11/06/2012 08:57 EST | Updated 01/06/2013 05:12 EST

Saskatoon group wants to see statue erected in honour of British adventurer

SASKATOON - There's a move afoot in Saskatoon to erect a statue to a rather unusual historical figure, Morris (Two-Gun) Cohen.

Cohen was born in 1887 to Orthodox Jewish parents who emigrated to London, and ended up the personal bodyguard to Sun Yat-sen and a major-general in the Chinese National Revolutionary Army.

He was a lifelong adventurer who fought as a professional boxer, worked as a petty thief and pickpocket and ran away with the circus.

When he was 18, his family sent him to live on a farm near Saskatoon where his parents hoped he would tame his wild teenager ways.

However, Cohen continued to be a card shark and con artist until one day when he was going into a Chinese restaurant in Saskatoon and stopped a robbery in progress.

That began a lifelong friendship with the Chinese community, which led him to position as a personal bodyguard for Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China.

Cohen died in 1970 in Salford, England.

Reached at his home in Manchester, England, Cohen's great-nephew Jeremy Cooper said the family has been excited to hear the news about a possible statue.

"I certainly would be interested in coming over when it was unveiled or anything," he said. "It would quite fascinate me."

Cooper said when he was a child, Cohen lived only a short distance away and he saw him at least twice a week.

"To me, he was literally like a grandfather for the first 10 years of my life," he said.

Cooper described Cohen as the "epitome of how you imagine a general" who always had a King Edward's cigar in his mouth and sat on a "big, leather, chesterfield chair."

However, despite earning the nickname "Two Gun" for his habit of carrying two guns around during his bodyguard days and being able to shoot with both hands, Cooper remembers how Cohen was strict with his beliefs about weapons.

"I had a toy gun and I was pointing it at somebody and going, 'Bang, bang,' and he says (to me), 'You never point a gun unless you mean to use it.'"

The statue is still years away, as the City of Saskatoon is in the process of developing a policy for the approval of statues and monuments. That policy should be finished in the new year.

As well, because the city doesn't provide any funding for statues, the group in Saskatoon, led by Art Mark, has to raise the entire amount needed, as much as $300,000.