Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

14 October, 2014


People have so many different ideas about angels, but the only authoritative guide in understanding angels is the Bible -- God's Word.  Some think that angels are little, chubby babies flying around with a toy bow and arrow. More often than not, angels are depicted as beautiful young women with wings and a halo.  But the Bible describes angels as great warriors that are here to guide, protect and deliver us when we believe and "speak His word".  Some, including my wife Rosanne, also think that angels are people who have died.

Rosanne has simplistic beliefs, the result of early Roman Catholic schooling and Ukrainian family influences.  She has her own rather unique private relationship with God and the spirits of loved ones who have passed away.  She constantly prays to God and frequently talks to the spirits of her son, her mother, her grandmother -- even my late wife -- all people she considers "angels" for whom she declares deep love and enduring devotion. It works for her and that is all that matters.  I have reason to believe that this mystic phenomenon just might be working for me too.
Maria Shmorhai

Rosanne's grandmother

Many of her "prayers" to God and her angels are directed at me and the things that I do, or experience. She feels that I often need help and I readily acknowledge that she is probably right. Her main go-to spirit or angel is her grandmother.  "She has been there for me in so many ways," explains Rosanne.  "She never lets me down.  I don't ask for miracles...Only for her presence and guidance in our lives."

Let me relate just two of the countless incidents where Rosanne's favorite angel has tended to me personally. Certainly, if it was not her grandmother's spirit looking out for me, someone or something definitely was.  You may draw your own conclusions.

One of my first experiences occurred shortly after we were married 12 years ago.  I was having problems with my nerves and in an extremely agitated state.  An emotional wreck, I could not sleep on this particular night and rather than disturb Rosanne, I got out of bed.  After a drink of water and a breath of fresh Lake Huron air, I collapsed on the living room sofa and eventually drifted into a disturbed, half-conscious stage of sleep.

I was awakened by the approach of soft, shuffling, slippered foot steps on the carpet.  Thinking that I was merely hearing things, I chose not to open my eyes. As the shuffling sound drew closer to me, I was enwrapped in a sudden and unexplainable cloak of warmth.  A hand touched my shoulder, ever so gently, and an instantaneous state of calm came over me.  I opened my eyes, expecting to see Rosanne's figure hovering over me, but in the darkness all that was visible was a coffee table in the reflection of a street light penetrating a split in the living room curtains. There was no one there.  I even reached out and waved my hand to make sure.

"How surreal...I must have been dreaming," I rationalized as I drifted off to a much welcomed, uninterrupted sleep.

The first thing that I asked Rosanne in the morning was "Did you come into the living room last night and touch me?"

"No I didn't!  Why?" was Rosanne's quick reply.

She was equally prompt in interrupting my brief explanation with a matter-of-fact follow up: "Oh, that was my grandmother.  I prayed that she would come into your heart to comfort you and to help get you through the night."

Kind of makes you think, doesn't it?  Without a doubt, it certainly made me think -- and wonder.  It was another introduction to Rosanne and the mysticism that I had previously taken for granted.

A most recent incident in my life was even more remarkable because of unique circumstances and deadly potential.

Our little dog Lucy dog has required eye surgery this past summer.  Due to cataracts and glaucoma, she eventually lost the site in her left eye and required emergency surgery and a lens implant to save the site in her right eye. She had her final surgery on a Monday morning in Ilderton (near London), a three-hour drive from our home in Southampton.  A return trip to the pet eye doctor's clinic was necessary the following morning, the equivalent of a 48-hour endurance test for both me and Lucy.  Under normal conditions, pet owners who travel great distances, stay over night for the mandatory next-day follow up check after eye surgery, but that was out of the question for me because I could not leave Rosanne for an extended period of time due to her delicate health situation.

I was on the last lap of my return trip Tuesday afternoon on Highway 21, between Goderich and Kincarden, when I found myself defying the inevitable.  Traffic was fairly heavy and I was following a grey van in the northbound lane of the single-lane highway.  The van, approximately 75 yards ahead of me and without directional signals, suddenly stopped on the highway to make a lefthand turn into a trailer park.  I applied my breaks but realized that at 85 kilometers an hour I was not going to stop before colliding with the van.

Instantaneously, I elected to avoid disaster by swerving to the right in favour of the soft shoulder of the highway.  With that initial quick action, my car spun out and I could sense a roll-over in the making. Miraculously, however, the car righted itself as I hit the shoulder of the road and entered a 12-foot-deep ditch.  Something seemed to tell me to crank the steering wheel, take my foot off the brake and to accelerate along the ditch.  All I could see was flying dirt and grass to my right and what appeared to be a white orb of some description in the distance.

It is amazing what you think and how much you can think in a fleeting few seconds when your very life is at stake.  I was reconciled for the worst, but kept my foot on the accelerator as I drew closer to that white light.  After a good 50 feet, I felt my tires finally taking grip and I began to exit the ditch at a right angle, coming to a miraculous, abrupt halt with the car's under low under carriage deeply embedded in the soft gravel at the side of the highway.  My right back wheel was four feet off the ground and my front left wheel one foot from the side of the pavement.  I hate to think of what would have happened had my car actually re-enterd the highway at the rate it was going.  Traffic stopped in both directions and for a moment, I was frozen in time.  I had forgotten about Lucy, but there she was trustingly tucked close to my side, almost as if nothing had happened.

With a break in southbound traffic, the driver of the grey van was able to pull into the trailer park driveway and after stopping momentarily, sped out of sight, never to reappear.

People ran up to me from all directions as I opened the door and exited the vehicle.  "Are you all right?" "That van driver didn't give you much warning." "I can't believe that you did not roll at least twice!"  "God, are you ever lucky, it could have been so much worse!"  "You really did a good job of keeping your car under control...I didn't think that you would make it!" were some of the comments.

Among those who rushed to my aid was a Provincial Park warden, a young lady perhaps in her late 20s. She parked her truck in front of my car, leaviing her trouble lights flashing.  She offered to call a tow truck from Goderich, relaying my information to the dispatcher on her cell phone.  She then called a fellow assistant warden from the nearby Point Farms Park and asked him to attend the scene with another truck to serve as a warning for oncoming traffic.  A delightful girl, she engaged me in roadside conversation (often cautioning me when I got too close to traffic and checking on how I was feeling).  She maintained her vigil until the arrival of the tow truck some 45 minutes later.  I could have kissed her, but I opted for a hug as we parted company.

In short order the tow truck operator pulled my car from its precarious position on the side of the ditch and happily announced that there was absolutely no damage to the undercarriage of my car -- not a scratch nor a dint anywhere, thanks in large measure to the loose gravel and long heavy grass.  Less than an hour and $56.00 later, I was on my way again.

When I reached home sweet home, I did not tell Rosanne what had happened until much later that evening. Quite frankly, I did not feel like talking about it at that point in time.  I needed to collect my thoughts, have a glass of wine and a bite to eat before sharing my experience.

"I had a feeling that something had delayed you when you took longer than usual to get home," exclaimed Rosanne when I finally did break the news to her.  "I never stopped paying from the time you left until you walked in the door.  I asked my grandmother to be with you and Lucy and to bring you home safely to me," she added.  The more we talked the more Rosanne was convinced that her grandmother had, once again been my guardian angel.

Several weeks have passed since that incident and I continue to replay the scene in my mind and to ask questions.  1) Were my reflexes and reaction time slow that day due to the fatigue of the two-day ordeal? 2) Could I have reacted sooner to avoid the van stopped in the middle of the highway? 3) Why did my car not roll over at least twice when it was balancing on two wheels at a 45-degree angle in the ditch?  4) What was that white light "orb" in the distance that I drove toward, all the while struggling to keep my car under control?  5)  Why was there not a scratch on my car when it should have been totally demolished?  6) Were there actually two angels looking after me that day -- Rosanne's grandmother and a much alive, young provincial park warden?

There are no doubt rational answers for most of these questions.  I know that Rosanne has hers...and I am becoming a believer!

11 October, 2014


I have a major problem with my short-term memory.  How bad is it, you ask?

It is so bad that I lose things that aren't really lost. I forget current things that I remember -- well eventually.

This from a guy who has a reputation for possessing a long-term memory as sharp as an elephant's, for heaven's sake. No problem with dates, faces, names and events dating back more than 75 years; but I can't remember what I had for lunch, where I put my glasses, where I left my car keys, and what I did with my wallet.

I find myself going to the refrigerator and not knowing why...I rush into a room and don't know what I went there for...I find myself driving my car and temporarily having to stop and ask myself where I am going...I leave the grocery store and leave my shopping in the cart -- back in the store no less. Its driving me crazy(er)!  I stopped public speaking because I lose my train of thought in mid sentence.  I am becoming self-conscious.
Without a word of a lie, I have difficulty getting things done through the course of a day because I spend half my time retracing my steps looking for things.

I really outdid myself two days ago. I was in a store and wanting to pay for a purchase with my Visa card. I opened my wallet and, you guessed it, no credit card.  I had an instant sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. You see, after a three-week wait, a new card had just been reissued to me because I had lost the old one.  Left it behind in a store somewhere and out of desperation, had it cancelled.

With some prodding by the sales clerk, I thought back to when I last used the card.  To my credit, I remembered that I had used it about four hours earlier at another store in nearby Port Elgin. Frantically, I rushed back into Port Elgin and questioned a young man at the cash counter.  "I was in here earlier today and think that I may have left my credit card in your machine...Is there any chance that it was turned in?"

"I don't know...I just came on shift, but I'll have a look in the office for you," he replied, sensing the urgency in my demeanor and leaving a somewhat annoyed cash-paying customer holding his money.  In a few seconds he returned empty handed and I feared the worst.  "Sorry sir, nothing has been turned in...Are you sure you didn't leave it somewhere else?"  Poor kid was trying to be helpful.

Dejectedly and completely befuddled, I left the store and walked to my car in the parking lot.  Yes I remembered where I left the car, but there have been times when I did not.

Almost as an after-thought as I checked all of my pockets for the 10th time and scanned the car's front seat and floor board for an equal number of times, I reached for the wallet in my back pocket and pulled out the two-sided card holder...And what to my wondering eyes should appear as I flipped over the card holder, none other than the beautiful, familiar grey and blue colours of the "lost" card.  It was not in its customary slot on the front of the holder, but it was there on the back nonetheless.  I had obviously and absentmindedly misplaced it in the holder earlier in the day and was overlooking it in the haze of a very protracted senior moment.  With a "thank you God!" and a deep sigh of relief, I placed the card back in its usual spot in my wallet and went on my way to live another day, vowing to never let it happen again.  I must keep my wits about me and be more conscious of what I am doing at all times, I tell myself...If only I remember.

With that preamble, you can imagine then, my amusement when today I read a piece written by Canadian singer, songwriter, broadcaster and author Jann Arden. I have admired Jann ever since she burst onto the music scene some 30 years ago, so much so that I follow her writings on-line.  I not only appreciate her music, but also her quirky sense of humour and personality.  In a recent post, Jann talks about bearing the weight of her parents' forgetfulness.  Here's what she wrote:

There are days when I feel like I am the worst person in the world. I sit in a chair and feel like everything I do and everything I say is mean spirited and selfish. This is the weight that slithers my way on occasion, when it comes to the care of my mom and dad. Both of their memories are all over the place and I find myself getting more and more impatient, more snippy, more grumpy, more frustrated. 

My mom said to me the other day "You always seem mad at me Jann..." I died a little inside after she let that sentence fall out of her mouth. I told her I wasn't mad at all, that I was just somehow caught off guard with this new version of them. 

"This is new to me too", she said, "And I can't do a darn thing about it. I am practically drinking that coconut oil you bought us..."  That really made me laugh. I told her that I hoped she was kidding. 

I loathe watching them misplace every single thing; keys and purses and credit cards and hats and coats and money and electric bills and coffee mugs and glasses and the TV remote...ALL of it, goes missing. There are elves in the house, "movers" my mom calls them, that take little things and put them just out of reach, just out of plain sight. "The movers move things" she said. "Either that, or your dad and I are going crazy. At least we're doing it together." 

They are indeed doing it together. They NEVER get mad at each other. My dad will answer the same question from my mom a hundred times and not even flinch. After about the fourth time mom asks me something, I seem to lash out like a whip and I feel completely ashamed. I called her the other day and told her how sorry I was and she said "About what?"  It gave me a lump in my throat the size of a toaster. 

"About you being so short with me," she added, "well, you're doing the best you can, you always do and we appreciate everything you do..."  I can feel my heart pump the blood to the end of my fingers. I can feel it fill my cheeks and pulse in my running shoes that are tied too tight again.

My mom is so kind. It baffles me most days how my dad's drinking and carrying on back in the day didn't make her coarse and bitter and unmerciful. No matter how much he yelled, or how drunk he got, or how often he stormed around like a four year old, my mom just kept right on being herself -- empathic, good natured, generous, funny and thoughtful. And here I am, turning into some kind of memory referee, blowing my whistle and crying fowl, every time either of them repeat themselves or get mixed up. 

After much reflection, I have realized how scared I am. I am scared of them forgetting themselves into oblivion and taking me with them. I am scared of all the changes, how their lives seem to be stolen day to day, their pasts thrown into a blender and set to STUN. I am just scared. The funny part of all of it, is that they aren't the least bit concerned. They, on the contrary, are not scared at all. They are happy.  They are so good humored and light hearted, positive and faithful and easy going. I am the only one freaking out. I need to tear a page out of their book and just calm the hell down. 

So what if they put the remote in the fridge? So what if the car keys are in with the dog food?  Mom said: "We find things eventually Jann, it's not the end of the world."  Indeed, it is not.

God bless Jann Arden as she learns to accept and live with what her parents are going through at present time.  May some of their sense of humour rub off on her...She's going to need it more and more in the days ahead, trust me!

Are you taking note, Rosanne, Debbie and Cindy?

08 October, 2014


Ken Wright (left) and Eldred Brandon, lifetime 
friends and members of the Dresden Continuation 
School Soccer Team, 1914-15.

My father, Ken, and Eldred Brandon were best chums all through school in Dresden (ON) and life-long friends.  They were both born in the year 1899 and their families were neighbours in the small town in the heart of Kent County.

There was always a mystique about Eldred, even in those early days.  He was unquestionably a genius and by my dad's account, just a little different than the other kids.  They got along well however.  Ken and Eldred just seemed to have mutual respect and understanding, the type that transcends years and distance. 

After high school, my dad embraced the barbering trade and Eldred, for some unexplained reason, decided to join the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, February 29, 1916.  He was only 17 years of age at the time and lied about his birth date.  It took the army seven months to catch up to his deception and he was officially discharged November 8, 1916, after being declared unfit for military service. 
Prior to World War 1, Canada had a small permanent standing army and a much larger Canadian militia. The Minister of Militia and Defence, Sam Hughes, was ordered by Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden to train and recruit an army for overseas service. At the time, Canada had a regular army of only 3,110 men and a fledgling navy.  Although the Chief of the General Staff, Willoughby Gwatkin, had been planning for a mass mobilisation of Canada's armed forces for some time, the mobilisation plans were scrapped in favour of mobilising a completely new land force, the Canadian Expeditionary Force, to be based on numbered battalions and reporting to a separate ministry, the Ministry of Overseas Forces of Canada
Eldred Brandon
...short-lived military career
Always a brilliant student, an undeterred Eldred then turned his mind to higher education by applying, and being accepted, to Queens University where he earned an honours degree in mathematics and was awarded a fellowship in the Canadian Bankers Association.  He would subsequently become a director of the Controllers Institute of America and was associated with a bank and trust company in the United States. He was employed as an accountant with Sylvania Electric Products in New York when, by some strange quirk of fate, he became involved with the American government.  In story book fashion, he would climb diplomatic ranks, culminating with an appointment as a valuable and highly-regarded attache to General Douglas MacArthur, stationed in Washington where he would entertain international dignitaries in his penthouse apartment.

I well remember Eldred's letters to my dad and Christmas cards bearing the return address of the American Embassy in Japan.  After Japan's World War 11 surrender, MacArthur's occupation staff in Tokyo at first numbered about 1,500 and grew to more than 3,000 by 1948. Like Eldred, most of MacArthur's minions ranged politically from conservative to ultraconservative, and they established policies that continued, rather than dismantled, the zaibatsu (business conglomerates) that had long dominated the Japanese economy. 

Eldred also travelled with MacArthur to Honolulu and the Philippines. Without going into third-hand classified detail, it seems Eldred was privy to some extremely sensitive and potentially damaging inside information involving MacArthur's command and as a result was methodically degraded and discredited to the point that he was eventually hospitalized with his mental stability very much a bone of contention.  There were hints in the recounting of his experiences that Eldred was methodically brainwashed during his hospital confinement. In 1949 he returned to Canada, virtually a broken man, and lived out the balance of his life with his elderly parents in Dresden.  

The much decorated MacArthur meantime (seen in this photo with his  celebrated  corn cob pipe), Commander of U.S. Forces in the Far East from 1941 to the end of the war in 1945, was synonymous with the conflict in the Pacific.  Often referred to as a "megalomaniac" and an extremely "political" general, MacArthur imposed complete censorship of everything in his theatre.  All words attributed to him had to be good news, otherwise they were censored.  All credits went to him instead of his respective field commanders.  He was known to pander and manipulate those on his staff.  Everything that came out of MacArthur's headquarters from 1942 onward, was predicated on the next U.S. presidential election which he coveted.  Poor Eldred had the misfortune to be caught up in all of this...He knew too much and was dispensable.  Effectively eliminated, you will find no mention of an "Eldred Brandon" ever being a member of MacArthur's staff in the 1940s.  His "military aircraft" flights to Manila in the Philippines and Honolulu, Hawaii, via Pan American airways in 1947, are clearly documented however.

I recall a nervous Eldred sitting in our living room at home in Dresden, incommunicado and complete with hat pulled over his ears, half covering sun glasses that he never removed, and a trench coat down to his ankles (a Great Dane guard dog at his feet), relating his incredible story to my father. His last visit to our home was cut short when the Great Dane began barking uncontrollably. "They've caught up to me. They're outside!" stated Eldred obviously referring to Secret Service agents he claimed were constantly following him. "I'll take my leave Ken," he said with eyes darting in all directions..."I don't want to put you and your family in harm's way!"  In haste, he was gone and I don't recall him ever again crossing the threshold of our home other than to be a pallbearer at my dad's funeral in 1952.

Eldred had previously entrusted Ken with the authorship of a book that would tell his story in detail, potentially blowing the lid off the secrecy of the extremely controversial MacArthur era...An untold story, as it were. Sadly, the longtime friends both died before the book ever saw the light of day and they took Eldred's tale of intrigue with them. I was too young then to appreciate it all, but it has always bothered me that I could not turn back the clock and capture all that priceless information for myself.  I am left only with the vague recollections of a spellbound little boy sitting at the feet of two old friends and a huge, panting dog.

I wish I could do better for Ken and Eldred, but they did not leave me with much to go on...This is the best I can manage after so many years.

I trust that in due course I will stop looking over my shoulder for any secret service agents who might still be lurking in the shadows 70 years later.

Special Note:  I originally planned to post this item on the Dresden Virtual History Group's web site, but it was rejected by Facebook for some unknown reason.  The mystique strangely continues...Perhaps coincidental, but curious nonetheless.  I AM DETERMINED.  I OWE IT TO TWO OLD DRESDEN CHUMS who never got to tell their amazing story. 

Eldred, incidentally, was the son of Dresden Postmaster and local historian Robert Brandon and wife Edith (Hazlett).  They lived on the north corner of Holden and St. George streets.  Eldred had two younger brothers, Alfred and Grant.  He was twice married while living in the United States.  A daughter, Daphne, died in infancy.

A truly brilliant and complex man, always a little different.

01 October, 2014


Arthur Pelkey and Luther McCarty square off in fateful Calgary boxing match.
"Calgary's new Manchester arena was packed to the rafters with fight fans, the air thick with hubbub and cigar smoke as the city basked in the spotlight of the boxing world. No one was more excited than promoter Tommy Burns, the famous former world champ who had moved to Calgary in 1910. Here was the slugfest he knew would put the city on the map: Canadian brawler Arthur Pelkey versus Luther McCarty, a handsome, fleet-fisted Nebraska boy touted as the next "Great White Hope". Spectators and sports writers travelled from near and far to attend. A $10,000 purse and a potential title shot were on the line.

What happened in the ring the afternoon of May 24, 1913, would indeed change fortunes, but not as expected." -- The Calgary Herald


My father was a boxing aficionado and he talked often about his admiration of Jack Dempsey who wore the world heavyweight crown for an extended period in the 1920's. He also told me about the tragic story of another boxer of his acquaintance who preceded Dempsey on the world boxing stage by a few years.

Arthur Pelkey (27 October 1884 – 18 February 1921) was a Canadian boxer who fought from 1910 to 1920. Born Andrew Arthur Pelletier, it is difficult to determine the actual birthplace for this amazing athlete. Some records list him as a Chatham, Ontario, native while others have him being born in nearby Pain Court. Adding to the confusion is the fact that a Chatham Sports Hall of Fame tribute clearly shows his hometown as being Dresden, the place of birth for both my father and I. While I do not remember my dad actually ever saying where Pelkey was born, my research suggests that it was in fact Pain Court, a largely French Canadian community in Kent County, like Dresden, not far from Chatham.
Arthur Pelkey

Somehow, my father who was about eight years younger, knew that as a teenager Pelkey moved from his Kent County home to the United States where he went to work in a cotton mill. He apparently started boxing to supplement his meagre earnings from the mill.

Nevertheless, at 6′ 1½″ and between 206 and 210 pounds, and after a series of local bouts, the hard-punching and durable Pelkey fought in the heavyweight division. He was one of the "White Hopes" of a period when African American Jack Johnson was the world heavyweight champion.

The height of Pelkey's pro career and its nadir happened simultaneously when on 24 May 1913, he met Luther "Cowboy" McCarty at Tommy Burns's Manchester Arena in Calgary, Alberta, with McCarty's World White Heavyweight title at stake. Tommy Burns had been the world heavyweight champ who had lost his title to Jack Johnson, and the title had been created to crown a white heavyweight champ in light of the failures of successive White Hopes to wrest the title from Johnson. Before he retired from the ring, Burns met Pelkey in a match that ended in a draw and was so impressed with him that he became his manager and arranged for what amounted to an exhibition bout with McCarty as a warm up for an ultimate encounter with the American Johnson.

Approximately, two minutes into the first round of the scheduled 10-round bout, Pekley kayoed McCarty with what appeared to be a glancing blow to the chest. Eight minutes later, still laying on the ring's canvas, McCarty was pronounced dead. Pelkey reportedly broke down and wept when told of McCarty's death. Manchester Arena, actually built by Tommy Burns himself, burned down the following day, likely as a result of arson in protest of the fight.

Four days after the controversial fight, professional boxing was officially banned in Alberta. Pelkey and Burns were charged with manslaughter, but the charges were later dropped. A coronor's jury eventually ruled that McCarty’s death was determined to have been from a brain hemorrhage, probably brought on by a fall off his horse a few days before. While they were exonerated, the lives of Pelkey and Burns were changed forever. Burns left Calgary and became an evangelist preacher. Legal troubles from the incident bankrupted Pelkey. He kept fighting, but only for the money, and he didn’t win much after that. Some suspected he was pulling his punches.

What began as a sensational exhibition ended in tragedy. A 21-year-old rising star was dead, a legend’s reputation was once again tarnished, a top notch contender was ruined, and Luther McCarty’s untimely end delivered a death blow to professional boxing in Calgary.

Pelkey reportedly was never the same after the McCarty incident. He lost the white heavyweight title to Gunboat Smith on New Year's Day 1914 at Coffroth's Arena in Daly City, California, via a T.K.O. in the 15th round of the scheduled 20-round bout.

When he retired in 1920, he had compiled an official career record of 22 wins (17 by K.O.) against 21 losses (having been kayoed 16 times) and three draws. He also had 10 *newspaper decisions: five wins, two losses and three draws.
(*) A "newspaper decision" was a decision in professional boxing rendered by a consensus of sportswriters attending a bout after a no decision bout had ended. A "no decision" bout occurred when, either under the aegis of state boxing law or by an arrangement between the fighters, both boxers were still standing at the end of a fight and there had been no knockout, no official decision had been made, and neither boxer was declared the winner. The newspaper reporters covering the fight, after reaching a consensus, would declare a winner and print the newspaper decision in their publications. Officially, however, a "no decision" bout resulted in neither boxer winning or losing.

Arthur Pelkey eventually became a police officer in Windsor and died of "sleeping sickness" (a form of encephalitis) at 38 years of age in 1921.

NOTE: On April 5, 1915, the remarkable Jack Johnson finally lost his title to Jess Willard, a working cowboy from Kansas who started boxing when he was 27 years old. With a crowd of 25,000 at Oriental Park Racetrack in Havana, Cuba, Johnson was knocked out in the 26th round of the scheduled 45 round fight. Johnson, although having won almost every round, began to tire after the 20th round, and was visibly hurt by heavy body punches from Willard in rounds preceding the 26th round knockout. Willard would ultimately lose his title to my dad's hero Jack Dempsey on the 4th of July, 1919, in one of the most lopsided championship fights on record.