The Sunday Magazine

Tragedy builds a new family

When children's author Jean Little was in her mid-sixties, she took on the task, with Pat her sister, of raising two small children - her great niece and nephew, Jeannie and Ben.
Jean Little, right, with sister Pat de Vries (Photo by Rhondda Lymburner)

Jean Little is one of Canada's best-loved and most celebrated children's authors. She has written more than fifty books, including the classics, Mine for Keeps and From Anna. Jean is 82 years old. She's completely blind and with the help of a computer, still writes every day. But one of the biggest stories of her life - unpublished and little known - has taken place in the modest house she shares with her sister, Pat de Vries, in Guelph, Ontario.  

When she was in her mid-sixties, Jean took on the task, with Pat, of raising two small children - her great-niece and nephew, Jeannie and Ben. They are the children of Sarah de Vries, Pat's adopted daughter, who disappeared from Vancouver's skid row in the spring of 1998. Sarah's DNA was later found on the pig farm of serial killer, Robert Pickton. 
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Jeanne and Ben are grown up now, and this fall they're both going to college . They are launched, more or less, two young people trying to make their way in the world. The sisters who raised them can stop running, sit back and think about a remarkable living arrangement that began with a phone call.

Here is Cate Cochran's documentary "Ours for Keeps," which we first broadcast on The Sunday Edition last December.


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