Poetry of local veteran John White immortalized in new book

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

John White was a champion golfer, competitive boxer, bowler, and decorated horseman during his 90 years.

John White 1 John White 2A proud veteran, White served in the Essex-Kent Scottish Regiment, served in World War II with the Royal Canadian Artillery and was a well known and respected member of Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157.

His accomplishments also included writing poetry, a talent that he and his family were able to put into book form just before he died.

But despite all of that, he was simply “grandpa” to Sarah Parks.

Parks completed a book of her grandfather’s poetry – entitled simply “Poetry by John White” – right alongside of him, with White editing his own work and choosing his best material.

“This is a culmination of almost 20 years of his writing,” said Sarah.

The final copies of the book came back from the printer June 27, just 12 days before White died at the age of 90 from complications of pneumonia.

“What a role model he was to everybody,” said Sarah. “He led a happy healthy life right up until 90 years of age.”

Kathy Parks, Sarah’s mother and White’s daughter, said he wrote his first poem as a Canadian soldier.

“The very first poem he ever wrote, he was in a barn in Holland during the war,” Kathy said. “He lost the piece of paper but never forgot the poem.”

That was in 1943.

White put his pen down for several decades, picking it back up around 1995 when he faced difficult times in his life.

“He went through a very difficult time in his life personally,” said Sarah. “That was actually when he picked up his pen and started writing again. What came of this was this amazing poetry.”

Kathy said her father “wrote from his heart and soul,” often writing a poem about people in his life and giving them away as gifts. As White had restless leg syndrome, he would often stay up nights either writing poetry or practicing his putting. When he did the former, Kathy recalled him being able to write up to four poems a night. She joked she couldn’t keep up with his poems, as she would often type them for him.

When the book came back, the family was eager to get it to him. Sarah said it “was his dream” to have a book of his poetry. When White received it, his “smile was just unbelievable,” said Kathy.

“He wanted to leave the book as a legacy of love to all the people he cared about,” said Sarah. “It was a dream come true for both of us. What made it so special was it was something we worked on together. It was not so much about the finished product – it was all of the time we worked on it that was so special. That, in itself, was a gift greater than the book.”

Both Kathy and Sarah Parks spoke of the immense pride they had to see their loved one’s work immortalized in book form. They spoke of him fondly as someone with a great sense of humour and as someone dedicated to staying in shape. White often went on long bike rides, walks, weightlifted and golfed right into his 80s. He also enjoyed singing, as he was a part of the choir at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and the Down River Playhouse.

“He was just always the eternal optimist in life. He was so positive and so optimistic,” said Sarah, believing that and his healthy lifestyle contributed to his longevity.

Kathy joked her father “lived to golf” and wasn’t someone who complained a lot, even when he was in the hospital at the end of his life.

“He inspired us so much,” said Kathy. “We got so many beautiful life lessons and how to die with dignity. He was grateful for every day and everything in it. He appreciated every day.”

“He lived life his way,” added Sarah.

Copies of his book will be available at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 next Monday as part of Remembrance Day activities. The cost is $25.

Books can also be purchased online through the book shop link at www.lulu.com and searching “Poetry by John White.”

Despite it already being published, Sarah calls Remembrance Day the “official book release” as the day was so meaningful to White and continues to be for the family. She added it has become even more meaningful than Christmas. White became known for his deep, passionate readings of “In Flanders Fields” during the observance of Remembrance Day.

“Per his wishes, the proceeds from his book will be donated to ‘his other family’ at Legion Branch 157 and St. Andrews Presbyterian Church,” added Sarah.

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