OCT OEEO

PS_June_2016

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25 June 2016 | Professionally Speaking R E M A R K A B L E T E ACH E R PHOTOS: MARKIAN LOZOWCHUK Crime writer Linwood Barclay recalls the high school architecture teacher who encouraged creativity, independence and strength of character. BY RICHARD OUZOUNIAN A lthough Linwood Barclay is one of the masters of the modern thriller — with books like No Time for Goodbye holding readers spellbound around the world — there's absolutely no question about "whodunit" when it comes to naming the teacher who holds the most special place in his life. "It's John Boxtel," says Barclay emphatically. "He made all the difference to me." Barclay sits in the well-appointed and com- fortable home in Oakville, Ont., that he shares with his wife of many years, Neetha (a retired OCT), and thinks back to the time in the late '60s and early '70s that he spent at Fenelon Falls Secondary School in the Trillium Lakelands District School Board. "My father was a professional illustrator and I was always interested in drawing cars and sketching things, so it was only natural that I took John's drafting class — but I wound up get- ting more than a teacher," says Barclay, a former Toronto Star columnist. "He was a mentor, a friend, and later on, a father figure to me." The Dutch-born Boxtel was a building tech- nologist in the Netherlands before immigrating to Canada in 1954 at the age of 24. "Holland was too cramped and too narrow for me," Boxtel recalls on the phone from his home near Napanee, Ont. "I needed freedom and space, and I had to get away to find them." He studied first at the University of Toronto and then at the Ontario College of Art (OCA) before becoming an architecture teacher in 1967 at Fenelon Falls. The school, located in the Kawarthas, converted that year to combine aca- demic and vocational studies — and the number of students suddenly doubled. "I think there were nearly 80 0 of them, many arriving from very small and remote communities," says Boxtel. But of the hundreds of students, there was one who stood out from the rest. "Linwood came into my class in 1968; he took architectural drawing. He was a nice kid, very polite, decent, obviously from a very good family," an affectionate tone enters Boxtel's voice. "I know I shouldn't say this, but he was my favourite student. Even then you could tell he was special." It was a sort of mutual admiration society, because Barclay was drawn to Boxtel's unique style, as a teacher and a male role model. "John was an unconventional man," laughs Barclay. "He wasn't like any other teacher. He was irreverent, outspoken and an independent thinker. He'd wear things like a beaded necklace with a turtleneck and a sports jacket. Nobody else dressed like that. Not there, and not back then." Barclay reminisces nearly 50 years into the past, as he sets the scene. "He taught in a small room with 15 to 20 drafting tables crowded into it. There was a record player for us to listen to while we worked. John let us bring in our own music — stuff like Neil Young and Chicago — which he'd alternate with his, which was more eclectic : Dutch, classical, jazz, you name it." A Storied Past . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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