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Elderly heritage pioneer honoured at Pier 21 ceremony

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

Halifax resident and former Dutch art student Cora DeJong Greenaway, now 81, to her surprise and amusement was proclaimed the embodiment of the typical Dutch immigrant in Canada at the Pier 21 Dutch Immigration Commemoration ceremony. The extent of her commitment to her new country, particularly as a heritage conservationist was cited as criteria for the choice as was her war-time stand against Nazi rule.

Greenaway who married a Canadian military officer following the Liberation of the Netherlands in 1945, during the German occupation years had been active in the student resistance opposing plans to Nazify student life and cultural segments in Dutch society. These groups resisted compulsory allegiance to Hitler and Nazi party membership.

After settling in Halifax, the Dutch Canadian woman in the 1960s became a heritage preservationist decrying the seemingly “indiscriminate demolition of old buildings and the desecration of places of natural beauty.” The controversy over a property at Saint Mary’s University in which Greenaway spontaneously took a stand, led to the formation of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, the first one in Canada (later a national trust followed). She also discovered the work of then still virtually unknown Nova Scotia artist Maud Lewis and introduced and promoted it on her CBS broadcasts on culture. The list of Greenaway initiatives is extensive, no doubt responsible for her induction into the Order of Canada in 1996, and the award of two honourary doctorates (Saint Mary University in 2001 and Mount Saint Vincent University in May).