By H.E. Cong Peiwu – Sep 8, 2023
The passing of Isabel Crook in Beijing at the age of 108, on August 20, has left us all saddened. Just like many of you, I have extended my condolences.
Crook’s life was a true reflection of people-to-people friendship between our two countries. Born in Chengdu, China, in 1915 to Canadian parents, she spent most of her life in China, and witnessed the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Crook once said, “I’m truly thankful to my parents for bringing me into this world in China.” Although she has passed away, her deeds and contributions continue to exert profound influence.
Through her works, she provided Westerners with more insights into the real China. Most importantly, she demystified China for Westerners during her time, helping them recognize the significance of engaging with China and its people.
Isabel Crook witnessed China’s development and transformation throughout her lifetime. She cared about rural development in China, devoted herself to education, and nurtured numerous talents.
Having spent over 90 years in China, she witnessed monumental changes in Chinese society. She saw, experienced and participated in China’s tremendous transformation from standing upright to becoming prosperous and growing in strength. “I’m very fortunate to be an observer to this great era. I believe my beloved China is getting better and better,” Crook expressed. In 2019, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to China’s education and friendly exchanges with the world, the Chinese government awarded her the Friendship Medal of China, the country’s highest honor bestowed upon foreign nationals.
Crook’s entire life was a vivid example of carrying forward China-Canada friendship. She dedicated her glorious years to China, blazing a trail in English teaching in New China and nurturing countless foreign language talents. “We see the fruits of our work, batches of graduates, contribute their strength to building New China and the new world. We are very proud of them,” she remarked.
Friendship transcends borders, and she never walked alone. Henry Norman Bethune, a Canadian surgeon, made the ultimate sacrifice in China when helping the Chinese people resist Japanese aggressors during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression. Besides, there are also many other Canadian recipients of the Chinese Government Friendship Award who have actively contributed to China-Canada friendship.
As an old Chinese saying goes, “Peaches and plums do not talk, yet a path is formed beneath them.” Beginning as a seed of hope, her spirit has grown into a towering tree. I encourage all of you to experience China firsthand, and you will understand why many Canadians like Crook have forged such deep bonds with China and the Chinese people. I’m also confident that there will be more friendly personages like Isabel Crook and Norman Bethune, who will continue to nurture and carry forward China-Canada friendship.
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