TORONTO — A man who believes John Diefenbaker may have been his father is on the hunt for the former prime minister’s brain.
John George Dryden has turned up some new leads in his paternity search, which began last June when he found out his mother’s husband is not, in fact, his biological father.
He believes his mother, Mary Lou Dryden, who was a known confidante of Diefenbaker’s, had a brief affair with Canada’s 13th prime minister shortly after she married Gordon Dryden.
Family rumours and whispers put him on his current path of seeking to establish whether he is Diefenbaker’s illegitimate son. The Conservative prime minister had no known children.
Dryden was disappointed to learn last month that efforts to test DNA from artifacts at the Diefenbaker Centre in Saskatoon were inconclusive. But media attention about his quest is sending him down a new road to look for Diefenbaker’s brain.
A man claiming a relative of his was present during Diefenbaker’s autopsy contacted Dryden and told him the brain was removed and preserved in formaldehyde. He believes, and so does Dryden, that the Diefenbaker Centre either has the brain or knows where it is.
Dryden said he checked this man out and he seems genuine.
“(He’s) not a nut case, by any means,” Dryden said.
Dryden has sent a letter to executive director Michael Atkinson asking him to disclose its existence and make it available for testing. Dryden believes DNA could be extracted.
He was also shocked when a second person contacted him due to media coverage, and told him that she too believes Diefenbaker was her father. The woman doesn’t want her identity made public, but Dryden said they look alike, and her son is a “dead ringer” for him.
The woman first started making inquiries back in 1977 and was contacted by an RCMP officer, Dryden said.
Diefenbaker was “very concerned” that a nine-year-old boy he had recently met was his illegitimate son, the woman recounted to Dryden.
Dryden met Diefenbaker at a function on Parliament Hill that he attended with his mother, and Diefenbaker gave him, “a real hard up and down look and said, ’You were named for me,”’ Dryden said.
He was nine years old at the time.
Dryden is also hoping the Diefenbaker Centre will allow a scientist from Utah to use a “web vacuum” DNA extraction process on materials in the centre’s possession to try again to see if anything will yield a DNA sample.
No one from the Diefenbaker Centre, at the University of Saskatchewan, was immediately available for comment Monday.
Diefenbaker was prime minister from 1957 to 1963. He died in 1979.
Dryden says if it turns out he is Diefenbaker’s son, he hasn’t really thought about what he would do with that information.
“I really don’t have any plans,” he said. “I’ve got no political ambitions right now, nothing like that. I’m just looking to find out who my dad is.”