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Remembering June Callwood, 1924-2007

The Story

June Callwood died on April 14, 2007 at 82. In this clip, aired the Monday after her death, Toronto radio host Andy Barrie paid tribute to the inimitable writer and activist. He begins by playing an excerpt from an interview he conducted with her three years earlier, in which they drove together through "Callwood's Toronto." Barrie then shared his own memories of Callwood, clearly in awe of the woman that she was. "There was in her, at all times, a centeredness," he says.

Medium: Radio
Program: Metro Morning
Broadcast Date: April 16, 2007
Guest: June Callwood
Host: Andy Barrie
Duration: 10:50

Did You know?

• Callwood's last television interview was broadcast on CBC's The Hour on April 2, 2007, just 12 days before her death. In that interview, Callwood candidly shared her thoughts on life, death, God, love and marriage with interviewer George Stroumboulopoulos. She told Stroumboulopoulos that she was ready to die -- "Dust to dust is the way it ought to be" -- but said she was quite worried about leaving behind her ailing husband of 63 years, Trent Frayne.

• Callwood did not want a funeral and her wishes were respected. Instead, there was a 2.5-kilometre candlelight procession through the streets of Toronto held in her honour on April 17, 2007. More than 2,000 people took part in the event celebrating her memory, including Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Toronto Mayor David Miller and federal NDP leader Jack Layton.

• June Callwood was born on June 2, 1924. She grew up in Belle River, Ont. Her childhood was filled with poverty and instability. Her father was irresponsible and frequently absent, and her mother was distant.
• Callwood was an extremely bright student. But before she could complete high school, she dropped out in order to earn money.
• At the age of 16, she got her first full-time job as a reporter at the Brantford Expositor.

• In 1942, Callwood moved to Toronto to write for the Globe and Mail. While there she met Trent Frayne, a sports reporter. They married in 1944.
• Callwood has said she picked Frayne out as a prospective husband when she first arrived at the Globe. He was stable and dependable -- quite the opposite of her father -- and this drew her to him.

• Frayne and Callwood had four children: Jill, Brant, Jennifer and Casey.

• After giving birth to her first child, Jill, Callwood left the Globe and began a highly successful freelance career. She wrote for numerous magazines, and was a frequent contributor to Maclean's. Among her more famous Maclean's articles was one about the Avro Arrow -- a 1958 article called "The Day the Iroquois Flew." During her journalistic career, Callwood became a regular commentator on the Avro Arrow affair.

• Callwood wrote close to 30 books. Several of these were "autobiographies" she ghostwrote for other people, including famous Americans such as film director Otto Preminger and journalist Barbara Walters. Books written under her own name include:
• Love, Hate, Fear and Anger (1964)
• Emma: Canada's Unlikely Spy (1984)
• Jim: A Life With AIDS (1988)

• Callwood also dabbled in broadcasting. From 1975 to 1978, she hosted the CBC TV show In Touch. From 1991 to 1996, she was host of Vision TV's National Treasures. And in the late 1990s, she hosted a TV show called Caregiving with June Callwood on Prime TV.

• As explained in this clip, Callwood became an activist during the 1960s when she opened Digger House. She went on to open several other Toronto institutions:
• Nellie's Hostel for Women in 1974
• Jessie's Centre for Teenagers (a drop-in centre for teenage mothers) in 1982
• Casey House, a hospice for AIDS patients, in 1988.
• She was instrumental in countless causes over the years, including free speech, battered women, abortion rights and child poverty.

• In April 1982, Callwood's 20-year-old son Casey was killed by a drunk driver. She never got over his death. In a 1987 CBC radio interview, Callwood said that she had an extremely hard time each April around the anniversary of his death. "April is crappy," she said, sadly. "I hate April." She went on to say that she kept as busy as she could to keep herself from crying all the time.

• In 1992, several members of the board at Nellie's, the women's shelter Callwood had founded, accused her of racism. She left the Nellie's board of directors as a result. The well-publicized accusations were never proven, and many observers have since said they were unfounded. Callwood was extremely hurt by the accusations. She has said it took her years to stop being angry about what happened.

• Despite the Nellie's setback, Callwood continued to work diligently for her many causes. She felt it was her duty. In a 2001 Globe and Mail article, she discussed her hectic schedule: "Usually I am frazzled... I have a lot of commitments in a week and people are always asking me to help out and, when I look at my schedule and see half an hour, I will stick them in."

• When she found out she had terminal cancer, Callwood chose not to get chemotherapy. In a June 2004 Globe and Mail article, she said she was ready for death. "I don't want to be the frail old lady that people have to worry about," she said.
• Callwood died on April 14, 2007. She was 82 years old.


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