David Hilton remembers prodigal son Harry Horne:
During the funeral service held last month in Murfreesboro, south of Nashville, someone stood and sang O Canada – a tribute to Harry Horne.
Harry had died at 96, having lived in Tennessee since retiring in 1980 and moving to his new wife’s hometown. There was a Canadian flag on his front lawn, but his friends and neighbours had only the faintest idea of his background.
Before settling in the South, he had spent more than 30 years as a member of Canada’s foreign service with postings in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the United States. I worked for him at the consulate in Chicago for two years starting in 1960.
Although a career diplomat, he often joked that the only striped pants he’d ever owned were coveralls while growing up in his native Saskatchewan. After serving in the Second World War, then earning a commerce degree, he’d joined the federal Trade Commissioner Service. In the days before jet travel and the Internet, its job was to help Canadian exporters do business abroad.
He was a natural – more than just a salesman, he had integrity and flair. On his very first posting, he challenged a mayor in Norway to an arm-wrestling contest, and won.
Over the years, Harry’s exploits became legendary. While in Germany preparing for a visit by cabinet minister Mitchell Sharp, he went into a barber shop and pressed for a quick haircut, which he got – from the maintenance man. Sharp later claimed Harry looked so rough that he was tempted to transfer him home for the sake of his health.
While consul general in Atlanta, Harry received a call from Ottawa asking for background information on a newly elected Jimmy Carter. Would the governor’s personal phone number, he replied, be of help?
He retired after training a whole generation of diplomats, many of whom went on to distinguished careers, and spent another 30 years as an expat, teaching at the local university, becoming president of the Rotary Club and even being named an honorary colonel in the Tennessee Volunteers.
But the maple leaf flew on his lawn until the day he died.