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Pan Am tribute to Canadian athlete has spelling mistake etched in stone

Persistence appears to be spelled wrong on the Tom Longboat tribute
Persistence appears to be spelled wrong on the Tom Longboat tribute. Gillian Wake

UPDATED on July 14, 2015: A spokesperson for HGH Granite contacted Global News to clarify the company’s role in the creation of the monument. The company was given the approved text which it later engraved on the monument. The spokesperson said that the monument would be corrected. 

A new tribute to a legendary aboriginal athlete built for the Pan Am Games appears to have a small but very apparent spelling mistake.

The tribute to Tom Longboat, a long-distance runner who set a world record at the 1907 Boston Marathon, was erected along Toronto’s waterfront ahead of the 2015 Pan Am Games.

But its message of patience and persistence has a small spelling mistake.

Gillian Wake, who works near Queens Quay, said she was in “disbelief” when she first saw the mistake and asked her colleague Brandon Raco to take the photos.

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“It is very beautiful. And when I read the panels, the plaques surrounding it, I just had to check and double check,” she said.

“I couldn’t believe that such a frighteningly expensive thing had a spelling mistake, I just felt embarrassed for Toronto in front of the world.”

The tribute to Tom Longboat was constructed just in time for the Pan Am Games.
The tribute to Tom Longboat was constructed just in time for the Pan Am Games. Gillian Wake

Wake, who is originally from England, said that she first thought it might be a North American spelling of “persistence.”

“I even double and triple checked myself and checked with Webster’s everything, I thought it could be a North American thing, I’m English, I could be wrong,” she said.

“But no, absolutely everything points to the fact I’m right and it just jumped out at me.”

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The memorial includes a life-size sculpture of Longboat, and a narrative in both English and one of the Haudenosaunee languages.

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The memorial is meant to “be a tribute to one of the world’s most celebrated athletes,” according to the Games website.

The Pan Am Games did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Longboat was born in 1887, lived near Brantford, Ontario and was from the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation.  He set a record at the 1907 Boston Marathon that stood for nearly 20 years and was wounded twice while serving in the First World War.

The massive memorial was built by HGH Granite in Dundas, Ontario. Neil Hardwick, a spokesperson for HGH Granite told Global News Tuesday, they were given the text to write and it was approved “over a dozen times” before it was finally etched onto the monument.

The company’s website, which features a large photo of the unfinished tribute, says the “large pieces of Coffee Brown granite” came from a quarry in India.