Credit to Author: Denise Ryan| Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2020 13:57:23 +0000
When the call came just after Christmas from an Ottawa government official telling former Olympian Diane Clement that she would be receiving the Order of Canada, she thought it was a prank.
“It was a total shock, a personal phone call from Ottawa, a number I didn’t recognize. I thought what is going on?”
Then came a box crammed with letters of congratulations and the tiny snowflake-shaped lapel pin that she will now wear, a dignified punctuation mark to her remarkable story.
Known for her wild enthusiasm, her fire-engine red hair, her husky voice, gutsy laugh and her larger-than-life personality, Clement has long been affectionately known among friends and family as “Mama Tomato.”
The 83-year-old Olympian is the author of eight cookbooks, is the former chef and pastry chef of the Tomato cafe, a funky Cambie Street hotspot she presided over from 1991 to 2001, co-founder of The Vancouver Sun Run with her husband Doug Clement, and serves on multiple boards and community projects.
“We work out every other day,” said Clement, referring to her husband Doug, 86, “down at the gym doing the elliptical, the rowing machine, the treadmill.
“If we walk and move and use our feet we can all stay healthy,” said Clement.
Clement grew up in Moncton, N.B., and later moved to Montreal with her family, before moving to Toronto in 1954 to train as a sprinter for the Olympics before finally moved to Vancouver.
“I am total Canadian coast to coast and I’m very proud of that,” Clement said Monday as she was cleaning up the last of the dishes from a paella party she had thrown the night before for her son Rand, daughter Jennifer, their spouses and Clement’s three grandchildren.
Cooking for friends and family has been a lifelong passion for Clement, whose Tomato restaurant — founded by her daughter, actor Jennifer Clement, and a group of thespian friends—became a hub for creative types and local artists, and featured Clement’s classic home cooking, including her famous brownies that became a favourite of TV’s Happy Days’ “the Fonze,” actor Henry Winkler.
Clement being named a member of the Order of Canada is in recognition of her contributions to sports and recreation and for her role as a vital community advocate for fitness and health with a focus on service and helping others succeed.
“We just mailed out 200 medals all over B.C. to the winners and participants in our inaugural Rainforest Trail run,” said Clement. The first annual run was conceived as a way to bring health and fitness into Indigenous communities as part of the Calls to Action set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “We hope to see it grow across Canada.”
Her career in sports began under the tutelage of her father, who founded the Moncton Olympic club. In 1956, she became the first-ever New Brunswick athlete to compete in the Olympics, representing Canada in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 4×100 metre relay at Melbourne.
In 1958 she medalled at the British Empire Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales, earning a bronze in the 440-yard relay. She has been involved as in various capacities at six Olympics, including a stint as team manager during the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where she stick-handled the Ben Johnson crisis with tact and diplomacy.
In 1985 she and her husband launched the “fun run” that would become the wildly popular Vancouver Sun Run, which now draws about 50,000 runners annually. “Everybody can get involved in health and fitness, walking or running,” said Clement. “By getting active physically we can all stay healthy.”
The Clements will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary this year, and when they do they will both be wearing their snowflake pins: Doug was inducted into the Order of Canada in 1991.
“What is most important to us is family,” said Clement. “Whether it’s our own kids and grandkids, our teammates and friends and fellow citizens, we are all just one big extended family.”
CLICK HERE to report a typo.
Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email email@example.com.