"I made a promise to a friend."
Bob Harper, of Brockville, Ontario, explains how a promise jumpstarted a post-retirement life dedicated to educating every Canadian about the origins of the Maple Leaf flag.
That friend was John Ross Matheson, a former MP who passed away in 2013 and is known as the quarterback of the team that brought the Canadian flag to fruition in the mid-60s.
Matheson, along with three other team members, are credited with creating the flag's final design, now a symbol of Canada known the world over.
Matheson also wrote a book about Canada's flag in 1980.
In an interview in June 2013, Matheson said about the design: "It was basic heraldry. White and red is considered the most powerful combination in heraldry. That's why the Canadian flag has the brightest red. And the starkest white. It had to be that way," Matheson said in an interview in June.
When reported asked Matheson how he felt the day his flag was first raised, he said, "Damn proud. Every time I see that flag, I feel damn proud."
Harper and his wife Sue have funneled their retirement savings and their time to create the Canadian Flag Education Centre, which aims to teach Canadians about the origins of the Canadian flag, Matheson's contributions and the importance of this piece of Canuck heritage.
Matheson was not only an integral part of the creation of our nation's flag, but he also played an important role in the development of the Order of Canada of which he became a recipient himself in 1994.
"The idea of the order of Canada was that there would be great people held up, Canadians of all stripes, not just bureaucrats, judges, generals and politicians," his son Ron Matheson is quoted as saying.
Harper has reviewed more than 40,000 documents and spent 15,000 hours on this Canadian flag project. Most intriguingly to Muzeum fans, he is in the possession of a rare collectible: the only Canadian flag that flew on Parliament Hill's Peace Tower signed by Matheson himself.
The flag is available to purchase at Muzeum (Contact us for more information).
What's the finish line for Harper? It's not just the sale of this unique flag. "I want every Canadian to know the story of the Canadian flag," Harper replies. Also, he is talking to the Ontario Ministry of Education to bring the flag's story to students province-wide as part of the core curriculum.
Harper is seeking to have Brockville named the birthplace of the Canadian flag. Such a designation has won support from Leeds-Grenville MP Gord Brown and MPP Steve Clark.
Harper's signed flag was one of the many eye-catching items found at last week's Great Canadian Roadshow. Be on the lookout for more profiles on this blog later this month of rare collectibles and antiques from Canadian sellers across the country.
On Monday May 15, this blog will publish another intriguing story about a seller with a century-old hockey stick and antique hockey skates available for sale.