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The Tie that Binds Three Great Canadians - Goldi Family 1

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The Tie That Binds Three Great Canadians:

A correspondence that bridges 53 years, and links a famous father and son.

You probably recognize all three, and know what they have in common, so you won't want to read further...

A Great Canadian: John Goldi 100 Years Young - March 23, 2005

You probably recognize the most famous of the trio, John Goldi - above centre - who was born in Switzerland in 1905, was an international businessman in France in the 1930s, became a senior Swiss civil servant, raised competitive chickens for show, as a hobby, behind the apartment building where he lived, and in 1950, at the age of 45, hoped to bring his family of five to Canada.

The man on the left is the legendary Paul Martin Senior, who figured largely in Canada's post-war history, and in the destiny of John Goldi's family...

On the right is Paul Martin Junior, famous as the son of Paul Martin Senior.

In 2003 he renewed his ties to John Goldi's family, with a letter, and a phone call...

Henry Burr (1885-1941): "Safe in the Arms of Jesus" 1916

You are listening to an original recording featuring one of Canada's very first recording artists, Henry Burr, singing a hymn that was sung with special poignancy for many during the Anglo-Boer War. Henry Burr from New Brunswick, started recording in 1902 while in his teens, and, with some 12,000 recordings to his credit, was the most prolific recording artist of his generation.

Why The Pope Has Used Swiss Soldiers as a Personal Bodyguard for 500 Years - Men Like John Goldi

Switzerland has been an independent confederacy since 1291, when a small group of hardy mountain folk - from the three central Cantons (provinces) where John Goldi's ancestors came from - defeated the armies of the mighty Habsburg Empire, and gained their freedom.

The fighting spirit and fierce independence of this mountain people has produced probably the finest fighting soldier the world has seen. For hundreds of years, the celebrated Swiss pikemen and halberdsmen, who relied on courage, skill, and physical fitness, carried all before them; they were the wonder of the Middle Ages.

The Swiss had supplied troops to the Catholic Popes in Rome since the 1300s. In 1506 Pope Julius II formally established the Papal Bodyguard entirely with Catholic men from Switzerland, a custom which the Vatican perpetuates to this day. In 1526, during the sacking of Rome, 200 of these Swiss Catholics defended Pope Clement VII against a Spanish-German army of 20,000 men. 147 of the Swiss - including the commander - were killed. The remainder saved the life of the Pope by making a tactical retreat to Castel San Angelo (still standing in downtown Rome), and held out till a surrender - and the safety of the Pope - was negotiated.

Among other famous Swiss units serving - not as "mercenaries for plunder," but under treaties, contracted with the governments of the Swiss cantons - was the renowned "Garde Suisse" of the French Army.

Embodying the finest tradition of this legacy are common soldiers like John Goldi, left, as he was in his private's uniform in 1940, during World War II"

His military tradition is forever emblazoned on the Goldi family crest (above) with red roses - signifying that Goldi men fought for the British House of Lancaster in the Wars of the Roses in England (1455-1487) - and the fleur-de-lis, for serving in the fabled Garde Suisse of the Royal Armies of France.

All part of a multicultural tradition that flows in John Goldi's veins. As a young man he went to live and work in Lausanne and Geneva to become absorbed in the French culture of Switzerland. As well as speaking Swiss, German, and English, he is fluent in French (he was a businessman in Marseilles and Paris during the 1920s and 30s, involved in trading commodities from North Africa to France and England). If he has any ethnic passions they are all, unreservedly for France and the French.

But, when World War II broke out, he returned to Switzerland to defend the homeland against a possible foreign attack, from Nazi Germany.

For over 700 years the Swiss knew that to preserve their independence, every able-bodied man would have to be recruited into the Swiss Army, and so, every Swiss male has to take life-long military training, every year, among the mountains of the Republic.

As a result, every Swiss male is ready to go to war at a moment's notice; each has his uniform, rifle and bayonet - yes even his ammunition - stored at home, at all times, in his bedroom closet. (It remains a tribute to the strength of Swiss democracy that today there is no other government in the world that would dare to provide every able-bodied male citizen with high-powered rifles and ammunition to store in their homes.)

As World War II raged beyond the mountains, above and left, John Goldi - with a broad forehead - patrols with his comrades among the mountain passes.

For hundreds of years this small country has been surrounded by warring nations intent - from time to time - on wholesale bloodletting. For their part, the Swiss simply wanted to be left alone to tend goats, milk cows, and yodel among the mountains.

John Goldi had always prided himself on keeping physically fit and living a healthy lifestyle - no drinking, beyond a medicinal shot of gin, no smoking, and proper diet.

He was a champion swimmer and runner. (right, sitting tall, among the elite Swiss swim team) in an age when personal honour and dedication was the hallmark of champions, not the steroidally driven duplicity of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mark McGwire, Ben Johnson, and Barry, and Floyd... and...

In 1934, at Romanshorn on the Bodensee (Lake Konstanz), he won the Eastern Region Swiss Swimming Championship. Featured on the medal (below) is the romantic "Inseli" in the harbour where he used to court Mom.


(During World War II, the family used to watch the Allied bombing of the German factories at Friederichshaven, a few kilometres across the lake.)

Below, far right, among top runners in the Swiss Army during 1940.)

















The Baron: John Goldi married Ruth Suter right, in the summer of 1940; Ruth was 23, John was 35. The marriage caused a scandal; her small town family derisively called him the "Baron" because of his European business travels, and dapper dress, and considered the 12 year age difference atrocious.

He was also a Catholic and she was Protestant - another no starter. Ever the independent, he got a special Papal dispensation to marry her; Dad's only two sisters had both became nuns, with whom, in the 1920s, he had travelled to Rome for a private audience with Pope Pius XI.



The following year the newlyweds celebrated the birth of their first-born Hans Werner (John), who was already showing early signs of following his father's athletic footsteps, busy practicing the proper posture for spending endless hours sitting behind the video editing computer.

But the war was on; Hitler was on the march; the Swiss feared imminent invasion. Swiss physical fitness - already among the finest in the world because of universal military service for all men - was honed into an unprecedented hysteria of perfection; surrounded by warring countries on all sides, the very lifeblood of the nation depended on it. With the defeat of France, and the abandonment of mainland Europe by the Allies, the threat to Switzerland seemed to increase. When would the Nazi war machine stamp out this dot on the map of mainland Europe?

The Swiss prepared to fight if it closed in..

The annual Swiss Army Games were held in 1941, pitting every male in Switzerland against every other, to see who was the best Swiss of them all! The elite competition was the multidiscipline championship for the best all-around Swiss athlete.

Right and below, John Goldi in action, rifle shooting (far right), running, swimming, and hurdling, while fully equipped, to the grenade tossing pit.



















Wayne Gretzky Move Over:

At Basel, in 1941, John Goldi won all four disciplines, in the 5th Swiss Army Championships, in competition against the cream of Swiss manhood. It was a phenomenal achievement for any man.

And Dad did it when he was 36 years old, peaking at an age when most athletes are long past their prime, and look with fondness at their more youthful accomplishments. Wayne Gretzky "held on" till he retired at 38, dreaming of the faded glories - in only one sports discipline - when he was in his twenties...

In front of thousands (below), John Goldi (in helmet), was presented the large stained glass trophy (right) from General Guisan, the Head of the Swiss Army. It was made by one of Switzerland's finest artists and celebrates a famous Swiss victory at the Battle of Morgarten in 1315, when the Swiss defeated the Austrians and cemented their independence.

But, in official circles, there was open displeasure that a common soldier could outperform the best of the Swiss officer corps. It did not look good in a country where appearance is all important. John was repeatedly pressured to go to officer school, but, he refused.

He was always a fierce partisan of "merit."

"Too many fils-à-papa" he always said. "Too many men who are in the Swiss officer corps because of who they know, not because they have merit."

More importantly, he did not like militarism in any form; but he knew his duty to his family, and his country, in a time of crisis.

Because of his talent with languages, and athletics, and his elite skills as a soldier - despite his irksome status as an ordinary private - he was put to work training officers in the Swiss Army staff college.

Finally - to get around the enormous chaffing this caused within the caste system of the military - John was made an "Honourary Officer" in the Swiss Army. As a senior commander told him, "Now you are one of us!"

Still, John Goldi did not "pull rank"; he insisted on doing his annual military service as a private.

He was a true Swiss; fiercely independent, and fiercely proud, driven by an inner demon to seek excellence for its own value. This, in fact, is the quality, as one historian has pointed out, that made the Swiss so successful and unbeatable as soldiers in the Middle Ages, because, in battle, they acted as small autonomous units.

This self-confident, self-reliance, and freedom from central control, frequently made up for bad generalship, and an inept high command, and often snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

When the General had already lost the battle, often small fighting units in the field persevered, and driven by comradeship, overcame the enemy, giving the Generals victories they did not deserve.

It also explains the spectacular success of the Swiss republic, the oldest - by far - in the world.

During the war John Goldi also commanded several labour camps, made up of refugees who sought a haven from the fury of war outside Switzerland's borders, including Hungarians, Poles, Germans, French, Jews, and Italians.

His civilian approach to managing refugee camps was derided by many in the Army; but nothing succeeds like success. The Army had to admit that his work battalions built bridges in record time - over the Aare at Aarau - and did yeoman service in draining the swamps of Kloten, near Zurich, for an airport, which grew to become, today, the largest in Switzerland.

(Dad would later utilize the blasting experience he gained on this construction project, when he became blasting foreman in the iron pits in Knob Lake, Labrador and involved in blasting a harbour out of solid rock at Shelter Bay, Quebec in the 1950s.)

From the officer corps he received a silver platter above in gratitude; from a Hungarian Jewish member of one of his work battalions, he received one of our family's most prized possessions, a beautiful pastel portrait of his wife Ruth, as a wedding present.

Super Achiever

Ruth was no slouch either. In an age before tape recorders, Dictaphones and computers, when Executive Secretarial skills were highly prized - careful note-taking, short-hand accuracy, and lightning-fast typing - Mom was second to none in Switzerland.

In 1939, after a national competition, she was Honoured as the Top Executive Secretary in Switzerland

Il Stupor Mundi

In 1942, at the age of 37, John Goldi competed once more in the Swiss National Army Games.

Once again, to show his performance hadn't been a fluke, he outperformed every male in Switzerland, and won another large stained glass trophy.



































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