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Private Papers Celebrate a Great Canadian

At the age of 21, Major-General Richard Rohmer (LLB ’51) wrote to his mother after his service on the frontlines of WWII, where he served as a Royal Canadian Air Force fighter-reconnaissance pilot. He complained of being frustrated and wanting to go out into the world to “do something creative”. “In some ways that really explains a lot of what happens in his life,” says Michael Moir, York University archivist and head of the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections.

Now in his 80s, Rohmer’s CV includes numerous titles: lawyer, best-selling author, politician, broadcaster, inventor, community leader, university chancellor and businessman.

In 2005, Rohmer donated his private papers to York as the basis for his recently published memoirs, Generally Speaking. The collection contains a life’s worth of documents including photographs, correspondences, letters, and research files for his 17 novels and 10 works of non-fiction. The collection encapsulates the many remarkable contributions Rohmer has made to Canada both as a public and private citizen.

York’s Chancellor, Peter Cory, has known Rohmer since the 1950s as a law colleague and a friend. “This gift is a wonderful piece of Canadian history from the 1940s until now,” he says. “It will be of inestimable benefit to scholars and all that have an interest in Canada and Canadian affairs.”

For Rohmer, archiving his papers at York was the choice he made because, he says, “York has a well-administered, progressive, welcoming archival program and it is my law alma mater.”

Major-General Richard Rohmer holds numerous decorations including: the Distinguished Flying Cross; Officer of the Order of Canada; Commander of the Order of Military Merit; Order of Ontario; Knight of the Order of St. John; Officer of the Order of Leopold (Belgium); and Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (France).