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My Knight In Rusty Armour

John’s brothers Bill and Frank took to music and John dove head first not only into the music of the ‘60’s but sports, cars, and girls and legendary parties as well. Finally after years of angry outbursts John’s parents agreed to split with the children going with their mother. Having already played the caretaking role for his siblings growing up in such chaos, John now 13 would once again choose to side with the underdog and remain with his father. However, in reality John’s personal sacrifice was not to be reciprocated nor appreciated and would cost him dearly.  Still wallowing in the bitterness and anger of the divorce, John’s father spent precious little of his time with John.   Not once did his Dad watch him at a hockey or baseball practice let alone cheer him on at any competitions.  Travelling alone by bus and carting all his equipment every day to practice John felt isolated and forgotten in the emotional abyss of a family split in twain.

John tried desperately to overcome his hurt and pain by his enthusiastic and fun loving personality earning himself the nickname of “Sparkles” by his friends. Yet in fact underneath this happy veneer he was burying his pain and disappointments deep within the layers that have taken decades to peel off. Coupled with all his emotional anxiety John suffered many physical injuries one of which was a serious motorcycle accident when he was 17 which left him in the hospital for 10 days. He was hit head on by a drunk driver and he went flying over the handlebars and with no mandatory helmet to protect his skull he crashed into the pavement knocking himself unconscious and cutting open his knee requiring surgery.

John had also taken up hockey as soon as he landed in Toronto from his native Ireland, determined to play as well or better than his friends who had had a head start, teaching himself the game and even how to skate.  He supported his hockey tuition by taking on odd jobs, working as a skate guard, delivering fish and chips on his bicycle or shovelling snow on cold winters evenings while all his friends were snug inside.  He earned his way for everything and anything he had his lion heart set on and gave 200 % effort to achieve it giving the same loyalty to his friends as well.  His determination led him all the way to playing some serious college hockey and a legendary high school football game where he ran with the football into the goal post and knocked himself out cold trying to win the game for his team mates!   But that was John….

However with all the competitiveness and camaraderie of the sports he loved so much John has paid a hefty price for it. The physical and neurological damage inflicted upon his brain after so many hits far too numerous to mention are now being medically recognized. However, for John the effects of serious concussions have dogged him for decades and he still deals with the realities of it on a daily basis.

To add salt to his physical wounds, the pain and emotional anxiety of the psychological turmoil he grew up in along with the personal losses and disappointments of which I will detail later in the story, blur the line of cause and effect creating a vicious cycle of physical and emotional consequences.

Despite all the cards stacked against him, John’s inherent fighting spirit kept him going winning and succeeding throughout most of his young adult life. John completed his college degree at Humber in Recreation which he financed by driving taxi at night and life guarding in the summers.

He then became the youngest recipient of the SDMRO which is the highest title in his field through his work as a Parks and Recreation Director in Eastern Ontario with a staff of 50.  Successful but always restless for another challenge John’s career path took him down an interesting road marked by his creative flair and outgoing and fun personality. From managing resort properties in Florida to the Muskoka’s in Ontario John was always coming up with an innovative way to succeed.    With a yearning to branch out on his own John turned down an opportunity to teach tourism and hospitality at Centennial College.  Instead he chose to spread his entrepreneurial wings opening up a classic car business in Belleville Ontario which had been a lifelong passion of his.

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