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Ron Calhoun, man behind Terry Fox’s ‘Marathon of Hope’ dead at 86

From left to right: John Davidson and Ron Calhoun.
From left to right: John Davidson and Ron Calhoun. via John Davidson

A London, Ont.-area man best known for his involvement in Terry Fox‘s Marathon of Hope, has died at the age of 86.

Ron Calhoun, of Thamesford, was described as a giant in the charitable world “who did so much for so many” by his longtime friend John Davidson, the founder of the charity Jesse’s Journey — named for Davidson’s late son.

READ MORE: 20-year anniversary of John Davidson’s walk across Canada

“I first met Ron in 1994 when I began to think about what we could do to make a difference in the lives of kids with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and I had this thought about pushing Jesse across Ontario in his wheelchair,” Davidson told Global News Radio 980 CFPL.

“One of my colleagues in TV, Bob Smith, directed me to Ron and he and I struck up a friendship that lasted as long as we were together.”

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Davidson said he was shocked when he learned Friday morning about Calhoun’s passing, saying he saw him just last weekend and talked to him on the phone since then. A cause of death has not been made public.

He said he hopes that others will be inspired by Calhoun’s life and do what they can for others.

“He was just a great guy, very down to earth, a very quiet man, but he was a giant in the charitable sector who did so much for so many,” said Davidson.

“He did it very Canadian — he did it very quietly and oftentimes in the background.”

“He would want people, I think, to — regardless of what area of life their charitable thoughts are leaning towards, be it healthcare, education, the environment — that they should do all they can to help out and to make things better for others.”

Recounting their 26 years of friendship, Davidson said he never saw Calhoun angry and he never saw him without a smile on his face.

“He got up every day I think, wondering ‘how can we make life a little better for people today?’ and that’s maybe what we should maybe all do, because too often we spend too much time wasting time grousing about the way things are. Unless you have a great ability to change it, put a smile on your face because the problems that are there today are going to be there for people in 20 years’ time, 40 years’ time, 100 years’ time,” he explained.

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“It’s all how you look at the world and he got up each morning and looked at the world the right way. And when you do that, it’s a lot better place than we make it out to be.”

READ MORE: Institute unveils ‘Team Canada of cancer research’ in city where Fox began run 

Calhoun was the national fundraising chairman for the Canadian Cancer Society when Davidson says he got a call from a colleague about someone wanting to run across Canada to raise money for cancer. The Terry Fox Marathon of Hope, a term Calhoun coined, began April 12, 1980, when Fox dipped his artificial leg in St. John’s harbour.

“When we get a cure for cancer — not if, but when — because the tools are there to do these jobs now, then Ron Calhoun will have played a huge part in moving that cure closer.”

Davidson says Calhoun was a great family man and loved his grandchildren. His wife, Fran, died a few years earlier.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Click to play video 'The legacy of Terry Fox' The legacy of Terry Fox
The legacy of Terry Fox