MONTREAL --- After a spring training in the segregated South, newlywed Rachel Robinson went to look at an apartment in a white neighborhood in Montreal. A French-Canadian woman who spoke English welcomed her to the home.
"She received me so pleasantly," Jackie Robinson's widow recalled. "Then she poured tea for me and agreed to rent the apartment to me furnished and she insisted I use her things -- like her linens and her china. It was an extraordinary welcome to Canada."
The quaint Montreal duplex that served as sanctuary to the Robinsons during the early part of his struggle to break baseball's racial barrier is being recognized by the U.S. government.
That chapter in American civil rights will be celebrated today when U.S. diplomats unveil a commemorative plaque at the apartment the couple called home in 1946.
The event will be attended by the U.S. ambassador to Canada, Montreal's mayor and Robinson's daughter as part of Black History Month.
Not too far from the house, Robinson made history at old Delorimier Stadium, thrilling fans of the minor league Montreal Royals for one season before joining the majors the next year with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
His wife remembers the home fondly and considers the residence on de Gaspe Avenue a critical part of their story.
"You can't make (enough) of the house because it's where the experiment started and the experiment went on to be a national success, so it led to something," Rachel Robinson told The Canadian Press . "What was nourished there in that house ... had widespread influence in our society."
Robinson, now 88, recalls arriving in Montreal after having survived the Jim Crow South during spring training in Florida.
"To appreciate how special the experience was in Canada, you have to think about the experience we had in the South going to spring training," she said.
Jackie Robinson would be the target of slurs and attacks just about everywhere.
"The home was critical," Rachel said. "Because we never knew what was going to happen outside our home."