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Local historian wants your COVID-19 stories

‘No story is too small. I want to try to capture small gestures of kindness and charity in the community’
David McPherson
Supplied photo

When Ontario declared a State of Emergency, David McPherson was working on finishing the manuscript for his next book - a historical biography on Massey Hall.

McPherson says, a friend, Dr. Sean Gartner, reached out to him and pitched the idea of compiling a heroism storybook with a behind the scenes look at the frontlines during the pandemic. “I was inspired and started to seek out stories,” he said.

“I did an initial callout via social media and received some great stories. One from a therapist chronicling how he and his colleagues were offering free mental health counselling to frontline workers really resonated with me.”

The Waterloo Region COVID-19 Storybook is in its infancy stage, says McPherson.

“There are stories of businesses shifting their manufacturing models to create face shields and masks. Westmount Golf & Country Club has been a hub for collecting PPE and also organizing an Our Heroes Wear Scrubs t-shirt campaign for Grand River Hospital.”

He admits that collecting these narratives supports his own mental health. “Reading and writing these stories has really helped me. I’ve had many days filled with anxiety and depression during the past couple of months. Reading these stories gives me hope in these times of uncertainty; they have inspired me to try to stay present each day and be grateful for the little things,” he said.

Growing up in Waterloo, he recalls being an avid reader. Summer memories include road trips to Aspen and finding mentorship in his parents - his father a university professor and his mother a high school teacher. “He instilled in me my values of hard work, discipline, and lifelong learning. My mom taught me the importance of volunteerism and giving back to your community,” he says.

In high school, McPherson took a Writer’s Craft class. He would win a Waterloo-wide competition in the Prose category, affording him the confidence to seek writing as his path.

In 2017, his life-long goal of producing his first book came to fruition with the publication of The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern: A Complete History. “For a while, it was an Amazon bestseller in several categories. It is still selling today; it has far exceeded my expectations.”

When asked about the stories he is seeking for his COVID-19 storybook, he says the only prerequisite is that the narrative, in some way, relates to the pandemic.

“No story is too small. I want to try to capture small gestures of kindness and charity in the community coming out of this pandemic that might not be published in the mainstream media. Or stories from those in the arts who have found inspiration.”

He hopes to include first-person accounts from the front-lines - what they have experienced and how they are coping, even stories of recovery and those who did not make it.

In terms of the final product, he says it will depend on the number of stories he receives. “My original idea was a nice coffee table hardcover book with colour photographs that chronicles this time in our region’s history.” He says this is something he will have to reassess once he has a better idea of the content. “Then, I would look at seeing about getting a grant, asking for support from local businesses - a publisher, graphic designer - to help put this book together.”

McPherson hopes his book will be something residents can leave out on their tables, sparking conversations for years to come. Allowing us to look back at this time and recall Waterloo Region’s overwhelming acts of self-sacrifice and kindness. Right now, there isn’t a deadline for submissions.

“One thing is for certain; we are an incredibly caring community and I’m proud to live in Waterloo Region.”

Submit your stories to

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