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  • Kristin Udjus Teitelbaum

CNS Member D’Arcy Thorpe

photo of D'Arcy by Kristin Udjus Teitelbaum

D’Arcy is another long-time member of the CNS; his connection with the Nordic countries relates to a previous posting at the Canadian Embassy in Sweden and long-in-the-past ancestry from Norway. Although D’Arcy was bred and born in Western Canada, he has spent most of his adult life in the Ottawa region, with his home base on the shores of the Gatineau River in Chelsea, Quebec.

D’Arcy was born in Calgary during the Second World War, and this timing significantly impacted his start in life. His father was a pilot on active duty in anti-submarine warfare in Europe at that time, and was shot down and killed near Gibraltar when D’Arcy was only 22 days old. His mother later married a friend from her school days, Cliff Thorpe, who became the father D’Arcy grew up with.

Cliff himself was an orphan from a Norwegian immigrant family in Portland, Oregan. He had been adopted by an aunt who lived in Calgary when he was a young boy. The Thorpe family

came from southern Norway and had opened the Au Clair Lumber Mill in what is now downtown Calgary.

Cliff Thorpe was also an airforce pilot, and was shot down over Libya during the war, ending up in the infamous POW camp Stallag Luft III, which since has become known as the location for “The Great Escape”. D’Arcy’s stepfather participated in digging the tunnel, allowing some of the prisoners in the camp to escape. He himself had to wait out the war in the camp, but returned home to Calgary after the war. There he renewed his acquaintance with and married D’Arcy’s widowed mother. The family then moved to Trail, B.C., a mining town on the Columbia River, to make a fresh start, and that is where D’Arcy grew up.

The town of Trail and surrounding area had been devastated by the early refining and smelting industry with extensive damage to the habitat. Fortunately, D’Arcy had access to the mountains and wilderness around, which laid the ground for later wilderness trips and a love for nature.

After high school, he went to University of BC in Vancouver, and having completed an undergraduate degree there took up his wandering stick and travelled the world for the next three years. He would find work when the opportunity arose and money was getting low. One of his ventures, in Vietnam at the time, was as a logistics officer for a water drilling company with the US Army during the Vietnam war.

Back in Canada, he got a teaching degree and pursued post graduate studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C. before entering the Canadian Foreign Service. This led to a job in Ottawa, so he moved east, and right away started looking for a place to live outside the city itself. On his first day here, driving around in his VW bus (one of many), he found a real estate agent in Chelsea, Quebec, and promptly found himself the owner of a cottage on the Gatineau River. He married Nancy the following year, and the couple has two children, a boy and a girl. This has been their home base ever since.

Although their home base has remained in Chelsea, the Thorpes have travelled extensively and lived abroad for long stretches, due to D’Arcy’s work with the Foreign Service. The U.N in New York, Madrid, Prague, Stockholm, Cambodia and most recently Barbados, have all been temporary homes to D’Arcy and his family. The time they spent in Sweden coincided with the assassination of the Swedish Prime Minister, Olof Palme. D’Arcy was in charge of the Canadian Embassy when this happened, as the Ambassador was travelling. Another major event during this posting was the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, not too far from Sweden across the Baltic. Those were eventful and stressful times.

While in Stockholm he also met Michael and Kiliki Pitts and assisted them in immigrating to Montreal. There Kiliki became the Lutheran Minister responsible for Finish communities in Montreal, Ottawa and Sudbury.

D’Arcy has also had long periods of time when he has been posted in Ottawa, responsible for the Mediterranean region. This has led to close contact with many dignitaries, such as Governor General Jules Léger, several Popes, and King Juan Carlos of Spain, among others.

One connection he remembers with special fondness was with the explorer and naturalist Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente, a Spanish doctor famous for his many nature documentaries in the 1970s. D’Arcy travelled with him and guided him during wilderness trips to seven Canadian national parks.

These days, D’Arcy spends his time researching his family history and visiting with family in Ottawa and Calgary. He likes to read, but problems with his vision have led him to the discovery of audiobooks. “Audible” is keeping him up to date and well informed.

D’Arcy has contributed to our Canadian Nordic Society in many ways over the years, with talks and close involvement: most recently by opening his lovely grounds on the Gatineau River to our members, to celebrate Midsummer/St.Hans in the traditional Nordic Fashion. Thank you, D’Arcy and Nancy.

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