Perhaps it was fate that brought Sultan Jessa to Cornwall in 1972.
Whatever it was, he made Cornwall his adopted home and the community was better for it.
An accomplished journalist working for East Africa’s Daily Nation newspaper in his native Tanzania , he fled the country with his family with little more than what they could carry with them when the East African country introduced forced relocation and nationalization that took direct aim at families of Indian descent who had helped build the country’s flourishing economy. The Jessa family owned (and lost) a tea plantation.
Soon after arriving in Canada, a country he knew little about, and he knew ever less about Cornwall, he was hired by the Standard-Freeholder to fill a vacant senior reporter position.
The timing was perfect. If he had arrived a day later the position would have been filled and he would never have made Cornwall his home.
“I left everything behind and had to start all over again,” he told an immigration magazine a 2010 interview. “it wasn’t easy.”
But against all odds, he endured, even after his first winter experience, a brutal one even by Canadian standards.
Outside the newsroom, he quickly became part of the community. His involvement started with the Rotary Club, which he belonged to in East Africa, and quickly spread to other organizations. He was even in charge of the Santa Claus parade for two years. Someone in the newsroom suggested he should took on the role of Santa in the parade.
He was instrumental in organizing various multicultural organizations to create understanding across cultures in the community.
For six years he served on the RCMP’s national committee on diversity.
In the early 1990s he took a bold plunge into politics and ran for mayor. In a six-person field he finished third in a tight three-way race in which incumbent Ron Martelle was re-elected.
His long list of honours and awards included Cornwall Citizen of the Year, the Order of Canada and the Queen’s Silver and Golden Jubilee medals.
An immigration magazine in 2010 named him one of Canada’s top 25 immigrants.
He was a gentleman with a big heart.
He retired from the Standard-Freeholder as one of its most respected journalists, and the standing-room crowd at his retirement party at the RCAFA Wing was a cross-section of the community.
Shortly after he moved to Kirkland (the company his wife worked for re-located to Montreal) but return to journalism as a columnist with the Seaway News. At some point, he planned to move back to Cornwall.
A celebration of his extra-ordinary life will be held Saturday, 10 a.m., at Lahaie and Sullivan Funeral Home (West Branch). He passed away Aug. 22.
THIS WEEK IN 1971 – Cornwall was one of the stops on Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s five-day whirl-wind tour of Eastern Ontario ridings. He spent two hours speaking and taking questions in front of crowded General Vanier Secondary School auditorium. … Ald. Roy Brunet announced that he would run for mayor in the December municipal elections. Mayor Nick Kaneb was expected to seek re-election (He would be upset by city businessman Ed Lumley). … The province announced that it would spend $110,000 on renovation to the ancient Cornwall Jail. … The 538 members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation employed by the United Counties public board agreed to a new contract the put the annual salary of a Level 4 (13 years experience) teacher at $15,400. Range for vice-principals was $18,750 to $19,750, while salaries for principals ranged from $19,000 to $22,500. … A fire service report to council recommended that the city look at re-structuring the fire department to include part-time firefighters. … The city was negotiating with the province to rent court space in the new Justice Building. The province had been renting court space in St. Columban’s Hall. … A third gymnasium was approved for Glengarry District High School. … A parks and recreation report showed that a total of 111,326 visits were made to large city pools during July and August. Busiest were Kiwanis (17,645, St. Joseph’s (16,860) and Riverdale (16,253). … Residents of 15th Street were demanding action on their unpaved street they described as a “sea of mud.” Some councillors said the street should be moved up from its 23rd place on the paving priority list because a new high school had been opened in the area. Mayor Nick Kaneb warned against making promises “we can’t deliver on.” … The Fireside Lounge at the Torch Room on Highway 2 (Vincent Massey Drive) held its official opening. … St. Regis Braves captured the Inter-provincial Junior Lacrosse League championship with a 17-15 win over Cornwall Celtics. Travis Cook won the regular season scoring title, while team-mates Ernie Mitchell was regular season MVP and Norm Piche was playoff MVP. Frank Benedict was named coach of the year.
TRIVIA ANSWER In 1979 the paper mill’s name was changed to Cornwall Fine Paper Mill from Domtar Pulp and Paper Ltd. but remained in the Domtar Inc. family.
TRIVIA In 1915 George and William Hollister opened this business. In 1930 it was purchased by R. J. Brown and operated until the mid-1960s. It was 1) Hollister’s Grocery Store, 2) East Side Dairy, 3) Cornwall Commercial College, 4) Smith Hardware, 5) Collins Confectionery.
FACTS’N’FIGURES Garage owner E. D. Warner launched Cornwall’s first motorized taxi service in 1911 from his garage – Warner’s garage at 32 Second St. W. – which sold Shell gas and Chrysler and Plymouth vehicles It was between the Cornwallis Hotel and Shirley’s Restaurant. The garage was destroyed by fire on Nov. 29, 1951. The first “cab” service was started in 1873 when Thomas Murphy transported people in a horse-drawn carriage. After the Second World War, a group of veterans founded a taxi company and called it Veteran’s Taxi.
QUOTED “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra