When Calgary-based Chinese Consul General WANG Xinping visited Camrose on Friday, June 27, he had two goals. He wished to learn more about the community, and pay his respects to a figure that still figures prominently in Chinese-Canadian history: Chester Ronning.
Traveling with Consuls GAO Hong and WANG Xiaoqing, the Consul General met with Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Verlyn Olson, Camrose Mayor Norm Mayer, and Augustana Dean Allen Berger at the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life. Ronning Centre Director David Goa and Brian Evans, author of The Remarkable Chester Ronning: Proud Son of China, welcomed the guests.
“It is our pleasure to be here at the Centre,” said the Consul General. “To physically be here, seeing and observing and learning of things connected to this great person. And to remember his contribution not only to the Chinese and Canadian relations but also to Canada. He made so many contributions to the country. The honours he got from the various levels and governments embody the greatness of the person and his contribution to his country and to other countries too. He gave his opinion and understanding to Canadian leaders.”
“I think Chester Ronning really contributed a lot to Canadian-Chinese relations and he has done numerous good things as Brian Evans and David Goa recount,” he continued. “He was a true internationalist – with his passion, his intelligence, his curiosity, and his humour, he was a person naturally born to lead.”
The Consul General presented a certificate of appreciation to Brian Evans for his work in celebrating the China-born former Camrose Lutheran College President, MLA, and Ambassador to China. David Goa received a beautiful painting of plum blossoms for the wall of the Centre. In return, the Consul received gifts, copies of Evans’ book, and a traditional Norwegian toast with aquavit and herring.
“Chester Ronning would have done this Norwegian tradition in a very particular way,” explained Goa as he poured out the aquavit – the “Water of Life”. “It is customary to have a little bit of herring – from the sea, beloved by both Norwegians and Chinese, who is the mother of us all. And then, when we are ready, we would look into each other’s eyes – into the heart.”
“Ganbei!” said Wang, combining the Chinese toast of “empty cup” to the Norwegian tradition. “Let us drink to the remarkable Chester Ronning.”
Before the Ronning Centre visit, Augustana administrators talked with the Consul General about Augustana’s relationships with universities in China, growing international enrolment and expanding faculty exchanges. After the meeting, the Consul General visited Ronning’s gravesite to lay flowers. He followed up his visit with tours of the Camrose Recreation Centre, Chester Ronning School, and the site of the Cargill Canola Crushing Plant.