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Former RR man sets Guinness World Record

Ken Johnston

Who would have thought that an activity that took place about 35 years ago would have landed a former Rainy River citizen in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Leonard Proteau, 70, grew up in Rainy River until he was 19. At that time he joined the Canadian military and went overseas to fight in the Korean War.
Proteau tried to join the artillery but could not as he had a perforated eardrum. Instead he was assigned to a transport company that hauled supplies to the front.
Not long before he went to Korea he had a conversation with Pvt. L.L. Murray of Rainy River. “I spoke to him in Rainy River and said, “I will see your there!’” Murray was killed a month before Proteau got there. To this day Proteau remembers Murray, noting that every July 27th at the Korean War Memorial in Brampton, Ontario, he places a poppy on Murray’s name.
Following his service in Korea (1952-53), Proteau took paratrooper training at Rivers, Manitoba. Then it was off to Germany for 3.5 years.
In 1958 he transferred to the Royal Canadian Air Force where he was an instructor in Nuclear Defense. “That was a very interesting period in my career,” said Proteau.
From 1961-64 he was stationed at Metz, France. Then he returned to Canada to St. Jean, Quebec. From there it was off to Mont Apica, Quebec where Proteau said, “There was nothing to do but drink.” But being a non-drinker, Proteau decided to work at creating alternative activities.
There was a rifle range that had been closed due to not having a certified person to oversee it. Proteau asked to be trained as such after a week away he came back to the base and reopened the range. Little did he know but he was a natural at target shooting.
Proteau picked up a Dominion Marksman, model 190s, 22 calibre rifle and began hitting bullseyes like there was no tomorrow. “It seemed like an extension of my arm. The butt was the right size, it was comfortable and I started hitting bullseyes!”
At first he did not think what he was doing was anything more than great fun during his off duty hours. But the range kept records of every session in the 25 yard range. Score cards were sent in to Dominion Marksman and as Proteau’s bullseye streak continued to grow he was awarded Dominion’s highest honour; the Gold Shield.
His bullseye streak continued well beyond winning the Gold Shield and Dominion recommended that Proteau contact the Guinness Book of World Records with his feat. However he never did. “I really didn’t know all that much about Guinness and I didn’t really think what I had done was all that special,” said Proteau.
However the base publicity officer felt other wise when Proteau hit his 1,530th bullseye. He called the brass in Ottawa and they sicked the military news people on him. The Sentinel wanted to do a story on Proteau and he agreed. However, when they wanted him to show off his amazing skills he missed the bullseye. No one could believe that the streak was over. It started in 1967 and ran for about six months into 1968.
“The Sentinel,” said Proteau, “said it was their fault. It really didn’t bother me.”
Thinking the streak was just something fun he did, Proteau pressed on with his life. From Mont Apica he was stationed at Bagettville, Quebec where there was no rifle range, hence his hobby ended.
He left the service in 1979 when he retired, but he continued to keep his military career front and center in his mind. He has worked on the establishment of the Korean War Memorial in Brampton, Ontario, and to this day the “young 70 year old” (as he refers to himself) volunteers as a caregiver for Korean vets in the Niagara Falls region, which is his home now.
After the military he returned to this region to work in Thunder Bay for about five years. Then he moved east to work at the Ontario Paper Company. He retired from that in 1997 at the age of 65.
Two years later he decided to write to Guinness about his shooting some 30 years earlier. It wasn’t until earlier this summer that he heard back from them. On September 4, 2002 he received word that he indeed does hold a world record.
He said he never considered becoming a sharp shooter and noted that the standard issue rifle in his army days was a 303. He is not sure if the accuracy he had with the 22 calibre would be there with the more powerful 303. As for competition, “I never really thought it was all that important.”
Now he sees the achievement in a new light, a world record light.