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Nigerian was first black man hired by Inco

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.

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

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, said Alfons.

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 Alfons.

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.