Cover art for Winnie the Bear (designed by Steven Rosenberg)
We're all familiar with Winnie-the-Pooh, the iconic bear made famous by author A. A. Milne. And most Winnipeggers know the local story behind the beloved bear - that she was adopted by Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, a World War I veterinarian from Winnipeg. He called her "Winnie" after his home town.
But what you might not know is that Winnipeg author, M.A. Appleby, has a familial connection to Colebourn. She's just written a book that takes a deeper look into Winnie and the lieutenant.
Appleby's father was a close friend of the late Fred Colebourn, Harry's son. When her father told her Harry's story, Appleby decided to write Winnie the Bear.
Appleby offers five facts you may not have known about Winnie:
1. A. A. Milne wrote four of the most popular children's books of all time. Two of these books, the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, would not have existed without Harry Colebourn and the decisions he made regarding his bear, Winnie.
2. It was Milne's son Christopher who came up with the name "Winnie-the-Pooh" for Winnie the Canadian bear. Harry had called his bear "Winnie the Bear" at times, as had others, so Christopher may have needed only to add the "Pooh" part. Christopher then gave the name Winnie-the-Pooh to his own stuffed bear.
3. Like his fictitious namesake, Christopher had a special "home" in a tree, an ancient walnut. He would climb up into its large hollow trunk and play there for hours with his toy bear. Christopher later wrote, ". . . if anyone wonders why in the stories so much time seems to be spent
in trees or up trees, the answer is that this, in real life, was how it was."
4. Given that Winnie the Bear was named after Winnipeg, the capital city of the Province of Manitoba, it is an interesting twist of fate that she died on the date the Province was created, and on what would become known as "Manitoba Day."
5. Bill Epp, the Saskatoon artist, was commissioned to sculpt Winnie and Colebourn. Wearing a World War I uniform on loan from the Fort Garry Horse Museum in Winnipeg, Fred (the son) was the sculptor's model. He said it was a great honour for him to stand in for his father.
On a beautiful, sunny summer morning on August 6th, 1992, the statue was unveiled by Fred and his grandchildren at the Assiniboine Park Zoo -- which likely would have been Winnie's home had Harry followed his initial plan to bring her back to Canada after the war. When the statue was unveiled, on its base between Harry and Winnie's feet, sat an apple, in honour of my father, Bill Appleby.
M.A. Appleby (Bruce Hanks)
Above, sketches by P.R. Hayes
This content is provided by Mary Anne Appleby. The views expressed do not express the views of CBC. CBC is not responsible for this content.