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From Detroit to Fort Smith
Richard Daitch has enjoyed two decades in the NWT

Katie May
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, May 5, 2010

THEBACHA/FORT SMITH - Richard Daitch came to Canada in 1971 after a chance encounter.

NNSL photo/graphic

Richard Daitch: Being semi-retirement in the NWT can lead to interesting projects. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Best known as president of Sport North and a resident of Fort Smith, he was walking on the Mediterranean island of Crete in 1969 when he met a couple who were camping.

They were teachers working in rural Newfoundland, and they told Daitch of their adventures there.

"The whole thing just sort of captured my imagination," he said, adding he was teaching in inner-city Detroit, his home city, at the time.

With the help of his new friends, Daitch got a job in Newfoundland before even visiting there.

So in 1971, he drove into Canada in his 1955 Buick.

One of his recollections of crossing the Canadian border is a customs agent asking him what languages he spoke, which Daitch interpreted as meaning foreign languages.

"I said, 'None,'" he recalled. "He said, 'What about English?'"

Daitch said he is sometimes asked if he came to Canada to avoid the draft for the Vietnam War, but he said that was not the case.

When he came to this country, he was too old to be drafted and, before that, he said he was exempted because he was teaching in a challenging school.

Daitch is now a permanent resident of Canada, and maintains his American citizenship.

While in Newfoundland, he married his wife, Mary Pat Short, an English woman he had met while on vacation in Europe. She also went to Newfoundland to teach.

After five years in Newfoundland, they relocated to Windsor, Ont., and later to Pangnirtung and Nanisivik, Nunavut.

In 1990, his wife got a job as an instructor in the teacher education program at Aurora College in Fort Smith She later became director of the program.

Daitch followed his wife to Fort Smith a year later.

There, he first taught part-time for several years at Paul William Kaeser High School and then full-time for five years at Aurora College.

"I taught just about everything over the years," he said.

Daitch, 65, has been semi-retired from the college for five years, although he still tutors there and occasionally teaches a course.

"I've enjoyed it a lot," Daitch said of his time in Fort Smith, adding he and his wife have no plans to leave the community. "We're happy here."

The couple has two children: Sarah is a world-class cross-country skier, while Clare Estelle is an education program manager for a wildlife reserve outside of Whitehorse.

Since becoming semi-retired, Daitch has done some contract work, such as policy writing and adjudicating labour issues for the territorial government.

"It's actually a good place to retire," he said of Fort Smith. "If you leave the door open, people come to you and ask you to do interesting things."

Daitch has been chair of the board for Mary Kaeser Library for 20 years.

"It's been the longest project I've ever had, except for my marriage," he said with a chuckle.

He has been involved in tennis as a player and instructor, and participates in the Canada 55+ Games two years ago in tennis and this year in table tennis.

Daitch said he has been involved with the Sport North Federation in one capacity or another for about 20 years.

As president, he is aware of just about everything that is going on, he said. "There are quite a lot of meetings."

He's also involved in discussions with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs and the NWT Sport and Recreation Council on the future of sports, especially funding.

"All these things are behind the scenes, but it takes a lot of time," Daitch said.

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