalty."

In 1935, Frank P. O'Connor was appointed to the Senate of Canada where he served until his death on August 21, 1939 at the age of 54.  Senator O'Connor College School, a Catholic high school in Toronto, was named after him.


During my visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake this past Labour Day weekend, I toured the Laura Secord Homestead at Queenston, the residence of  Laura Secord from 1803 to 1835.  Invading American soldiers looted the Secord house in October of 1812 during the Battle of Queenston Heights. Less than a year later, that same house was the starting point of Laura's celebrated journey to warn the British of a surprise attack.

In 1971, the Laura Secord Candy Company restored Laura's Queenston home with original furniture and gifted it to the Niagara Parks Commission in 1998.  It is located just off the Niagara Parkway, a short distance from the scenic Bruce Trail.

At the Laura Secord Homestead, a costumed tour guide provided me with much information about Secord and her family. The guide, a Brock University student, was very personable and answered all my queries.   The homestead is a great place to visit.  Next year there will be a re-enactment of Laura's historic trek to mark the 200th anniversary of the event on Saturday, June 22, 2013.

Here are some photos I took of some of the rooms in the Laura Secord Homestead.

- Joanne

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Joan Kennedy at 76

If fragile means somebody who can't cope, well, Joan coped.  I think she had a life that was very demanding of her.  Sometimes she had real problems in those days.  I think she never gave up.  She consistently tried to improve and overcome her problems, and eventually she did.  So that is not a person who is fragile.

- Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of Ted Kennedy
Interview with the Boston Globe in the year 2000

Joan Kennedy, the first wife of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, turns 76 years old today. She was born Virginia Joan Bennett on  September 9, 1936 in Riverdale, an area in the Bronx borough of New York City.  Her parents, Henry Wiggin Bennett, Jr., a British-born advertising executive and her mother, Virginia Joan (nee Stead) Bennett, married in New York City on June 8, 1935.  A second daughter, Candace Bennett, was born to the family in 1939. Candace is now Candace McMurrey and resides in Houston, Texas.

According to Laurence Leamer, author of the 1994 book The Kennedy Women: The Saga of an American Family, Joan's father and mother were both alcoholics.  It is certainly no secret that Joan herself  has struggled with alcoholism for years.  She lost her driver's licence for the first time in 1974 after a drunk driving arrest in Virginia.  After years of battling her addiction, she reached the lowest point of her life on a rainy night in February of 2005.  A passer-by  discovered her on a sidewalk in Beacon Hill, Massachusetts, bleeding and disoriented.after a drunken fall.  She was hospitalized with a concussion and a broken shoulder. In October of 2005, only months after she was found lying on the street, Joan underwent surgery for breast cancer.

As a teenager, Joan worked as a model during summer vacation.  She appeared on television as the Revlon Girl on Perry Como's show and on Coke Time with Eddie Fisher.  She also joined the actors union under the name J. Bennett to avoid confusing herself with the well-known Hollywood actress Joan Bennett.  

In October of 1957, Joan's life was changed forever when she met Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy, a dashing young University of Virginia law student.   Joan was a senior at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, the same college attended by Ted's sister Jean and his future sister-in-law Ethel.  It was Jean who introduced Joan to Ted at the dedication of a Manhattanville College gymnasium to the their sister, Kathleen Kennedy Cavendish, who had perished in a 1948 plane crash in France.  Joan and Edward Kennedy were married by Cardinal Francis Spellman on November 29, 1958 at St. Joseph's Church in Bronxville, New York.  Kennedy was 26 years old and his bride was 22.

Joan & Ted on their wedding day

Ted Kennedy graduated from law school and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1959.  In 1960, Ted's brother, John, ran successfully for the presidency of the United States and Ted managed his campaign in the Western states.  In November of 1962, Ted himself was elected U.S. senator from Massachusetts.

Joan and Ted had three children.  Their daughter, Kara Anne was born on February 27, 1960.  Their first son, Edward Moore Kennedy, Jr., was born on September 26, 1961 and their second son, Patrick Joseph Kennedy II, was born on July 14, 1967. Through the years, the family faced numerous trials and tragedies.

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  In 1964, Ted was injured in a plane crash and spent months in the hospital recuperating from a broken back. During Ted's convalescence,  it was Joan who went out on the campaign hustings to support her husband's re-election to the Senate.  In June of 1968, Ted lost a second brother to an assassin's bullet when Senator Robert Kennedy was gunned down  in Los Angeles while campaigning for the presidency.  Then, in July of 1969, Ted, became involved in a scandal that did irreparable damage to his marriage, his reputation and to his political career.

On the night of July 18, 1969, Senator Edward Kennedy attended a party for a group of women who had worked on his brother Bobby's campaign the previous year.  On the way home from the party, his car went off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island on Maratha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.  His companion in the vehicle, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned.  Kennedy escaped from the overturned car but failed to contact the police until nine hours had passed.  When  he reported the accident  the next morning, Kopechnie's body had already been found.

Ted pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a sentence of two months in jail, suspended.  Joan stood by her husband throughout this nightmarish ordeal.and even accompanied him to Mary Jo Kopechne's funeral in Pennsylvania.  Joan was pregnant at the time and a month later, she suffered her third miscarriage.

In 1973, when Edward Kennedy, Jr. was 12 years old, he was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer in his right leg.  On November 17, 1973, the leg was amputated.  Fortunately, Ted Jr. survived the cancer and will soon celebrate his 51st birthday.  A father of two, he is a lawyer and an entrepreneur.

Joan and Ted separated in early 1978.  Joan moved into her own apartment in Boston's Back Bay and pursued a master's degree in education.  Her alcoholism and Ted's philandering had put a terrible strain on their marriage.  Nevertheless, Joan campaigned for him during his run for the presidency in 1980, responding to question about her alcoholism and assuring the press that she would live in the White House if her husband were elected..  The following year, Ted and Joan Kennedy announced plans to divorce and their divorce became final in 1982.

Joan had always been reluctant to confront Ted about his reported womanizing.  In her 1985 biography, Living with the Kennedys: The Joan Kennedy Story, author Marcia Chellis quotes Joan as saying, "And so rather than get mad or ask questions concerning the rumours about Ted and his girlfriends, or really stand up for myself at all, it was easier for me to just go and have a few drinks and calm myself down, as if I weren't hurt or angry."

In 1991, Ted began dating Washington lawyer Victoria Anne Reggie, daughter of  longtime Kennedy ally, Louisiana judge Edmund Reggie.  On July 3, 1992, Ted married Victoria, a divorced mother of two, in a civil ceremony at his home in McLean, Virginia.  Joan, meanwhile, has never remarried.  In 2007, she was admitted to hospital for alcoholism after reportedly becoming inebriated at a charity event.

Senator Ted Kennedy died of brain cancer on August 25, 2009 at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, two weeks after the death of his sister Eunice.  Joan attended the funeral but remained out of the spotlight. In 2011, she suffered yet another tragedy when her only daughter, Kara, died of a heart attack at a Washington, D.C. health club after a workout.  Kara was 51 years old and had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002.  She underwent surgery to remove a part of her right lung.  The surgery was successful and she had been able to resume an active life.

Joan Kennedy is a talented pianist.  She has taught classical music and performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  In 1992, she published a book titled The Joy of Classical Music: A Guide for You and Your Family.  I distinctly remember watching Joan's appearance on The Andy Williams Show many years ago.  She played the piano and joked with Williams and Henry Mancini.  (I looked it up.  She appeared on Andy's variety show in 1971.   An Associated Press report by Bob Thomas said "The piano keys stuck and she couldn't read the cue cards, but otherwise Joan Kennedy's debut as a television performer appears to have been a success."

Joan has faced numerous challenges and tragedies in her life.  After the assassinations of her brothers-in-law John and Bobby, Ted's safety became a serious concern for the family.  It wasn't easy being married to the last of the Kennedy brothers. Joan, however, tried to face her problems head on.  She sought psychiatric treatment at a time when it was frowned on in Washington.  She spoke openly about her battle with alcoholism and was not afraid to reveal that she had joined Alcoholics Anonymous.

- Joanne

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Thoughts from Niagara-on-the-Lake

Greetings from beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, arguably the most picturesque small town in Canada.  As the month of September begins, I find myself in the heart of Ontario's wine country and a place that's a peach-lover's delight. The big attraction here is, of course, the Shaw Festival. Last night I saw a wonderful  comedy at the historic Court House Theatre , George Bernard Shaw's The Millionairess.  Of the Shaw Festival's four theatres, the Court House is my favourite.  It is small and intimate and I really enjoy a stage performance there. This one did not disappoint. Completed by Shaw during a visit to New Zealand in 1934, The Millionairess features the flamboyant and avaricious Epifania Ognisanti di Paterga as its main character.  Nicole Underhay is simply outstanding in the demanding lead role.  She truly brings Epifania, the millionairess of the title, to life.

Friday night I watched the magnificent Blue Moon, the second full moon in the month of August. As a dedicated moon watcher, I revelled at the rare sight of the encore full moon.  As I gaze at the orange-tinged ball in the sky, I thought of Neil Armstrong who died recently and of his first steps on the lunar surface back in 1969.

Here are some photos of Niagara-on-the-Lake taken over this Labour Day Weekend.  As you can see, the town was festooned with War of 1812 bicentennial banners and beautiful flowers.

The historic Prince of Wales Hotel

The posh Prince of Wales Hotel was built in 1864 by William Long and specializes in traditional afternoon tea.  In 1899, it was called The Niagara Hotel.  In 1901, however, due to a royal visit, it was renamed The Prince of Wales.  The establishment is said to be a ghost.

- Joanne