BY KEITH LACEY
The man who, according to family legend, was the first West African to settle in Ontario and the first black man to be hired by Inco Ltd. in Sudbury died Monday.
Joseph Adetuyi, 85, affectionately known as "African Joe,"
died Monday in Toronto after complications from diabetes.
Adetuyi was born in Nigeria and left home at 17 to see the
world. He joined the British Merchant Marines, where he served
in the Second World War fighting on battleships for Britain and
Canada, said his eldest son Alfons.
Adetuyi survived the sinking of his ship during the war and
was travelling through Canada on his way back to Britain when
he read a newspaper advertisement that changed his life.
"He was sailing back to the United Kingdom and had sailed into Montreal. When he got off the ship, he read an advertisement from Inco.
It was looking for workers who could fix big engines. My dad
worked fixing engines on the big naval ships during the war,"
Alfons said. "He called Inco's office in Sudbury...They told
him not to go anywhere because they would hire him and send a
cab for him right away.
"Back then, it took about 14 hours to send a cab from
Sudbury to Montreal, but my dad knew they were serious and they
did send a cab."
"By this time in his life he was in his late 20s and had
already become a world traveller looking for new experiences in
life," he said.
Inco started hiring more black workers after his father
became established. They recruited from Nova Scotia's large
black community, and many of those people formed Sudbury's
small black community back in the late 1940s and early 1950s,
Adetuyi had a passion for the arts and music and became
known for organizing music concerts.
"He used to promote a lot of concerts throughout the 1950s,
including big bands, blues bands and jazz performers," his son
said. "He really loved music and brought a lot of good times to
the people of Sudbury back then."
His father's passion for the arts rubbed off on his five
sons and one daughter.
Alfons and his brother Amos run a successful film production
company, Inner City Films, in Toronto. Brother Robert is a
producer and screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles. A movie he
wrote called The Cleaner, starring Cedric the Entertainer and
Lucy Liu, is scheduled for worldwide release this summer. Tom
is a television camera operator.
Adetuyi leaves behind his wife, Ilona, who he met in
Sudbury, six children, and 10 grandchildren.
After retiring from Inco after 29 years of service, he
eventually followed his children to the Toronto area, said
To say his father was proud of his West African roots would
be a gross understatement, said Alfons.
"He was very proud to be an African and he instilled that
pride into all of his children," he said. "He brought me to his
Nigerian village where he was born and raised, back in 1975
when I was still in high school."
In the many years his father lived in Toronto, he always came back to Sudbury at least once a year to say hello to many old friends, he said.