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Distinguished member
Oct 13, 2004
Printed yesterday in the Globe and Mail...

Gisèle (mentioned below) is a member of this forum...

Jean Léonard Eugène Zamor

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Son, brother, friend, teacher, traveller. Born Nov. 6, 1957, in Haiti. Died April 8 in Ottawa of Lou Gehrig's disease, aged 47.

His canal-side apartment on Clegg Street in Ottawa was indicative of the kind of person Jean Léonard Eugène Zamor was: the sunny open space was draped with lush greenery, and the rooms were filled with exotic artifacts collected on his extensive travels.

Towering wooden shelves were crammed with books of all kinds and classical music played softly from where Mr. Zamor sat, smiling in his signature purple-striped Guatemalan shirt. Even when he was weakened by illness and physically deteriorated, he was in good spirits.

Unable to speak or write, he used a joystick to indicate letters on the computer screen. Asked to show his collection of photographs, he would call up one of dozens of portfolios. If urged, he would produce articles published in a political newspaper for which he was briefly editor.


I once asked Mr. Zamor why, with so many talents and interests, he chose to become a teacher. He laughed and replied simply, "Teaching is my vocation."

Even on inhospitably wintry days, Mr. Zamor would be found cycling to and from Lisgar Collegiate Institute in downtown Ottawa, where he taught French and Spanish and coached soccer for eight years before he was diagnosed in 2003 with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Born in Haiti in 1957, Mr. Zamor came to Canada with his family in 1969 at the age of 11. He obtained a BA and a bachelor of education at the University of Ottawa. He also studied for a year on a scholarship at the Goethe Institute in Germany. While he would travel habitually throughout Asia, South America, and Europe, Ottawa was his home.

When Mr. Zamor learned he was ill, he did anything but capitulate. Rather, he planned a final trip to Indonesia in April, 2004, and lived to the fullest his last months of mobility. He would joke that the doctors had given up on him. He, however, would do nothing of the sort.

His classroom was unlike any other. In every aspect of his teaching, his love of language, music, literature, and art came bursting forth with contagious enthusiasm. Once a month, Mr. Zamor held what he called Café des Poésies. Students brought in poems and excerpts, musical instruments, and baked goods. He would provide a classical soundtrack, serve his home-brewed tea, and occasionally offer an impromptu verse from memory.

I was hardly surprised to learn from Gisèle, one of his three younger sisters, that a favourite childhood game of Mr. Zamor's was reading the dictionary.

More than what he taught, it was how he taught that made him so exceptional. He treated his teenage students as young adults. His classroom was a community for novel and lively thinking.

Shy and quiet, Mr. Zamor rarely spoke about himself. But some digging turns up childhood quiz show wins, innumerable travels, various stints in journalism, a love of spices and cooking, choir singing, and a street theatre program for troubled youth in Indonesia.

Even the number of languages he spoke -- five, in all -- and his country of origin were unknown to his students. Yet, beyond any one remarkable thing, it is the person he was -- his passion, his benevolence, and his taste for adventure -- that so strongly marked his students.

If I am ever complimented on my French, I explain that I had a truly exceptional French teacher. I now understand that this description, which he would surely have waved off blushingly, is only the beginning of who Mr. Zamor was to me and to so many others.

Davida was Jean's student.
article in globe and mail

Hi guys,
It's been a while since I've been on this site. I have been busy taking care of my family, after taking care of my brother. My husband and I will be taking in my nephew (5 1/2) and niece (10 months). They are my younger sister's it will be like starting again. Our children our 17 and almost 15. Long story...

Mike, I see that you have seen the article that a former student of my brother wrote about him. She really captured his spirit. My mom and I are very happy that it got published. He touched so many lives.

Hope everyone is doing well. I will stay in touch periodically but have to admit that I barely get time on the computer now...

Love to all

Hi Gisele. Nice to hear that you are well. Strange how things turn out in life isn't it? Good luck. Keep in touch when you can.
Hi Gisele,
After I read the piece posted by Pals Mike, I went back and read the posts that you had made while your brother struggled with ALS. The article written by the student and your posts show that you had a wonderful brother and that you were a great sister to him. It did me good to re-read the posts in context with the piece.
All the best at starting over with young children again. You must be a special grandmother also!
Keep in touch
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