Not too many people have heard of Harry Jerome, despite him being a Canadian track and field star in the ‘60s, who won a bronze medal at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and set seven world sprint records over the course of his career.
Fewer still will be aware that the late Jerome’s first job in teaching was at the former Richmond High (now Richmond Secondary) and that he lived in the city, on Azure Road, with his wife.
That’s why Valerie Jerome, Harry’s sister – herself a Canadian Olympian at Rome in 1960 – and her friend and Richmond resident, Karina Reid, are pushing for some official recognition of the record-breaking sprinter, who died in North Vancouver of a brain aneurysm in 1982, age 42.
Those who frequent the Stanley Park seawall may well have passed by a bronze statue dedicated to Harry.
But both Valerie and Reid suspect it’s only tourists who take any discernable notice of it and would prefer to see something in a more residential area.
“I’m not into monuments and statues; Harry was interested in activities for kids,” Valerie told the Richmond News, adding that she and her brother experienced terrible racism when they moved, as children, to North Vancouver from Prince Albert, Sask. in 1951.
“Maybe not be a facility, as that would take some doing. Perhaps even a sports field or a street name would suffice.
“I just think there just needs to be a higher Black profile in the area and some kind of acknowledgment. We don’t need to have everything named after a Brit.”
Valerie said the era when they grew up in B.C. was “a very hard time for Black people,” and her brother’s achievements deserve better recognition.
Reid, meanwhile, sought Valerie’s permission to write to the City of Richmond, lobbying for a permanent memorial for the Olympic medallist.
“I noticed a post (on Facebook) about a Global News story on Valerie’s efforts and saw the comments…a lot of people were saying (Harry) wasn’t treated very fairly and one suggested a landmark in his name,” Reid told the News.
“There was talk of writing to the city, so I said I would do it. (The letter) was acknowledged and passed onto council and mayor.
“This is history that we don’t know about. Most Richmondites don’t know anything about Harry Jerome, let alone that he taught here and lived here.”
Reid also wrote to the Richmond School District to see if there could be something at Richmond High (Secondary) celebrating him.
“Considering he was such a Canadian hero, I would love to see something in the city that would inspire youth to be another Harry Jerome,” added Reid.
“I don’t think anyone knows about his connection to Richmond. Maybe rename a track or a gym, for example.”
The Harry Jerome Indoor Games at the Olympic Oval in its 10th year and is run by Richmond athletic club Kajaks.