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Lennoxville Hero Featured in Canada's History Magazine

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--August 1, 2011.

Thanks to the efforts of Dixville resident and history buff Jim Belknap, a little-known Canadian hero is finally beginning to get a bit of the recognition he has so long deserved.

larger_best_train2_.jpgIt is due to Belknap's tenacity (including a lobbying campaign that has occupied him for about twenty years) that an obscure railway man by the name of William Best (1856-1934), who was a resident of Lennoxville, and who was credited with saving the lives of 500 people in a terrible fire in Hinckley, Minnesota, in 1894, that the Canadian history magazine Canada's History (formerly known as The Beaver) has published an article spotlighting Best's remarkable act of bravery. The article, along with a 10-minute audio interview with Jim Belknap, calls attention to Belknap's ongoing crusade to get Best officially recognized as a hero in his own country.

"Best is recognized in a museum down in Hinckley, Minnesota, where the disaster took place," Belknap told QAHN recently. "But I've been getting nowhere in this country, and this man was a Canadian."

Belknap says that he has been trying for years to have Best recognized in some significant fashion as the hero he was. He hopes that an article in a national history magazine like Canada's History, with its vast circulation, will help to "light a fire under somebody."

He says that he's tried just about everywhere he could think of. "I've tried with Lennoxville -- they eventually put up a tiny little acrylic plaque inside the municipal building. I've even tried with the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which told me that to merit one of their plaques, a Canadian has to be judged to have done something of national importance. They said that a person has to have made 'an outstanding and lasting contribution to Canadian history,' and that it was 'not possible to establish such an association in this case.”

Belknap feels that there is a double standard at work here. He points to Doctor Norman Bethune (1890-1939) who has been recognized by the Historic Sites Board for his work in communist China. "So why not William Best for saving all those lives in Minnesota?"

Belknap says that he once listened to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien give a speech where he said that Canada honours its heroes. "When I heard that speech, I thought to myself 'bullshit.' In the United States, they know how to recognize their heroes. In Canada, we forget all about them."

For a complete on-line version of the article in Canada's History, along with the audio interview with Jim Belknap, visit http://www.canadashistory.ca.