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January 15, 2010

Mattawa’s 125th Anniversary a Success

Mattawa ended its 125th anniversary activities on January 1st with the recognition of one of its best known personalities Dr. Firmin Monestime recognizing the 100th anniversary of his birth day December 16th , 1909. Dr. Monestime, a black Haitian immigrant and recently qualified Canadian medical doctor stopped for lunch in Mattawa 1951 and became one of Mattawa’s doctors. He married a Russian immigrant from war torn Europe and they had 4 children and created a classic multicultural success story.

Unveiling of Dr. S. F. Monestime portrait by Clermont Duval in Mattawa Council Chambers. D. Mackey photo.

In 1962 Dr Monestimes instinct for public service, honed in Haiti, came to the fore and he became a Municipal Councillor. In 1963 he became Mayor – Canada’s first elected black Mayor. He eventually was Mayor for 9 terms until his death in 1977. He became active in Conservative politics and was a Director in the Federal Conservative Party and ran for President. His contribution in Mattawa , federally and provincially was significant.

His role, with his wife Zena, in establishing the Algonquin Nursing Home now administered by their daughter Vala is a remarkable achievement providing convenient bilingual long term care to area seniors. Dr. Monestime was known for his availability, his leadership, and his powerful personality including a memorable laugh, all of which is part of his legend and part the deep affection people still have for him long after his demise.

There is a display on Dr. Monestime at the Mattawa Museum and I had the pleasure of producing a book on him and his family last year. Mattawa Council worked to recognize him during their 125th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of his birth. They decided to dedicate the Council Chamber to his memory on New Years Day with a Clermont Duval portrait and memorial presentation.

The presence of 3 Liberal Members of Parliament- Monique Smith, Anthony Rota and Mauril Belanger is an indication of the respect for Dr. Monestime. They all praised him and his family’s contribution. The high Liberal praise for a staunch Conservative brought smiles and laughter to the audience. Pierrette Burke who worked in the Municipal Office with him throughout his career brought tears to her eyes and others in her memorial reminiscences.

The event was finalized with the announcement by Mattawa Mayor Dean Backer that council has approved the name of Mattawa’s Main Street as Monestime Way. Also MPP Mauril Belanger (Ottawa-Vanier) who grew up in Mattawa and was inspired by Dr. Monestime announced that an effort is being made to establish a medical bursary in his name for Haitian medical students. Another surprise was the attendance of Dr. Monestime’s son Daniel, from an early Haitian marriage, along with Daniel's wife Emillie and daughters Margaret and Mai Valentin. The family met at the Moon Cafe on Monestime Way following the event.

Commissioner Maurice Nadon RCMP

Former RCMP Commissioner Maurice Nadon, originally from Mattawa was recognized last summer in an exhibition opening with him and friends and former colleagues in attendance A street Nadon Way was named after him and joins Monestime Way at the bridge over the Mattawa River in a fitting coming together of two of Mattawa’s local heroes. Mr. Nadon died in Pembroke on December 21 at age 89.

RCMP Commissioner Maurice Nadon with Queen Elizabeth. Submitted photo

Hon. Gilbert Parent MP

Another Mattawa Museum event last summer honoured former Mattawa resident Gilbert Parent the Former Speaker of the House who died in March. When I read the new Pierre Trudeau book Just Watch Me I saw the photo shown here which shows Trudeau at his best with Gilbert Parent at his side (R) in a wonderful bit of déjà vu. Have a look at these 125th Mattawa anniversary displays when you get a chance and enjoy the local history and the hard work of the people who put the events together.

Gilbert Parent (R) shares a laugh with Pierre Trudeau from new Trudeau book Just Watch Me.

Copies of full articles on the men mentioned are on line as follows. M. Nadon Sept 10, 2004 #192, S. F. Monestime October 26, 2007 #286, and G. Parent March 13, 2009 #322. The Monestime book Where Rivers Meet is available at several locations in Mattawa, at Gullivers Books and One Stop Books in North Bay and online at www.pastforward.ca/store.

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