I remember the time a few years ago when Jim Hughes called and asked me if I would go out to Pearson Airport, which is just on the outskirts of Toronto, the following afternoon, and pick up Joe Borowski who was flying in from Winnipeg. Joe was supposed to arrive at Terminal III for a pro-life conference and I was to drive him down to the Bond Place Hotel where he would be staying. I agreed. I felt privileged.

I have always been a great admirer of Joe Borowski. To me it was like going up to pick up a combination of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. Joe was a major icon in the pro-life field – an international hero – a man who spent a fortune fighting the federal government’s pro-abortion laws and had even gone to jail rather than pay taxes that were being used to fund abortions.

But I hate Pearson Airport. It is a winding maze of one-way vertical ramps designed by the devil to give the average citizen high blood pressure. All the signs at Pearson have ever told me is that I have just gone past where I was supposed to have got off. Anyways, I am the kind of person who can get lost going into to your local service station. By the time I had exhausted myself trying to get to Terminal III, I was late.

I thought the plane had probably landed by now and Joe was waiting for me so I chanced it and parked under this ominous “No Parking” sign. I thought I would rush in and get Joe and rush out. Sure enough the passengers were already streaming off the plane from Winnipeg and going to the rotating turnstile to get their baggage. There was a big crowd on the plane and soon they all got their baggage and disappeared – but no Joe Borowski. Where could Joe be? Did he miss the plane?

I panicked. I turned around and there was Joe directly behind me about twenty feet away patiently waiting – looking out the terminal window – looking for me! He had walked right by me and I had been too busy looking intently at the passengers scrambling for their luggage to notice him. Joe informed me that he was travelling light and carried his hand bag on to the plane so he didn’t have to wait. I apologized profusely and hurried off to get my car. I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t where I had left it.

That was not good news. I thought for a moment it might have been stolen but I was assured by the local police detachment – after checking their records – that it had been tagged and towed down to a lot on the grounds of the airport. How convenient I thought.

Anxious to get my car back, I failed to tell Joe what had happened and I angrily flagged a cab going by and had him take me down to the pound where they had taken my car. It turned out to be a barbed wire heavily secured enclosure. Meanwhile I became concerned because I had left poor Joe standing there in the airport lounge waiting for me without telling him where I had gone.

Where are you Frank Kennedy?

Unfortunately for Joe, I had to go through a whole rigmarole to get my car back. By the time I had paid my cab fare, convinced the pound that it was my car, paid my fine and towing charges. I had run up a bill of $160 and I still hadn’t got Joe down to the Bond Place Hotel. A half and hour after I had left Joe standing there I raced up to where I had last seen him. But no Joe. I was afraid to leave the car at the pick-up area and run into the airport terminal to see what had happened to Joe.

I was afraid that they might find me and tow my car away again! And I would have to take another cab down to the pound! And on the same day! What would people think of me? I just couldn’t conquer this fear so I just waited. I guess I could have scrambled around and found a premium parking space nearby but I was determined not to pay that pack of airport vultures one more lousy nickel! And maybe Joe had already left. Yes, that was a possibility. I finally gave up and went home.

The phone rang. It was Jim. Where is Joe? I told Jim what had happened. I told him that Joe must have taken a cab and that I couldn’t find him. Needless to say Jim was not happy. This was certainly no way to treat Joe Borowski. You don’t abandon an icon in an airport.

In the meantime Jim’s phone rang and it was Joe on the other line. Joe had arrived by cab at the Bond Hotel. He had only one question for Jim. What ever happened to Frank?

Joe was good natured about the foul-up and even agreed to have me join him for a game of golf the next morning along with others for a foursome at Ray Holmes’ lovely golf course in Brampton, a town nearby. Joe never said a nasty word about what had happened. In fact we all enjoyed a good laugh – especially the other two when they heard about it. Joe was a very good golfer. He even had a three hole golf course on his own property. As I recall Joe won handily. But that’s what he was – in life too – winner at the end.

Joe beats out his own doctor

Joe started off in politics running against a very popular, almost revered, family doctor who had attended the birth of half the people and their children in his riding. If looked like poor Joe was heading for an ignominious defeat until at an election rally Joe told the audience that the good doctor was his doctor too and he wanted him to remain his doctor. Joe asked how the doctor was going to be available to his patients if they elected him as their MPP and sent him to Winnipeg to represent them. Joe won easily.

Joe got angry at the repetitious annual pro-life meeting held throughout the country, and as he described it nothing much has happened in the war against abortion except every year someone always wants to sell him a new book or a new video. Joe threatened not come to any more. When Joe heard about Operation Rescue, he was enthusiastic about it. At last, he felt, something tangible was happening. Joe flew all the way in from Winnipeg for the first Operation Rescue in Toronto and he was actually smiling happily when the police dragged his off to jail.

Joe was often accused of lacking tact. At a big conference of pro-lifers – he would always talk and have everybody squirming when he addressed a big crowd as if they were all Roman Catholics. He would urge them all to go to Mass daily! If you can’t go in the morning, Joe would say, surely you could go at noon – and if you couldn’t go at noon – surely you could go at night. Joe loved the Mass. And now many people are beginning to agree with Joe that prayer should come first. For more difficult than climbing the Rocky Mountains barefoot.

The Quack

Joe recently thought that he had been ripped off by a quack doctor in Toronto who had treated him for cancer on a health farm that he owned in Aurora, 30 miles north of Toronto. Joe, who had learned that he had cancer a year ago, said that the man’s 28-day cancer ‘cure’ had made him worse off than he was before. Joe wrote a letter to the Ontario Medical Association that if it hadn’t been so true would have been almost libellous. (The quack doctor was eventually convicted of various serious fraud charges and did 90 days in jail on weekends and had to make restitution in the order of hundreds of thousand of dollars to stave off a more lengthy sojourn in jail).

Joe, because he was sick and in Winnipeg, was in no position to carry on a campaign against the quack to he enlisted the aid of Jim Hughes. Joe was planning to sue and wanted Jim to distribute a copy of the letter he had already written to the OMA. Joe promised that if he got any money back for his crummy cancer treatment that he would give it to Campaign Life Coalition. Joe was very determined that this quack shouldn’t get away with ripping him off.

Another typical day for Jim Hughes

Jim agreed to help Joe. We both went out on the street on the coldest day of the year and gave to passersby a copy of the letter on Joe’s stationery, explaining that a quack ran an office in their area.

The angry quack called the police who arrived promptly and Jim was at his eloquent best. He never mentioned that he or Joe was pro-life – just that his friend in Winnipeg had been ripped off by a con-artist who was in court on serious fraud charges. The officer reported to the quack doctor that Hum and yours truly were within our tights to picket on property.

I came back with two other pro-lifers a few days later on another grisly day and distributed the same letter all over the neighbourhood, denouncing the quack to curious people walking by the tucking letters under windshield wipers of cars parked across the street from the quack’s office.

The quack phoned Jim and begged him to back off and that he would refund Joe his money at the end of the month. We agreed to delay going back and then found that the man had gone bankrupt. Joe sent Jim a hundred bucks and we all went out to lunch at the Pickle Barrel and enjoyed a few laughs and a few drinks. (Thanks, Joe).

And surprise of surprises, a couple of months later – the quack made restitution of the money that he had stolen from former business associates and he also agreed to pay back Joe Borowski for his failed cancer treatment. Joe’s stubbornness had paid off! And Campaign Life Coalition had a rather tidy financial windfall in the spring. Thank you, Joe Up There!

Joe’s stubbornness was legendary. Many people on the other side of Joe’s arguments called it ‘obstinacy’ but that surely depends where you sit. Joe always said his goal in life was to get to heaven – while most politicians that I know are content to get on a government marketing board. Joe stubbornly faced down a life filled with setbacks and defeats and few victories but the big victory that I think that Joe surely obtained… was heaven.