Our canoe trips will not be the same without our campfire storyteller.
John was part of our paddling group for the past 18 years. John passed away in November 2018, he was 63. We remain in shock. We had just spent two weeks together in August paddling in the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. He was fit, healthy and happy. We are so grateful to have this memory, as well as many years of trips to remember John.
John was also the fisherman of the group. He was a solo paddler who could keep up to us even on windy days.
John had an encyclopedic knowledge of bear stories that he would pull out whenever we were getting too relaxed at the campfire.
He will be remembered as an amazing cook; the one who introduced us to homemade gourmet dehydrated meals. He always had a new meal to tell us about.
Independent from an early age, John continued to take the lead. He solo camped, cooked his own meals, sat by the shore reading and fished alone in the evenings. I always said he was the most extroverted introvert I had ever met.
John started out canoeing as a teenager, shooting rapids on the French River with friends. He would always share harrowing stories, including the time they wrapped their canoe around a rock in the middle of a large set of rapids.
When I think of John, I will always remember his love-hate relationship with storms. He would see them coming and start to say things like “we are going to get hammered”. He would worry about getting caught on the water in a storm. He told stories about wild storms and would say things like, “I have a big tree beside my tent…”. However, while the rest of us were secure in our tent when the storm hit, John would be out under the tarp battling the wind and rain watching it pass through. The next morning, he would tell us about getting “trapped” under the tarp, unable to get to his tent. He had a flair for the dramatic. Once, while paddling in a storm with a friend he said “getting hit by lightening in a canoe would be the perfect way to go”, her response was “not today” or perhaps she said something a little less polite.
In addition to his storytelling we will remember his confidence, his love of schadenfreude, his curiosity, his intelligence, his love of beer and Grand Marnier, his passion for reading and his amazing memory, especially for family history.
John was the epitome of the expression “he would give you the shirt off his back”. He helped us build our cabin and was always available to lend anyone a helping hand. At Christmas we always got homemade pickles and jam that he made in the fall. At every family gathering he would arrive with a home baked pie. Poppa’s Pies were the best.
His love and respect for his three daughters, their partners and his five grandchildren was always present on our trips and he would check in with them often.
He was a modern day ‘outdoorsman’ who inspired those around him to seize life.
I can guarantee that we will think of John at every campfire, with every night of stargazing, and with each and every Grand Marnier ball we consume.