The Christina Westcott way

Excerpt from Vimy by Pierre Berton.

At Vimy, far more time was spent in back-breaking toil – endless digging with pick and shovel, toting heavy loads over difficult ground – than in firing any weapons. The Canadians easily adapted to these familiar conditions, made the best of them, and used age-old Canadian devices, such as the Indian tumpline, to alleviate the work load.

These were men whose arm and shoulder muscles had been toughened by years of playing two Indigenous Canadian games, lacrosse and ice hockey. It was no great feat for them to march for hours with a rifle at the slope or high port, or to lunge with a bayonet. There were also men who were used to working with horses, who had laboured on the railways and mines, and who had tinkered with farm machinery. All these skills dovetailed neatly into the Vimy requirements, where thousands of feet of rails and plank road had to be laid, hundreds of yards of tunnels had to be blasted from the chalk, and fifty thousand horses had to be fed and cared for.

Trench life in France was appalling for everybody, but at least a good proportion of the men at Vimy had known what it was like to sleep out in the mud and rain, to eat a cold meal in the wilderness, and, in many cases, to knock over a deer with a rifle. It was the same with those in the sky above. All of Canada’s leading flying aces came from backwoods communities, mainly from the West. In civilian life they were crack shots and good riders. After all, to manhandle a Sopwith Camel in the Great War wasn’t that different from riding a spirited steed.

 The Canadians who went off to war in 1914 from the fields and the forests were not yet soldiers; in or out of uniform they could not have prevailed against a disciplined enemy. But they had the guts and stamina and, perhaps more important, a habit of self-resilience that would help carry them through those weary months when the mud and vermin were almost unbearable, and those tense few hours when the guns roared and the trenches ran with blood.

Welcome family and friends. The Westcott Family is honoured to have you here today, and your love and support is sincerely appreciated.

My introduction today was borrowed from an important page in Canadian history, written by Pierre Berton in his book called Vimy. The credit to the “guts and stamina” and “self-resilience” of those heroic Vimy soldiers sends a message to my heart about the bravery and tenacity of another proud Canadian, my cousin, Christina Westcott.

Christina pursued life with the same passion and fortitude that Canadians, including our grandfather, Clarence Pye, and great grandfather, Samuel Pye, took to war. Christina’s “habit of self-resilience” carried her through her own epic battle.

It’s fitting that we embrace a touch of Canadian history on a day that honours Christina. She would agree that a classroom-style lesson can come at any occasion, even at her Celebration of Life service. Our promise to never stop learning is for the one who never stopped teaching.

Canadian history was very important to Christina. In 2007, she organized a student trip to the Vimy Ridge monument and the First World War battle ground in France where Canada brought victory on Easter Monday 1917. The Canadian spirit that triumphed Vimy also defined my cousin.

Life is about being true to yourself, and Christina owns this achievement. We are very proud of her. She never backed down on personal promises. She never stopped cheering on her family. She never forgot where she came from.

As a little girl, Christina’s imagination turned playhouses into school houses – and, yes, she was the teacher. Reaching out to support her family as well as classmates was just as important to Christina as the degrees she earned to achieve her teaching dream. Christina’s passion for teaching and caring about the success of others made a profound difference in the lives of hundreds of students, parents and teachers. Christina stayed true to her small-town roots, taking Brechin farm values and Westcott determination to Peterborough, Kingston and Oshawa.

Several years ago, I finished up a business meeting early in the City of Oshawa. As I drove past a high school, I thought, “Hey, I wonder…”

Christina came to mind. I knew she had accepted a teaching position with the Durham Region School Board. I turned the vehicle around, pulled into Oshawa Central Collegiate, and walked into the main office.

I said, “Excuse me. Does this school have a teacher on staff named Christina Westcott?”

“Yes, we do!”

A teacher passing through the office announced “follow me” and off we went as she guided me through the school hallways. She threw open a door and interrupted Christina teaching to a full class. Her smile lit up and Christina never skipped a beat.

She said, “Class, this is Robert Pye! He is here today to give us a talk about fish and wildlife conservation!”

I have no idea what I taught that day. It didn’t matter. Christina was thrilled, and I was proud of myself that day for acting upon the spontaneity and sincerity that her love encouraged.

My golden childhood memories shine because of Christina. She was the centerpiece of family gatherings with the brightest smile and greatest laugh in the room. She was the initiative to create quality family time around a simple game like checkers or Sorry.

She worked as enthusiastically as she played. From digging in the gardens to brushing on paint, no job was ever too big for Christina. Taking on the heavy lifting, putting in the overtime, and going the extra mile is the Christina Westcott way. She inspired and humbled the world around her because she never complained or looked for attention when she delivered one hundred percent.

Anyone can work their ass off. Christina worked her ass off with a smile. In the words of her favourite artist, Michael Buble, “It’s a beautiful day, and I can’t stop myself from smiling.”

We all have special memories of Christina, and her smile – that beautiful smile – is the highlight of every Christina Westcott moment in our hearts.

My cousin’s pursuit of her dreams was with grit and grace – that powerful combination is perhaps the greatest lesson this extraordinary teacher ever taught us.


February 8, 1976 – January 12, 2019

Christina Westcott – you are the real deal.

You are the down-to-earth, proud and true Canadian quality that Pierre Berton wrote about in Vimy.

You are the professional who raised the bar on student success and teacher dedication.

You are the soft strong bonds of sharing at every family occasion.

You are forever in our hearts.

We love you Christina.


I am the duck hunter.


I am the paddler breaking through the cattails, making way to a duck blind that calls my name. I am the anticipation in the hour of darkness that unravels into legal light. I am the steadiness, the readiness, the call and the shot as wild wings descend upon the decoys.   I am the hunting skills passed down by generations of duck callers and wing shooters. I am the spectator hidden by camouflage as Canada Geese spell V on a flight that plays the soundtrack of fall. I am the face towards an autumn sunrise that feels like an exclusive show. I am a vow that wetlands will always have my volunteer spirit, and my voice, to protect them. I am a name on a duck stamp and license fees proudly addressed to environmental action. I am the fascination for iridescent feathers, studying the profound artistic perfection of the mallard, wood duck and teal.  I am the quality time I promised a special hunting buddy, sharing a morning in the marsh as we whisper our observations of nature at work — on the water and in the sky.  I am the passion that comes from waterfowl hunting pastimes. I am conservation.

Lessons learned from my paper route

Written for the 2018 Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular Magazine.

IMG_20150715_202105_editWhen I was 11-years old, I had a paper route. I delivered the Orillia Packet & Times in the village of Atherley.  I had 45 customers, and I knew everyone by their first name. Delivering the daily newspaper was a chance to learn more about the people in my community. I always made time to build those relationships.

As winter approached, I was off to K-Mart to buy Christmas cards for my customers. I found myself trying to match pictures on those assorted cards with the interests and personality of my paper route customers. For instance, the anglers and hunters on my route received the cards illustrated with deer or snowy cabins. A family with young children received the cards that colourfully captured Santa or Frosty-the-Snowman, and the faithful church members received the cards adorned with hallowed angels and a nativity scene.

Important people deserve important considerations, I thought, no matter how subtle the gesture. Focusing on the custom-made details and the personal touches are always worth the extra time.  Inside each of those cards, I wrote an authentic, personalized message. I wished my customers well in the New Year and tried to mention topics or coming events in their life that I distinctly remembered from some of the conversations we shared.

As I was taking interest in my customers’ lives, they were taking an interest in mine. They remembered my open discussion and enthusiasm for saving up for a new bike.

While it is always better to give than to receive, in return for service and sincerity, receive I did. House after house, customers slipped a Christmas card into my newspaper delivery shoulder bag. Inside, a generous Christmas tip and a special message: “put this towards your new bike.”

Anyone who is familiar with Robert Fulghum’s best selling book “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten,” might suspect where this OFAH membership story for the Salmon Spectacular is going. All that the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters embraces about quality membership service and donor stewardship is perhaps emphasized by the important life-lessons learned on a paper route.

The OFAH understands that relationship building and communication is always a two-way street. We listen carefully to the interests and ambitions of our members, and we never stop showing them how hard we are working to achieve our goals.  That kind of trust and dialogue opens the door on opportunities through the new I am Conservation campaign.

I am Conservation was developed to promote the OFAH as a highly acclaimed charity in addition to already being a highly respected membership organization.

Your personal outdoors passion

It’s impossible to pick one K-Mart greeting card that speaks to the interests of all paper route customers, and it’s even harder to pick one outdoors passion that speaks to the heart of millions of conservation donor prospects. The OFAH has been creating the I am Conservation themes and messaging, as well as producing personalized appeals that really show how much our organization has been listening, and how much we care.

I am a deer hunter.

I am a trout fisherman.

I am a trapper.

I am a waterfowler.

I am a _________ . (Please tell us!)

No matter if, when and how often these “I am” statements match your outdoor lifestyle, there’s one statement that galvanizes all fishing and hunting pastimes. I am Conservation.

I am Conservation is the single greatest statement that describes the passion and purpose behind every traditional outdoors pursuit. I am an OFAH member is in the echo of 80,000 voices that never give up on the fight to improve outdoor opportunities. I am Conservation is in the heart of anglers and hunters who volunteer, donate, mentor, or in anyway, lead by example to quietly and humbly give back to nature.

The OFAH promotes many ways to make an outdoors difference. While OFAH membership is certainly the most popular option, the OFAH conservation mandate cannot be delivered on membership dues alone. Through the purchase of OFAH Conservation Lottery tickets, donations to OFAH wildlife calendars and other products, as well as participation in the OFAH monthly giving program, about 50 percent of OFAH members proudly contribute dollars beyond their annual membership fee. Some supporters prefer “membership only” and we respect their wishes to be removed from OFAH campaigns ahead of standard membership renewal reminders. It’s also important that we hear from passionate anglers and hunters who believe, as does the OFAH, that we must hold governments responsible to make sure our tax dollars are properly reinvested for the future of fish and wildlife.

Nevertheless, anglers and hunters are motivated by the potential for new outdoor opportunities – a bright outdoors future that the government alone may never be able to afford.

Guided by Purpose

OFAH involvement in enhancing our natural resources is not unlike the work of other great charities that enhance community services, including healthcare. Yes, taxpayers have a right to keep pressure on the government for more support, but at the same time, we must backup our tireless community volunteers who help provide various sport and wellness center needs as well as essential hospital services and equipment such as rehabilitation equipment, radiation facilities and MRI machines.  No matter if it is health care or conservation, progress is achieved when more people find opportunities to give a little extra.

To recognize the “extra” help from OFAH members, we take the time for personalized, hand-written notes to special conservation donors, and we make sure that we remember what topics motivated their OFAH support. We are paying close attention.

Like the paper boy who takes the time to get to know his neighbours, the OFAH is also focused on building long-lasting connections within our own fishing and hunting community. Every home is different, but we make every home feel like they are the most important outdoors home in our organization. We are building on our great membership service reputation, and we never make apologies for reminding our supporters about things we are saving up for – and no, not for a new bike, but outdoor priorities like local fish stocking and hatchery upgrades, moose research and fisheries and wildlife habitat improvement.


Conservation is the brush that allows everyone to paint their own outdoors picture.

If stone fences could talk


Historic stone fences are monuments of strength. They symbolize the willpower for a better life. Timeless works of perseverance and back forty landmarks that shaped our countryside. Rock solid, like the character and determination that took on the heavy lifting to make a humble living. The metamorphosis of rugged real estate into gentle meadows is the legacy of work ethic, land stewardship and a vision.

Canada was new when these fence lines were drawn, and so too was the ink on the Queen’s Crown land patent. The township’s first private land owners were sworn by her Majesty’s land grant, and a dream.

If these old fences could talk perhaps we would learn more about farm kids in the 1870’s who picked and piled every piece. Their backbreaking labor achieved what machine driven contractors couldn’t possibly quote. No entitlement. No shortcuts. No rest until the job was done. Farm life meant following farm family orders: Venture into the backwoods and scratch open a new farm field.

Form followed function as these fences were never engineered to impress the neighbors. Built to keep livestock in or, at the very least, to pronounce a boundary, stone fences were a practical use of the raw material that interrupted the walking plow that cut the furrows. A blacksmith-made plow point found on Pye Acres helps tell the story.Furrow

Acres of rock surfaced by the frost, lifted by hand, loaded onto horse-drawn stone boats and then strategically stacked. Bring on the cold, then the heat, and the nerve-wrecking black flies, mosquitoes, poison ivy, wild predators and all of the other elements that challenged the young homesteaders’ fortitude. Did childhood even exist for the architects of these stunning stone creations?

Today, the fallow fields of Pye Acres serve as an oasis for wildlife and family recreation time. The smiles and freedoms of the Pye Boys shines as big and bright as the historic stonework. The boys climb up high onto the fences. Their shoes shuffle across the rocks that were painstakingly maneuvered with youthful hands over a century earlier. The boys race each other over grassy drumlins to a home with electricity, running water and every other on-demand privilege that our rural roots simply never imagined.


A window to the commitment and hardship of this lands’ past is what our countryside home represents. On her 101st birthday, our property’s predecessor enjoyed a cup of tea and the eastern view from our dining room table. No one owned this land longer than Madeline McCarthy. She pointed to fences she crossed, and described the special places  on the property that gave her heart comfort. When Madeline was widowed at age 54, this land soaked up the tears as she privately sat in the fields and mourned for her husband Joe. Solo sits are personal moments of escape and soulful reflection, and it seems that Madeline started a trend.

Nature therapy is the motivation that brings bus loads of high school students to Pye Acres. Since 2006, annual field trips are literally just that. Fields and forests, watersheds and wide open spaces for Cathy to connect her classroom lessons about life sciences to the context of real outdoor life, past and present. Her science students collect plants, mosses and pond water samples to help identify the parts of their world that are sadly estranged from today’s adolescent norm. This is where science and history lessons meet. Cathy’s science lab is delivered against the backdrop of a stone fence where students consider the realities of early settlement and how they would have survived. The field trip concludes with a solo sit – twenty distraction-free minutes to contemplate an idea, process a curiosity and untangle anxiety.

Outdoor experiences provide the power of perspective. Gone are the days of shaping the landscape by hand but the resilience required to turn obstacles into prosperity will never change. Stone fences lead us back to our roots.


This blog is dedicated to Madeline. 

Enjoying Every Fishing Moment: DockTalk365 Interview With Robert Pye

Last year, I was scouted by DockTalk365, an educational and entertaining series that profiles anglers throughout the United States and Canada. As part of this interview,  I shared my heartfelt thoughts about family and fishing, as well as a carpe diem expression in honour of my friend Melanie Main. Seize the day!

Melanie is my reminder that outdoor opportunities with family and friends are always a priority. Life is precious. Enjoy every fishing moment.

DockTalk365 graciously promoted the Pye Acres blog so I thought it was time to return the favour with an opportunity for my blog readers to check out “Enjoying every Fishing Moment.”

The interview can be found here:

Robert Pye's DockTalk interview

This interview was published by DockTak365 on June 14, 2017. The full interview can be found at



I am the trout fisherman

I am the shadow cast against the riverbank where my Dad used to sit patiently with me. I am the lessons he taught me there about the speckled trout, the current, and the presentation. I am the tenacity of cold finger tips on an early spring morning, fumbling and learning through years of lost hooks, lost worms and lost bites. I am the echo of the sound that fills the trout stream air and every perfect note that drew my heart closer to nature. I am the student of the outdoors, learning how every piece of nature is connected and why my decisions really matter. I am the voice that speaks up to protect special places from plazas and pavement. I am the optimism that always looks upstream, determined to leave an outdoors future for the next generation. I am my son’s fishing hero, tying his line where my Dad once tied mine. I am the tradition that is making another family memory. I am the passion that comes from the stream. I am the trout fisherman.


The life of Enzo

A year of reflection helps heal the hurt of a sudden goodbye.

A year of four seasons to return to the places and occasions that built Pye family bonds around the love of a devoted young dog. A year to retrace our heart strings from our smiles when we brought him home to our tears when we set him free.

A year ago today, Enzo was released from the pain and tumors that stole his young life.

His short life was an accomplished life. Born to win the laughter and affection of two special boys, and the unleashed freedom to run and hunt the land of great English Setters before him. He was a classic dog with pride and compassion that could be read in a glimpse of his wisdom filled eyes.

A year of remembering Enzo doesn’t stop here. He is the spirit of family time on Pye Acres and the iconic example of life lived for the precious moments we have to share.

We love you Enzo.

The Outdoors Journey

The White Otter Inn was in my rear view mirror and the rising sun was on my windshield.  I was up unreasonably early to drive home from a late-November OFAH membership meeting in northwestern Ontario. Slowly,  the break of dawn unveiled the full view of an empty Trans-Canada Highway… empty except for the OFAH company Jeep I was driving and a half-ton truck up ahead.  That truck was also flying my organization’s emblem.

Back bumper or top windshield corner, I can spot an OFAH membership decal a mile away. Our bright blue membership sticker is the highly recognizable “I’m proud to fish and hunt” statement affixed to boats, ATV’s, trucks and cars all throughout Ontario, especially in the north.

With a full travel mug of coffee and an extra hour on my side, I had no inclination to pass my fellow OFAH members.  After all, a weekend full of fish hatchery tours, club meetings and conservation topics couldn’t replace this anonymous OFAH membership success story being told, from the shoulders up, with backs against a truck cab window.

With every mile I paid closer attention to the OFAH members sitting side-by-side in the cab of that truck. Their blaze orange hats and jackets made it easy to tell how they were spending the morning.  A father and his son, I predicted. Going deer hunting, I assumed.

I recognized their body language from my own childhood hunting trips, sitting beside my Dad on the bench seat of his old two-toned-brown GMC Sierra. The constant bobbing of two hunting hats to the beat of their discussion made me wish I could hear it. The steady nodding of the driver’s head told me that he enjoyed listening and learning from his son. The enthusiastic expressions from the young passenger told me that today’s hunt was already successful – successful if only from the perspective of quality time between two lifelong hunting buddies.

Simple moments like these that remind us why a passion for hunting comes from the heart. Hunting is about the fulfillment of the journey not the squeeze of the trigger. Hunting builds character and a deeply rooted respect for nature.  Hunting connects us to the family and friends who cared enough to pass down the hunting heritage. Hunting is our identity. It is a core value for millions of Canadians.

National Fishing, Hunting, Trapping Heritage Day

20170720_120625The need to express the importance of our outdoor heritage has always been the OFAH motivation to push for federal and provincial recognition of those who fish, hunt and trap and serve fish and wildlife conservation.

In Canada, on the third Saturday of September, our great traditions are saluted with an official “Day.”  That Day is the new National Fishing, Hunting, Trapping Heritage Day, presented by the Government of Canada.

Even when the occasion has come and gone, our pride in Canada’s outdoor heritage, and the great conservation story of anglers, hunters and trappers, deserves to be told every day.

National Fishing, Hunting, Trapping Heritage Day gives the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and its conservation allies another opportunity to put long overdue public attention on how our members and supporters contribute to our natural resources.

Conservation leadership

Yes, we love to fish and hunt but anglers, hunters and trappers have done more than that.

When wetlands were considered wastelands, it was duck hunters who were the first to demand the protection of wetlands and the international Migratory Birds Treaty.

When some people didn’t care about cold water streams and its value to fish and wildlife, it was trout fisherman who volunteered to plant trees, prevent erosion, built spawning beds and fish ladders.

When an entire industry was built on the decimation of wildlife for commerce, it was hunters who demanded seasons and limits and the prohibition on selling wild meat.

When catch and release wasn’t even a concept, it was fishing club members who built hatcheries and stocked lakes with fish and locally promoted conservation and responsible angling.

When our delicate waterways and forest ecosystems faced the threat of invasive species, it was the OFAH that built partnerships, programs and awareness to stop the spread.

Improving local streams and wetlands, stocking lakes, planting trees, building nesting boxes, picking up litter from rivers and forests, volunteering for habitat restoration programs, promoting hunter education and teaching kids about responsible fishing and conservation are all examples of how the outdoors community makes a difference.

Right now, somewhere in down-to-earth-rural-Canada, there’s a valuable conversation happening between two life-long hunting buddies. Perhaps they are sitting side-by-side on the bench seat of truck as they’re heading into deer camp. Perhaps they’re reminiscing about past hunts, legendary bucks and all the special family memories that the great outdoors provides. Respect for nature and quality time with family and friends is never taken for granted, and National Fishing, Hunting, Trapping Heritage Day helps express our passion for the outdoors journey.

Melanie Main – Forever in our hearts.

mainfamilyThere are times in life when our hearts call out for the comforts of home.

The crackling of a campfire on a starry summer night; the warmth of new socks or pajamas right out of the dryer; the smell of home cooking when you walk in the door; and the healing power of being tightly wrapped up in a warm blanket.

Melanie’s love is tightly wrapped around everyone here today. Melanie’s world revolves around her family, and her friends. She loves us very much.

Today, we take pride in knowing that Melanie’s extraordinary life will never stop shining thanks to the warm and loving moments that we all personally shared with her.

As her neighbor and friend, I shared with Melanie the secret art of one-liners, quick-whit as well as her first official language, sarcasm.

Melanie had a lot of fun with my struggle to correctly express anything en francis, so we met each other in the middle through the language of sarcasm. Oh, and she was quite fluent in sarcasm, too.

I was always determined to someday impress Melanie with the proper touch of en francis in the conversations we shared.

My moment came. A dinner party at the Main’s and a crowded kitchen with her French speaking family — this was my stage to impress. I refreshed Melanie’s wine glass a little too quickly and a dribble of Merlot hit the counter top. Okay, I thought, here is my chance to impress everyone with my intuitive command of the French language.

“La Serviette!” I proudly presented.

Melanie looked at me with those deep brown sarcastic eyes and said, “napkin, the French word is napkin.”

Well, I tried.

Melanie and I also perfected the art of thoughtful, out-of-the-blue, text messages.

At any point throughout the day, I would simply text this message to Melanie:

I’m just sitting here thinking about you.

But, before she had a chance to reply, I quickly added: I’m also thinking about trout fishing, and turkey hunting…. but somewhere between turkey and trout, you’re kind of on my mind.

Melanie and I were a testament to the power of great friendships – that power gives us an ability to see through thinly veiled sarcasm and accurately read between the lines. Of course I was only thinking of her, and anything I could do to make her smile. Wise-cracks and one-liners were a conduit for caring conversation.

All of Melanie’s friendships were built on laughter and trust which made it possible to paint a picture of her smiling, even when we were miles apart.

We all have special memories of Melanie. When my mind paints special Melanie moments, I see her in some of the places that she loved the best: cheering on the boys from stands at the hockey arena or at the soccer fields, welcoming visitors at the Avalon Acres Sugar shack, tending the gardens and her vineyard, and preparing delicious meals in her kitchen. Melanie’s culinary skills are unmatched by anyone else we know. She is truly a very gifted cook.

Melanie poured her heart into raising a family, and she always made her friends feel like we were part of it.

As Tom reminded me, Melanie was very private. She preferred “look at my family” over “look at me” and her humbleness and down to earth style are the virtues that drew our hearts so close to hers. Although Melanie was very private, there are many things about her that are no mystery. Let’s start with the obvious.

melaniemainMelanie is absolutely beautiful. With a smile that can lift a dark cloud off a mountain top, and eyes that could re-ignite the sun, Melanie’s natural beauty is as timeless, classic and true as her beauty within.

I shall be saying this with a sigh;
Somewhere, ages and age hence,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost supports a metaphor about Melanie’s journey to Ontario from her home province of Quebec. She fell in love with an Ontario boy, and she traveled west to make their dreams come true. And come true they did. A storybook wedding, countryside lifestyle, sunny vacations, a wonderful job and great co-workers, a special circle of friends, and most importantly, two beautiful boys… Noah and Gabriel.

The love of Tom and Melanie is the world’s greatest example of companionship and romance, partnership and independence, strength and devotion. Tom and Melanie’s chemistry was endlessly transparent. And, we can admit it…. we all loved catching Tom and Melanie holding hands or going extra steps to steal an extra kiss. It’s like they freeze-framed a first date kiss, and then made it more meaningful and magnetic every day forward. They reminded us that love is always worth reaching out for. As family and friends, we love them both for being so in love with each other.

We also love them for bringing to our lives, Noah and Gabriel, two very special boys that Melanie loves forever. Melanie said, “Everything is for my children. Everything is for my children.”

Close your eyes and think of a calendar that only flips backwards in time, and it only reaches back the past 16 months. As we scroll through recent times of treatment and tenacity, battle and bravery, we salute Melanie’s heroic commitment to try to beat this. She said “everything is for my children” and to prove it, Melanie never stopped fighting.

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev’ry glove that laid him down
And cut him til he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains.

Melanie’s legacy is the fighter that still remains. She chose action over apathy. She never slowed down for sympathy because she was too focused on the pursuit of hope. As Tom said, “I wouldn’t expect anything less of her.”

Melanie always stayed positive. She never said enough is enough. She never backed down. She just kept smiling. Melanie made us so proud.

In the words of Bono, “The less you know the more you believe.”

Believe is exactly what Melanie did. And the more she believed, the more we believed. “Everything is for my children,” she said, and we cherish Melanie’s reasons to believe, as well.

From Quebec to British Columbia, Melanie’s courage has united her family and friends, as well as her co-workers and a great community of coaches, and teachers, and entire families of children who play hockey or soccer or go to school with her boys. Melanie is once again bringing out our personal best.

Small town values never go out of style and down-to-earth generosity always prevails. Together, we are embracing everything that Melanie taught us about empathy and kindness.

You can see it, you can feel it… Melanie’s gift of kindness lives on in her home where, everyday, support from family and friends comes pouring in. Melanie’s example of sweetness and sincerity lives on at our local hockey arena, on the school bus and in the school yard where children, on there own sweet initiative, are expressing condolences and a desire to be supportive friends. Online, you can also sense the expression of her love where Facebook tributes to Melanie serve to commemorate her place in our hearts.

In the midst of his own fight, Gord Downie Jr. recently talked about how he can see it, how he can feel it… there’s something happening… an opportunity here, he said. Facing our future guided by Melanie’s gift of courage, and her pursuit of hope, is precisely the opportunity Gord Downie is talking about — an opportunity already paved by our very own superstar.

There are times in life when our hearts call out for the comforts of home. This is one of them.

It’s time for home cooking. It’s time for a favorite song. It’s time for the warmth of a fire, the company of family and friends, and comfort of being wrapped up in a soft, warm blanket.

On Thanksgiving weekend, I wrapped a warm blanket around my friend Melanie. I told her, “I love you” and she said “I love you, too.”

Today, Melanie is wrapping a blanket around all of us. She will forever be the warmth and comfort in our hearts that makes us feel at home.

We love you forever, Melanie.


Living in Black Bear Country


A few months ago, Cathy asked me a very important question.

“You are going to hunt for bear this year, right?” she said.

Clearly, she was submitting a request, not an inquiry. I got the message.

Bears are a serious conversation these days. We have plenty of them around. Cathy’s survey of my upcoming bear hunting plans is an equal amount to do with her interest in family security as it is the pursuit of more outdoor recreation and quality food. Bear meat is delicious. We value every morsel of sustainable, organic and highly nutritious wild food that comes directly from our forest and fields.

We’re a family that loves the outdoors and that’s why we built our home in it. Bears are an important part of country living, and it seems that everyone from a country-side bungalow, small town business, family-farm or on a rural school bus route has a bear story to share. Around my neck of the woods, we see bears meandering through fields. We find bear tracks in the mud, bear scat on the trails and huge rocks flipped over by hungry bears scratching for bugs. Bear sightings and signs are everywhere, and at safe distances, they feed our fascination for these legendary omnivores.

However, bear fascination also means bear apprehension, especially when kids and pets are involved. That apprehension is on the rise and we’re not alone. Over 80,000 “Bear Wise” calls and over 18,000 “bear incidents” (aka clear and present bear danger) in the past 15-years means that thousands of rural families (in Northern, Central and Southern Ontario) share our wary attitude about backyard bears.

Every spring, my best friend, Jane, finds a bruin in her driveway. Her smart phone is full of her front-yard-bear pictures. Lately, though, she says “bears cause me nothing but stress.” Instead of taking pictures, she’s texting and calling out warnings to her neighbours. There’s a 400-pound bear in her backyard, a smaller bear in the front yard and a dog that just barely made back in the house in time. This spring, she was visited from five different bears. She can’t walk her dog, and she doesn’t let her nephews and nieces ride their bikes over to visit.

Two years ago, bear stress struck close to home. As the crow flies (or as the bear roams), my family lives only a few miles away from the trail where a sow bit into the stomach of a 53-year-old woman.

Cathy’s confidence in my hunting skills/tenacity aside, she knows that bear hunting is not easy. There’s no guarantee that I’ll kill a bear. Moreover, there’s no guarantee that I’ll put the crosshairs on one of the bears leaving tracks behind our home.

Bear experts say hunted bears are wary bears. While there’s no guarantee that my personal hunting efforts will bring an end to bear stress for my family and neighbors, it’s an opportunity to do what’s right for wildlife management. It’s an opportunity to do what’s right for my family.