I’ll miss my uncle Gerard

By Tom Rakocevic


I will dearly miss my Uncle Gerard.


He passed away this summer after battling that terrible illness which has affected all of our families, cancer.


My uncle was a friendly, tireless and incredibly hard-working machinist who enjoyed a job-well-done, a glass of wine, a good book, the Toronto Maple Leafs, crossword puzzles and, unfortunately, cigarettes as well.


He was always smiling and seemed invincible even at 69.  His diagnosis was a shock for everyone who knew him.  He had admitted himself to hospital after experiencing a shortness of breath that kept getting worse.  My Uncle Gerard took the bad news with great dignity and optimism even until the very end.


There are many among us who are silently battling cancer, and there are many of us who have beaten this disease.


Even as I write this, the news is reporting that Mayor Rob Ford has been admitted to hospital with a tumour following months of abdominal pain – I wish him a speedy recovery.


Cancer has also claimed the lives of very public figures like the late, great Jack Layton and billionaires like Apple founder, Steve Jobs.


We are all at risk, but the risk can be mitigated.  The end of our lives is unavoidable but the length of our lives and the quality of our years are largely of our choosing.


Healthy living will make you live longer and better.

Your diet and regular exercise will give you energy and boost your immune system.  Local non-profit health organizations like the Black Creek Community Health Centre (located at York Gate Mall, 416-249-8000) is a great place to learn about healthy living.

Our community centres such as Grandravine CC, Driftwood CC, Oakdale CC and John Booth Arena all have weekly seniors exercise programs during the colder months.  When the weather is warm, take regular walks with your friends and enjoy our parks.  Cut out the unhealthy bad habits – an Oncologist told me that smoking increases the risk of cancer by ten times.


Monitor your health.

Make sure to see your doctor regularly, especially if you are elderly, and obviously when you are feeling persistently unwell.  Annual physicals are important for all of us since blood work can reveal health issues that are not readily apparent.  If you are facing health challenges like diabetes, make sure to stay on top of it and follow the instructions of your doctor, pharmacist and other medical professionals.  Also, learn the early warning signs of a heart attack or stroke.


Ask about the health of others.

I am proud of community members like Joe Astrella and my neighbor, Armindo Silva, who regularly volunteer their time to help others and drive seniors to health appointments.  We can all do a little more to help one another, and there are many among us who may not feel well but are keeping it a secret.


We all know people who are living in isolation – this can be unhealthy as our mental state can often affect our physical.  Maybe that person is a family member, friend, or neighbour.  Keep in touch and let them know that they are not alone.  There are many interesting programs and social clubs at our community centres; encourage them to join.


Finally, learning CPR and First Aid may help save someone else’s life in an emergency.  We have all heard about these fast-acting heroes – that hero could be you!


The loss of a loved one is a harsh reminder that we often spend a lot of our time worrying about trivial things.  Someone you know may be silently suffering, perhaps even from something that can be stopped if detected early.  I think we can all treat each other, especially those we love a little better and express how much we care and appreciate them.

You never know when it will be your last chance to say “I love you”.


Taking down the fences around a beautiful urban forest

by Tom Rakocevic

We have all driven or taken a TTC bus past the forested William Baker neighbourhood along Sheppard Ave. W., near Keele St., but few of us have ever entered it.

Councillor Anthony Perruzza wants that to change and has worked on an agreement with the Canada Lands Company to open this forested neighbourhood to the community as early as Autumn 2014.

The William Baker Neighbourhood was established in the 1950’s to house military personnel serving at the Canadian Forces Base Downsview.

The base was decommissioned and closed in 1996, and the neighbourhood was eventually emptied leaving unused homes in a secluded small urban forest.

Currently, the William Baker neighbourhood is a part of the greater Downsview Park lands and owned by the Canada Lands Company with a long-term plan for development. Councillor Perruzza has been fighting to see this neighbourhood preserved for its heritage aspects and natural beauty.

“The military base closed twenty years ago. It’s time that the community has access to this beautiful space.” says Councillor Perruzza.

Canada Lands has received permission to demolish the vacant houses but thanks to the work of Councillor Perruzza, they have also agreed to take down the fencing and make this area into park space open to the public.

Their landscape plan for the area shows a number of enhancements to this park space including new pathways for pedestrians and cyclists, new benches and garbage bins to reduce litter, as well as new trees.

The creation of a new park is welcome news to the community. This fall, make sure to take a stroll through the William Baker neighbourhood and enjoy the wonderful colours of a lovely urban forest right in our neighbourhood.

Property tax and water rebates for seniors – Apply and Save Money

Seniors and persons with a disability are often the most affected by the rising cost of living. As the cost of everything goes up, their pension and/or benefits stay the same – this means they are actually making less and less money each year.

In 2008, I worked with Councillor Anthony Perruzza to help establish Toronto’s water rebate program for seniors and persons with a disability whose household income is less than $50,000. Successful applicants can receive up to a 30 per cent rebate for the water they consumed at the end of the year. That same year, we also helped raise the income threshold for Toronto’s Property Tax Increase Cancellation Program to help more seniors apply. Today, if you are a senior or person with a disability in the City of Toronto and your household income is less than $38,000, an application to this program means any property tax increase will be returned to your pocket. Important programs like this provide relief to seniors who are struggling on a fixed income. After their many years of hard work, seniors should live with peace of mind and dignity. Unfortunately, the reality for many seniors is one of financial stress. If you care about a senior or person with a disability who owns a home in Toronto, let them know about these programs that will help them save money. Call your local City Councillor and ask their office for an application or even help in applying:

Ward 8 – Councillor Anthony Perruzza – 416-338-5335

Ward 9 – Councillor Maria Augimeri – 416-392-4021


by Tom Rakocevic