The life and death of John George Dryden Diefenbaker

The life and death of John George Dryden Diefenbaker (George) is nothing short of tragic, but arguably, inspiring.

Imagine, at 42-years of age, learning your life has been a lie. That’s what happened to George in 2010, when his cousin dropped the bombshell that family gossip suggested George was the product of a dalliance between his mom, Mary Lou, and former Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. This would mean, of course, that Mary Lou’s husband, Gordon Dryden, the man who raised George and who he believed was his biological father, was not.

Perhaps this news came as a relief to George, who claimed Gordon, longtime federal Liberal party treasurer and influential stalwart, had always treated him badly. I can only imagine the resentment Gordon must have felt if he knew that shortly after they were married his wife had an affair, and little George was not his flesh and blood.

And not just any affair: an affair with a Conservative MP and the then-federal Conservative leader, at the same time as her husband was leading the revival of the federal Liberal party.

That is no excuse, however, if any of the atrocities George alleges Gordon committed are true.

After a paternity test in June 2011 revealed Gordon was indeed not George’s father, things in the Dryden family got ugly real quick, with George launching a $30 million lawsuit against his mother, Gordon Dryden, and members of the Dryden family.

At issue was the substantial estate of Mary Lou’s brother, John Lonergan. Gordon, a lawyer, had participated in drawing up and executing Lonergan’s will, which excluded George. The bulk of the fortune went to George’s little brother Barrie, and the rest to Gordon and Mary Lou.

In 2004 George had sued Uncle John, alleging he had sexually molested him, and won a $75 000 settlement.

In his 2011 lawsuit, George alleged that after little brother Barrie was born, Gordon “subjected George to emotional abuse….placed psychological pressure on Barrie Jr. to treat George as an outcast, to participate in (Gordon’s)… devious plans to exclude George out of an unconscionable desire to enjoy a disproportionate share of the family’s wealth.”

This after Barrie also inherited the entirety of another family member’s estate, who George also alleged ignored his existence.

“Barrie Jr. lacked the ability to withstand the psychological pressure of Mr. Dryden due to diminished mental capacity including subpar intelligence and autism,” continued the statement of claim. “Due to Barrie Jr.’s frailties, failures of character and selfish acts, he betrayed George to pacify Mr. Dryden.”

George lost the lawsuit in November 2011, and was required to pay $40 000 of his family member’s costs.

In summer of 2012, after being systematically rejected by more than two dozen of John Diefenbaker’s relatives, Dryden finally got a clue regarding the true identity of his biological father. Because Dief’s relatives refused to co-operate, a private investigator went dumpster diving in their trash, snagging an ear-wax coated Q-Tip. Dryden says tests on his DNA and that on the Q-Tip came back positive for a genetic link.

George suspected John Diefenbaker was aware that he was his son. He told the CBC about meeting Diefenbaker for the first time on Parliament Hill, when he was nine-years-old. Dief seemed to stare at him for a long time, and then told George (whose first name is John), “You’re named for me.”

Not satisfied with the ear wax evidence, George turned to the Diefenbaker Centre at the University of Saskatchewan for help, requesting items from the archive, such as hair brushes or clothing, from which Diefenbaker DNA could be extracted for testing. Initially resistive, the Centre finally relented, but it was eventually determined that the archives were too old, and had been too handled, to be of any use.

Throughout the course of his search, George learned he likely had at least one brother, who is deceased, as well as a possible sister, both of whom claimed Diefenbaker was their dad. Just a few weeks ago George was able to connect with his brother’s sons, who live in Saskatoon. Together they visited the grave of the man who was very likely their father and grandfather.

George Dryden died recently, the result of a terminal pancreatic disease he said was brought on by his alcoholism. Well, technically it was the result of his attempt to kill himself the day before, something he foreshadowed in an interview with the Canadian Press just a few days prior to his attempt.

“I’m not going to be tied to machines,” he said. “I’ll take care of it myself.”

George Dryden’s life was undeniably tragic. The amount of rejection he endured was simply astounding, yet he continued to fight, right up until his death, for what he was owed: respect, and his heritage. In that, his legacy should inspire us all to remember we are each worthwhile, deserving individuals, and no one can take that away from us.

According to the Star Phoenix, George’s last wish was for his little brother Barrie to know he was sorry, and that he “wanted to be buried in the Dryden family plot with both the names Dryden and Diefenbaker on his tombstone.”

george
No George.

 

The Dryden family denied George’s request. He will rest elsewhere, on his own.

 

 

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3 comments

  1. Some errors above:

    George most likely did not sue some other George Dryden as it says above. If he indeed sued his own family members, it was likely his mother Mary Lou, her husband Gordon Dryden, and his half-brother Barrie Dryden Jr. and perhaps other extended Dryden family members.

    The John Lonergan you keep referring to above was not John but another uncle, actually William (Bill) Lonergan.

    Barrie Dryden Jr. inherited the estate of his wealthy uncle William (Bill) Lonergan. William (Bill) Lonergan was the alleged paedofile in the family. The settlement of $75,000.00 that you state George received in 2004 and refer to above would have been from his Uncle William (Bill) Lonergan or his estate. Not John Lonergan!

    George’s and Barrie’s Uncle John Lonergan was an honest blue collar working man of modest middle class means and values. I’m certain the children and widow of John Lonergan deserve an apology and a retraction of your erroneous reporting and statements.

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    • Thanks for your comments Rob. I did indeed use George instead of Gordon in one line, which I will correct, however there is no “if” regarding a lawsuit. In fact, I’ve linked to a copy of the lawsuit in the post, which surely you perused before throwing around words like “erroneous” and demanding apologies.
      In paragraph 8 of the judgment, you’ll note the judge makes specific reference to the will of “John” Lonergan, subsequently referred to as “the Lonergan will”. If the judge got it wrong, your issue is with him.
      Your family’s continued insistence on playing victim is astounding. I hope you can find it somewhere within your humanity to invest the same indignation on behalf of George Dryden, and the abhorrent treatment he received from all familial sides of his parentage.

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      • Hi Tammy:

        Thank you for your quick response.

        I was unaware of the link you provided to the judgement. Thank you for pointing that out. It’s now obvious to me that it was the Judge who got the name wrong in paragraph 8. I had not read the content of the link and, as I was never privy to whether or not George had ever actually filed any lawsuit(s), against William Lonergan or any family members , I proffered the word “If”. I had heard that George had sued previously but until now it was only hearsay in my mind. Thank you for clarifying that as statement of fact now. I apologize for thinking it was your error.

        I note that the Judge did get it right in the last bullet point of paragraph 16 when he refers to “William”.

        As there is a brother of William Lonergan named John Lonergan and there were at various times over the years rumours and family gossip of Bill’s predilections and sexual offences, hopefully you will understand my concern for having this reported correctly. There are ten to twenty living nieces and nephews of William Lonergan who will attest that the Judge obviously erred in his reference to “John”. You could not have known of the Judge’s error but please recognize that the judgement, with its two differing names mentioned, could be clarified in subsequent reporting so as to not hurt an innocent party.

        The Lonergan clan of the siblings of William Lonergan was very divided. In a family of ten children, only the family of Gordon Dryden and Mary Lou Dryden (nee Lonergan) maintained close ties to William Lonergan to the end. As such, the family of Gordon and Mary Lou also became very off limits so to speak. Siblings of William Lonergan wanted to protect their children from contact with their Uncle Bill. George and his family became very isolated because of this and also due to restrictions imposed by Gordon Dryden as he manipulated William Lonergan’s will and testament over the years to favour his son Barrie and neglect all others.

        I cannot say that George was ever mistreated by any of his maternal family side. I myself only ever saw George at a couple of weddings and funerals/wakes perhaps. There were however, stories of George borrowing money from several relatives and failing to repay. Certainly such conduct by George could possibly have brought about his own feelings of personal maternal side familial mistreatment. George was an alcoholic who may not have ever realized the bridges he burned with numerous family members.

        I can say that to my knowledge, the extended maternal family of George Dryden was empathetic to George’s plight. He was wished well in health and wished success in all his endeavours, especially in the efforts he made to reconnect with his immediate Dryden family and also to acquire his share of what his half brother Barrie inherited. We also hoped he would find his true roots and reconcile with Barrie and his mother. Why else would George have been informed of the possible connection to Diefenbaker by one of us?

        Many attempts were also made by sisters and sisters-in-law to connect with Mary Lou. These attempts were always thwarted by Gordon and his strict rules of access that he had given to administrators of the various hospices and institutions that Mary Lou was shunted to and from to keep her quiet.

        It would seem to me that the bulk of George’s maternal family side need not feel guilt, indignation nor victimized (save for the minimally five or six who were sexually molested by Bill.) As I see it, there are simply two very evil men and a suspect grandmother at the heart of George’s plight.

        Abhorrent treatment by the maternal familial side? Where and how did you come up with that one? The bulk of us had little to no contact with George throughout his life. It’s definitely how Gordon wanted it and later seemed to be as an adult George wanted it too.

        – Rob

        >

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