Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Winnipeg Foundation CEO's grandpa came to Canada as a 'Home Child'

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The head of Winnipeg's largest charitable foundation learned from his grandfather what it means to be down and out.

Winnipeg Foundation CEO Rick Frost's grandpa, Dick Frost, was shipped to Canada from London in 1908 at age 12 to work on a farm.

The boy's mother died when he was just three, and he was beaten by his father who hit the bottle after his wife died.

He never complained about his childhood to his grandson.

"My grandfather was absolutely positive," said Frost, who has grandkids of his own now in Winnipeg.

"I never remember him having any negative feelings toward life in any respect," he said. That doesn't mean his grandfather survived his Dickensian ordeal unscathed.

"My father (remembered) my grandfather telling of hiding... for fear of his father and my grandmother says he was beaten one night for not putting butter on the bread and the next night for doing so."

He ended up in London's National Children's Home and Orphanage.

When he was 12, he was sent to work a farm in Huntsville, Ont.

"The woman took one look at him and decided he was nothing but an urchin from London's streets -- which he was," said Frost. She didn't want him.

If a neighbour hadn't agreed to take him, he feared he would have ended up on the streets.

"My grandmother (said) Dick never felt secure for years, always harbouring a fear that he would suddenly be homeless again," said Frost, who has the little trunk his grandfather brought to Canada.

He stayed in an unheated attic and worked to earn his keep. At the age of 18, he set out on his own.

Dick, who had to start work at 12, recognized the value in being able to go to school.

"He was very big on education. He was most anxious that we get educated," said Frost.

His grandfather ended up owning, then selling, his own farm and working in a quarry and lived into his 70s.

"I think when you have someone in your family who came to Canada under those circumstances, it makes you aware of the different values at play 100 years ago," said Frost.

"It doesn't make those things acceptable. You're just more aware of the difficult times and that they had to work so hard," he said.

"We've inherited an incredible legacy."

 

-- Carol Sanders

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2012 A13

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