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This is a tribute to my brother-in-law Bernard Cameron, who died this week.

I had known him since I was a child, when he and my sister began dating. When the first Prime Minister Trudeau was offering grants as part of a youth employment program, Bernard and a group of friends opened a “Youth Center” in the old post office in Almonte. They created a coffee house with soundproof rooms where Almonte’s youth – at least those not on the pool room corner – could hang out. At their flower child wedding in 1972, he has long hair and a full beard and Catherine wears a wreath of flowers in her hair.

The reception was held at The Glen, the family estate that was part of his identity. He was devoted to its upkeep, spending entire summers cutting the lawns, painting the fences, and trimming the bush. At Christmas the 20 foot tree erected in the main hall was the focal point of extensive decorations. Before we all grew up and had kids, in the winter the family would clear the ice on the pond for a game of bottle hockey, (in which snow is stuffed in a Javex bottle). Hurricane lanterns lined the snowbanks. When we weren’t playing bottle hockey we were drinking beer and smoking cigarettes in the basement of the house, crowded around a pool table. Legend has it that The Glen was haunted by the ghost of a previous tenant, and Bernard loved to spook visitors by describing the slight rush of the ghost’s presence in the corridors, or the tinkle of ice in a tumbler.

He and Catherine took me to flea markets when I was still a teenager,  sparking a lifelong passion for antiques and collectibles. He was the first person I heard to use the word “eros.” It was engraved on a thick silver ring he wore in the Youth Center era.

He told me about local politics when I called to chat and although I don’t know any of the personalities, I recognized the themes and his abiding interest in the heritage of the town, in building a sustainable community, in the environment. I asked if he had ambitions of becoming mayor and his answer was ambivalent. He was not motivated by ambition.

He was slain at the door of his house on a bitter February morning in an unspeakable act of violence.

We remember him with fondness.

 

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