One of the joys of publishing our stories of unsung Canadian heroes is the feedback we receive from readers, as well as the ‘ripple effect’ that comes from our books.
One such wonderful ‘ripple effect’ was the creation of a beautiful painting by Calgary artist Bev Tosh. She was so inspired by Alan Buick’s book The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story that she created a portrait of Sue Elliott for a collection that is now on display at the National Liberation Museum in Groesbeek, Netherlands. The multi-media exhibition called CanadianWar Brides: a one way passage to love runs from June 6 to November 24, 2013 and features 22 portraits as well as artifacts of Dutch war brides to Canada.
Sussie Cretier was 10 years old in November 1944 when she met Bob Elliott, a Canadian tank commander from Calgary who was fighting the Nazis across the Maas River in the Netherlands. Sussie became a good-luck charm and little sister to the Canadian soldiers, bringing them laughter, songs and hope during a difficult time. They wanted to give her a Christmas present, so they asked a seamstress in that little Dutch village to make a coat for her out of a wool Army blanket. The buttons on the coat came off of the soldiers’ tunics. On Christmas Day 1944, Bob Elliott presented Sussie with the coat – the most precious gift she had ever received.
Bob and Sue each went on with their lives after the war but reconnected in 1981. They fell in love and married. Sussie – now known as Sue – still had her little coat. She brought it with her to Canada, where author Alan Buick saw it and decided to write the award-winning bestselling book The Little Coat.
In May 2013, Bev Tosh contacted Alan Buick to let him know about her painting of Sue Elliott being on display in the Netherlands. In describing the display, Tosh said, “Over 20 new portraits on wooden panels – all with story panels on silk – stand shoulder-to-shoulder beside Hetty’s wedding dress and a short film of her wedding in Gorinchem in 1945. A veil of vintage handkerchiefs, each embroidered by the artist with the name of a ‘bride ship,’ speaks of ocean voyages and tears.”
She added that “Sue Elliott is not a war bride in the narrow sense but hers is a story of mid-life love that is based on wartime friendship. There are several such stories that expand the scope and enrich the display. This would not have happened had it not been for your book, The Little Coat, which, fittingly, was recommended to me by another Dutch war bride living in Saskatchewan who is also portrayed in the exhibition. The story keeps growing!”
Thank you, Bev, for enjoying our book The Little Coat and sharing that marvellous story with a new audience! Best wishes on the Netherlands exhibition!