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Alvan Gamble: A Remarkable Christian

 

An Article by David Kilgour 

January, 2003

Canada itself is a smaller place since Alvan Gamble, member of the order of Canada, died this summer in Ottawa.

He felt his life was constantly driven by Godís plan for it. The best example was during World War II when as a flight instructor he ran to get a parachute from a locker so he could go on practice flight with his students. The key somehow wouldnít turn in the lock; by the time he got back, the flight had gone without him. Tragically, the aircraft hit a tree shortly after take off and everyone aboard was killed.

His long life was full of other instances of Godís love. Leaving school at 16 in the Great Depression as an atheist, he began work as an office boy in Toronto for $12 a week. Later he worked the 4pm-midnight shift in a Hamilton soap factory so he could complete high school. His faith had been rekindled at a local church, so he also began a correspondence course with the Moody Bible Institute.

When World War II began, he joined the air force and married Jean, who was allowed to keep her job only because her husband was in Europe on active duty. Afterwards, he became an advisor on employee policies and communications, which included funding jobs for some Canadians of origin in Japan. The Gambles later resolved that they would be open to any opportunity God sent their way and they were soon off to Indianapolis working with Quakers to defuse racial tensions.

They returned to Canada in the Ď50's to work with the Canada Mental Health Association and later a Children Aid Society and a Board of Health. Leaving one job over a principle, he was called by a large pharmaceutical company inviting him to do public service for it in Philadelphia. When a change in ownership made continuing there impossible, Alvan joined a generic drug manufacturer in Canada as a manager. This role got him doing some writing, which was helped by a University extension course in journalism. He soon began to help the late radio commentator, Bob Hesketh, write commentaries which were for many years carried on 30 radio stations across Canada.

His next role was an international one: visiting the Soviet Union as a journalist, with his accounts of the trip being carried in Faith Today and Christian Week. One consequence of the campaign by him and others was that Mikhail Gorbachev allowed the Salvation Army to return to Moscow and St. Petersberg.

The Gamble family life was similarly blessed. Unable to have children for medical reasons, they became  the first Ontario couple to adopt three children of non-European origin. He thinks he was awarded the Order of Canada because Jean and he had pushed new concepts in community and health services.

The Gambles modest financial resources were available to many. At one point, they were audited by Revenue Canada because their donations were such a large part of their income. No fault was found. They have helped many people.

In short, Alvan Gamble was a model citizen for all of us of any faith. 

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