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Man Who Introduced Cross-Country Skiing To Canada Dies At 111

January 6, 1987

TOENSBERG, Norway (AP) _ Herman Smith ″Chief Jackrabbit″ Johannsen, who began skiing in his native Norway at age 2 and introduced cross-country skiing to Canada at the turn of the century, has died at age 111.

The Vestfold Central Hospital in Toensberg reported today that Johannsen died Monday.

Johannsen lived for many years with Cree Indians in northern Ontario and they gave him the name Kamacum Wapooes - Chief Jackrabbit - for his speed on skis.

Dr. Gunnar Klaebo said Johannsen was admitted to the hospital with the flu on Dec. 26, having returned to Norway only last June after living 84 years in Canada. The hospital is near the home of Johannsen’s son, Robert.

The skier’s death was announced in Canada by his daughter, Alice Johannsen, of Mont St. Hilaire, Quebec. She said her father was awarded the Order of Canada in 1972.

David Walls, executive director of a home for the elderly in Canada where Johannsen spent one year, attributed his longevity to moderation and exercise. ″He was up every day, winter and summer, outside exercising. He was self- sufficient even at 111 years old,″ Walls said.

Johannsen was born in Oslo on June 15, 1875, the first of nine children of a navy captain and his wife.

He studied engineering at the University of Berlin and later sold heavy machinery for a company in Cleveland, where he met his wife, Alice Robinson. She died in 1963 at age 81.

An assignment took him to Canada, where the Grand Trunk Railway, now Canadian National, was being built.

At the turn of the century, he lived with Cree Indians and introduced cross-country skiing to trappers and guides.

He pioneered skiing trails, coached young skiers, became a favorite raconteur at sports banquets, and even after his 100th birthday would show up at the Lachute-to-Ottawa Canadian Ski Marathon.

Besides Alice and Robert, he leaves another daughter, Peggy, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

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