Rosanne loves to tell a story about her Ukrainian-born step father who immigrated to Canada in 1950. John was a trained cook and all-round handyman who spent several years in a German concentration camp during World War II and looked to Canada as an opportunity to start a new life. After meeting and marrying Rosanne's divorced mother in Toronto, John found employment as a plumber's assistant.
|John the Plumber and daughter Rosanne|
He saw merit in studying for his Canadian plumbing papers and eventually going into business for himself, but there was one problem -- mastering the English language. A mere teenager, Rosanne became John's English tutor, sitting with him for hours reading instructional materials, explaining the meaning of technical words and correcting his spelling on written assignments as he made his way through the plumbing course of study. Eventually, John overcame the language barrier sufficiently enough to earn his plumbing licence and he once told me that he gave a lot of the credit to Rosanne. "With my limited English, I would never have passed the tests without her help. I always said that she knew enough to become a plumber herself," he added.
As Rosanne recounts her story, one day her mother sent John out with a grocery shopping list which included "Five Roses Flour". John, a do-or-die, not-to-reason-why sort of guy, burst into the kitchen an hour later with a wide grin on his face and carrying several bags of groceries and, you guessed it -- five beautiful red roses which he gently placed on the counter.
Trying her best to suppress laughter, Rosanne's mother Micki lovingly gave her dutiful husband a big hug before tactfully explaining the difference between "Red Roses Flour" and the "red rose flower". After all, it was an innocent and understandable mistake, albeit very comical to everyone but John at the time.
With another lesson in English learned the hard way, John rather sheepishly returned to the grocery store for the much-needed bag of Five Roses Flour. The five beautiful red roses were prominently displayed in a vase on the kitchen table with a note reading "thank you John".
In time "John the Plumber", as he became known to countless households throughout Etobicoke and Toronto West over the years, learned to appreciate the humor of it all. He passed away in 2003.
He did pretty well for himself in this country...He'd be the first to tell you that. In his words: "Thanks God!"