A Quintessential Canadian at 70

(Canscene) — If there’s a more prolific writer – -editor — anthololgizer alive in Canada today, I’d like to know. In my book, John Robert Colombo holds the record until further notice.
John Robert Colombo
John Robert Colombo

In March this year, he celebrated his 70th birthday, along with his wife Ruth, born same month, same year.

Born in Kitchener and educated at the University of Toronto, “JRC” has seen more than 190 titles published since 1960. His books range from compilations of quotations by Canadians, including Colombo’s All-time Great Canadian Quotations in which one of his own, from 20 years ago appears, in verse,

“Canada could have enjoyed/ English government/French culture/ and American know-how.

“Instead it ended up with/ English know-how/French government and American culture.”
He adds a footnote:
“The sentiment may be less true in the future than it has been in the past’ but again it may be even more true.”

Perhaps JRC’s best know quotation comes from author Pierre Berton who wrote “A Canadian is somebody who knows how to make love in a canoe.”

Most recently, JRC hosted the mini-series Unexplained Canada
seen nationally on the Space Channel, a further example of his fascination with the unknown as expressed in volumes like Mysterious Canada and UFOs Over Canada, in which my wife, Anne and I appear with our account of a sighting in downtown Toronto.

All this and poetry, too
A poet of note, JRC has himself been anthologized and published in many publications including The Atlantic Monthly. He is an honorary member of the Canadian League of Poets.

Lesser known publications are two intriguing cartographical productions: writer’s maps of Toronto and Ontario which points out places where poets, novelists and biographers lived and worked.

A little-known fact is that JRC is one of the best-known Canadian authors in Bulgaria; he compiled and co-translated five books of Bulgarian history and literature, one of them, The Balkan Range, being on recommended reading lists.

Our acquaintance began about 18 years ago when JRC was elected a director of Canadian Scene, the free, multilingual news and information service for Canada’s ethnic media which I had the honor of editing until its demise, for want funding, in its 50th year.

Cookbook became popular
To celebrate our 40th anniversary in 1991 it was suggested we compile and publish ethnic recipes from Canadian homes and JRC became the logical person to edit and name the volume: he christened it Ethnic Eating and we compiled almost 100 recipes which were carefully vetted by the legendary Willy Brand, one of Canada’s great teacher-chefs.

The book sold well, earning bestseller status but is now out-of-print.

Ethnic Eating cover

Ethnic Eating

And no person could be more suited to lend his name to a multicultural publication. John’s grandparents were of French-Canadian, German, Greek and Italian origin.

Since Canscene rose from the ashes of Canadian Scene we have published every one of the recipes from Ethnic Eating.

It’s with fond memories that I toast Ruth and John Robert Colombo and their celebration of everything Canadian.

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