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Ethelbert “Curley” Christian

Section 7, Lot 872
Prospect Cemetery

 

Ethelbert “Curley” Christian was an American-born Black man and a world traveler. He worked his way through both North and South America, before finally settling in Canada, where he resided until his death in 1954.
   Curley enlisted in the Canadian Army during WWI in 1915, and was in France in 1917 at Vimy Ridge. While retrieving equipment, German artillery fire struck him, and Curley lay on the battlefield, buried under rubble for two days before he was rescued. As he was being carried from the battlefield, German artillery fire struck again, killing the two men carrying Curley. He was finally sent him to a hospital in France where it was determined that all four of his limbs had to be amputated, because gangrene had already set in.
  Back home in a Toronto Hospital, Curley was fitted for prosthetics and continued his rehabilitation. He learned to walk on his artificial legs, and even learned to write and feed himself using implements he fashioned himself, and which could be attached to his artificial arms. In 1918, Curley was transferred to Euclid Hall on Jarvis Street (where the Keg Mansion is today). Later he met Cleo MacPherson at the Christie Street Veterans Hospital, where she was a volunteer aide. They fell in love, were married and had a son, Douglas. One day Cleo went to the hospital administration and told them that with her nursing skills she could care for Curley at home, but she would need some financial help from the government. Thinking this an excellent idea the Director of the Christie Street Hospital petitioned the government, which eventually agreed to an allowance for full-time caregivers of veterans wounded in the war. The Attendance Allowance was created soon thereafter.
   Curley and his wife attended the ceremony in France when the Vimy Ridge memorial was unveiled in 1936. At the ceremony, Christian caught the eye of King Edward (whom he had met years earlier while in hospital in Toronto) and introduced him to a group of blind veterans. Curley was famous as the only person to survive quadruple amputation, not just for WWI only but also for WWII.
   Curley Christian died on March 15, 1954, and was buried on March 18th, in Section 7, Lot 872.


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