May I Introduce You To…

By Willa Wick in Community, People

The first time I saw him, he was sitting on a bar stool. No one was around him, and when he finished, he left. He didn’t seek attention, but if anyone glanced his way he had an appreciative smile and nod. He was a good looking chap; slight, with a graying ponytail; well dressed, with a trenchcoat for the cooling autumn weather. I noticed him several times in that same restaurant. Few knew who he was- and then he disappeared.

It was many years later when I actually met this gentleman. He had unique ideas for restoring a historical building that was an eyesore in the center of town. After inspectors and contractors priced out a restoration he presented the details to the Chamber of Commerce as it would be ideal as a community venture. As a result of that gathering I was later approached to assist by recounting his proposal via the media, and indeed, today the property is beautifully restored.

Now, fifteen years after the original sighting, both of us are once again in the same restaurant – only this time we’re sharing a table.

May I introduce you to Rodger Hyodo.

Hyodo is a unique character, very worldly, and mostly self taught. I know now, after our recent chat (which included Kathryn Edgecombe – but more on her later) that years ago this chap was a virtual loner in the restaurant because he was a newcomer to town. So many things in his life happen by coincidences, good luck, or whatever nomenclature you want to put on it. It makes his life as he recounts it, fascinating, funny, yet factual.

Here was a man who wanted to be alone. He had a friend in Toronto who had a storage building in Harriston, and was invited on a trip to retrieve some articles. In fact he had just travelled the world unsuccessfully looking for the right place to write, and after only spending a few hours, Hyodo liked the feel of his friend’s property and the town. He knew he could live there. Shortly thereafter he and the bare necessities of life moved into the mouse-infested house, built in 1879. Behind windows covered in cardboard he continued his passion – writing the book he subsequently published.
Hours, sometimes days, passed before he’d emerge from his writing and appear at the local restaurant where a few caught sight of the newcomer. Nobody knew from whence he came, where he lived, or what he was doing.

Backing up, let’s glance at his younger years. He was born in Kingston to parents of English, Scotch and Samurai lineage. His father was in the military which necessitated a move to Germany where Roger spent the first three years of his life. Returning to Canada the family purchased a house in Scarborough and that’s basically where he grew up. Much earlier than that his maternal great grandparents had immigrated to Toronto where the mother had run a restaurant in the centre of the city (in the Junction – where the train lines met). That was unheard of in those days for a woman. Her husband was killed in a train accident and she eventually turned her house into a rooming place and then became the Pastry Chef at the King Edward Hotel.

About age 13 Hyodo decided he wanted to get a job. One had to have a doctor’s certificate in order to leave school. His mother panicked but his father was ok with the idea – let him go and get a taste of real life. Rodger got a job with a construction company as a “gopher”.

Then he tells a story of hiking out to British Columbia at age 16. He spent some time mostly alone on Saturna Island, thinking of what to do next. He decided to become a chef, took the ferry to Victoria where he’d have to sleep on park benches to start with but it was summer. He got off the bus from the ferry and was looking for a place to buy a coffee when a red sports car pulled up and parked to his right. A very tall dark-haired young woman and a very short young woman got out of the car. They were both striking, and for a 16 year old new guy in town, intimidating. He intended to just keep on walking but sensed eyes were following his moves. He turned around and was met with friendly faces, so got up the courage to ask where he could buy a coffee. With grins they pointed, and Rodger realized he’d been so focused on the red car he had failed to notice he was right by a small café. The result of that scenario was that the girls invited him to join them and took him to the Empress Hotel (no shoddy little diner!!)

As they settled at their table the tall girl asked if he recognized anyone at a table of 12, and when Hyodo replied “no” she said they had been scrutinizing him ever since he entered. In fact one of them is walking over here now. Rodger turned but had no idea who they were. The stranger arrived asking if his last name was Hyodo. Surprised, and admittedly so, Rodger nodded to the affirmative. Apparently he was the spitting image of his much older brother. The table of 12 were all friends of Rodger’s older brother, celebrating a birthday. The long and the short of that encounter was that the next day he had lodging, a place to eat, and a job as a grill chef at the Keg (if he wanted it.) Hyodo still maintains contact with those two girls.

As grill chef for the Keg he had an innate ability to handle the service rush. On busy nights he prepared two and sometimes three, full seatings with only one assistant, no mistakes, and no back-log (waiting staff loved him). During that time he met the Keg owner (who also owned rights to McDonalds, Canada) and the man who thought up Ronald McDonald. With his first taste of being a chef under his belt he returned to Toronto and took a French Cuisine apprenticeship under Charles Drey in Yorkville, and became Head Chef there upon completion.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s Hyodo wanted to serve something gourmet but more eclectic and different, and was soon managing the two legendary Cow Café’s and later his own restaurant. Then came a move to England for 20 years.

Injuries from a motorcycle accident in Europe resulted in left side paralysis and the loss of ability to speak. The doctors informed his family there was no hope of recovery, but if he did survive surgeries, disability assistance would be necessary till death. The recovery took several years but eventually he was able to again earn a living.

Back home in Toronto after recovery, Hyodo was shopping one day for a favorite incense and he only knew one place to obtain it. That particular day a new gal was filling in for the regular clerk at the “Things Japanese” gift shop ……….Rodger was 47 when he proposed to Naomi – they were married in Aurora in 2002.

Five years later the couple decided to start a family, Naomi wanted natural pregnancy and natural childbirth. The known complications for natural birth at her age were abundantly clear, in fact impossible for a woman of her age according to two Gynecologists. But Naomi was not easily discouraged and turned to Chinese medicine. After confirmation of the pregnancy, the family doctor suggested Midwifery for advice and guidance for a ‘natural’ birth. Midwife Linda was secured at 3 months and was confident things could go as planned.

To be safe, at the last minute home birth was traded for Stratford Hospital where the midwife prepared the delivery room. A doctor met with them long enough to advise the nurses that the midwife would be in charge and he would be in the hospital in case of emergency. Comments from bystanders indicated “A woman in her md-forties attempting natural birth is a waste of our time and hospital resources – we all know how she will be having the baby… …epidural and C-section.”

Anjou Akira Hyodo came into the world Sunday, November 25th at 4:17 a.m. after only three hours labor, no painkillers, no complications, and no stitches.

Her second name Akira in Scottish means anchor, and she certainly has been the securing force to keeping the family in Harriston and cementing good community relations.

The original shed has been converted to a sweet little family home.

Aside from being a chef, Rodger Hyodo served for many years as a Field Strategist for some major consulting firms, specializing on recognizing a distinction between virtual (exists only in the mind) and real (what is actually happening.) Some people are satisfied “going with the flow” and accepting what befalls, but for many, it is a lack of knowing what else is possible that is holding them back from being more decisive and creative about their future.

So, starting with the readership of the Rural Route, it is our intention to provide a series of articles that will include interviews with people at the leading edge of social change today. And for that we have enlisted the services of Kathryn Edgecombe, writer and former teacher. We look forward to hearing from her in future issues developing stories along the lines of “Common Senses”