Gravenhurst, Muskoka, Ontario – Norman Bethune, humanitarian, activist and hero, was born in 1890 in this beautiful cottage/resort area of Ontario. He pioneered the world’s first mobile blood transfusion units, a task he started on the battlefields of Spain and continued in war-torn China.
Bethune’s self-less work as a surgeon and teacher in China included establishing more than 20 hospitals and working under deplorable conditions – once operating for 49 hours non-stop. He died from blood poisoning after cutting himself during an operation on the battlefront in northwestern China in 1939. Mao Zedong wrote one of his most famous essays about him, and it later became required reading in China. Today he is still used as an example for millions of Chinese students. Seventeen Chinese diplomats and officials attended the official opening of the Bethune House in Gravenhurst on August 30, 1976. The home, which is a two-hour drive north of Toronto, is open to the public and operated by Parks Canada.
The resort town of Gravenhurst (pop 10,000 ) is about a two hour drive north of Toronto. It sits on the shore of Lake Muskoka and serves as the gateway to cottage country. Visitors can also take a lake tour on the historic R.M.S. Segwen (1887), the oldest operating steamship in North America, enjoy live entertainment from rock and pop to dinner theatre at the Gravenhurst Opera House, and take a nostalgic look at the early, elegant resort and cottage life of the region at the Grace & Speed Muskoka Boat & Heritage Museum. Nearby is the World’s First Dark Sky Preserve.
Bethune Memorial House National Historic Site, 235 John St N Gravenhurst, Ontario (Muskoka Region)