Local Hero: Best-selling author Ken Weber, shown in his office near Caledon East, has launched a “third career” as a speaker on Canadian history.
Ken Weber: One of our 2011 Local Heroes
INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY
Puzzle: If Ken from Caledon writes 52 books, sells more than 5 million copies, gets translated into 22 languages, and spends 12 years on the best-seller list in Japan, what do you call him?
Solution: Canada’s most successful author no one has ever heard of.
Well not quite no one. Ken Weber, academic, author and Historic Hills columnist and puzzle meister for this magazine, has a loyal following here in the hills.
And it’s hardly just here that Ken’s name continues to be warmly recognized. Born in Grey County, Ken began his career as a high school teacher. That led to a job as a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto, where he focused on special education. Many of the textbooks and teaching support materials he wrote on the subject are still used in more than 60 countries.
As a teacher, Ken discovered that mysteries and puzzles were an excellent way to gain students’ attention, especially that of “slow learners.” The ones he developed caught the eye of his publisher, and the Five Minute Mysteries series was born. Each book features a series of short, baffling whodunits with a clever solution that challenges readers’ sleuthing skills. A success from the start, the seven-book series wound up on several international best-seller lists, won numerous awards, and has been featured in publications ranging from Reader’s Digest to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine to the Russian version of Esquire and the Turkish version of Maclean’s. The books also landed him regular gigs as “Mystery Man” and “Professor Trivia” on CBC radio and television.
With his appointment to Professor Emeritus in 1996, Ken began to pursue another passion. “When I was a kid, my dad had a hardware store,” he recalls, “and it was a real sitters’ palace. All the farmers from back in the day would come in and tell their stories. Ever since then I’ve been fascinated by history.” Although he has no formal training as a historian, he is passionate about promoting Canadian heritage, insisting that rather than dry and dusty, it’s “actually very exciting.”
Beyond bringing local history to life for readers of this magazine, Ken has also contributed to several Canadian historical publications, and that has led to what he calls his “third career,” as guest speaker for a wide variety of community groups. “I miss teaching a lot,” he says. “This allows me to hold forth on a topic I love.” Seems his audiences love it too – he’s booked solid until 2013.
Ken and his wife Cecile are avid hikers and he donates all his speaking fees to the Escarpment Land Preservation program of the Bruce Trail Association, which recently named them “Benefactors.”
His commitment to education also led to his ongoing association with Robert Land Academy, a private military school for troubled boys. Over 30 years, he says, “I’ve been on the board of governors, a patron and a general factotum.”
At 71, Ken has no plans to consign himself to history. “I’m not the type to put my feet up,” he says. Asked how he has achieved so much in his life, he ponders a moment and answers, “Luck. But I’ve always found that the harder I worked, the luckier I got.”
Our fourth annual celebration of extraordinary people, meet our other heroes
- Brandy Robinson initiated the Human Library
- Drs Stephen and Stephanie Milone teach new doctors at Headwaters
- Ken Weber is a best-selling author and speaker on Canadian history
- Jordan and Jeremy Grant restored The Alton Mill: A showcase for the arts
- Herb Campbell Public School holds gold certification in the Eco Schools Program
- The Coalition of Concerned Citizens fought to perserve our rural landscape
- David Nairn and Sheryl Chandler are building dreams together
- Dianne Acheson is a whiz at both retail and fundraising
- Anne Harland has become a champion of accessibility for the disabled