One on One with Markus - Dale Pepin

In 1967, Dale Pepin moved for North Bay to Sudbury for his first teaching job.
Dale Pepin, a retired teacher in Sudbury, has been singing the national anthem for the Sudbury Wolves for 42 years. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

In 1967, Dale Pepin moved for North Bay to Sudbury for his first teaching job.

He was 18 years old at the time, and first taught at Prince Charles School, which is now École Publique Jeanne-Sauvé.

"It doesn't look like anything I taught in because they refurbished the building," he said.

"I taught grade 7 music, math, English and geography."

Throughout his career, Pepin taught at a number of schools throughout the city.

"I loved teaching. I loved the kids," he said.

"I'm told by different people that I was their favourite teacher. I don't know whether that's exaggerating or not because I remember days when we had run-ins."

He says some days were memorable for the wrong reasons. One that sticks out is the day Renee Sweeney was murdered. In 1998, the 23-year-old woman was brutally murdered while working at Adults Only Video on Paris Street. Pepin was working at a school nearby on Walford Road.

"The police came in and locked down the school," he said. "It was pretty freaky. That day is pretty vivid."

Singing for the Wolves

Beyond teaching, Pepin remains very active in the community. For the past 42 years, he's been singing the national anthem to open games for the Sudbury Wolves.

It all started one morning when he went into school and had a note from his principal, with a number for Pepin to call.

The man on the other end asked him if he would be willing to sing the national anthem for the Sudbury Wolves.

Pepin says he's been proud to sing the anthem, as he's very patriotic. Over the years, he's sang other country's anthems, including Russia's.

"There had been a mixup in a couple of other arenas and [the Russian team] hadn't had the national anthem," he said.

"I stepped out on ice and I sang the whole thing in Russian. All of a sudden, the Russian sticks started beating on the ice. It was a wonderful feeling."

Dale Pepin has sung the Canadian, American and Russian national anthem at the Sudbury Arena. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

He's also sung the American national anthem many times over the years, an anthem he says takes special preparation.

"I walk around the arena pitching the American national anthem for about 10 minutes before I have to sing it," he said.

"Heaven help anybody who interrupts my train of thought and I lose my pitch."

Retirement and facing challenges

Pepin retired from teaching in 2000, the same day his grandson was born.

"Every year, I get to phone Elijah and I say 'Elijah, how old are you?' and I can just feel him rolling his eyes at the other end of the phone," he said with a laugh.

"This year, he said 'I'm 17 grandpa.' And I said, 'thanks, now I know how long I've been retired.'"

Recently, Pepin has faced health challenges. On Sept. 24, he went to church and the other choir members took one look at him and said he had to go to the hospital.

"It turned out I'd had a heart attack," he said.

"I didn't feel the pain because I thought I had pulled a muscle lifting dishes at the legion."

He had a quadruple bypass surgery and ended up having two strokes during the surgery.

Pepin has been the hospital ever since.

"I'm learning to walk all over again," he said.

"I can still sing. We had a wonderful Christmas party for the patients."

But he's planning his life after his hospital stay. On Jan. 19, he's hoping to be singing the national anthem again at the Wolves game.

He and his wife have also sold their home and are now renting an apartment.

"As soon as the therapists go in and make suggestions as to how furniture needs to be moved for a wheelchair, I'll be moving in," he said.

He says it's been an adjustment to get used to using a wheelchair.

"I guess I was a little bothered by the fact that for the rest of my life, I could be in a wheelchair," he said.

"But I am also knowing that in therapy, I'm doing a little bit of walking. So it may be that one of these days, the wheelchair will be passé."