WWII Vet George Nashen to be honoured by National Assembly

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By CJN Staff – January 13, 2020 

Second World War veteran George Nashen, right, poses for a picture with D’Arcy-McGee MNA David Birnbaum.

Second World War veteran George Nashen, 96, will receive a special national assembly medal from David Birnbaum, the MNA for the riding of D’Arcy-McGee, at a ceremony in June.

Nashen will be honoured in the name of all of the men and women who served the cause of freedom in that conflict. Nashen, who lives in Côte-St-Luc, Que., is one of the few surviving Jewish-Canadian war veterans.

In announcing the move, Birnbaum explained that he wanted recognize the contribution of our Second World War veterans while it was still possible. “It struck me at our last Remembrance Day ceremonies in the riding how sadly close we are to a time when no first-hand witnesses to the Second World War will be with us to remember, or to be honoured for their sacrifice, courage and legacy in saving our fundamental freedoms here in Quebec, in all of Canada and around the world,” he said.

“Furthermore, this riding that I serve is home to one of the highest number of Holocaust survivors and their families in Canada. The obligation of remembrance is deeply felt here and this medal is one further way of expressing that obligation.”

George Nashen in 1944.

Nashen is a long-time community volunteer and former clothing manufacturer who held the rank of sergeant in the Royal Canadian Air Force. During the war, Nashen lost a number of dear friends and has always made it his duty to share his experience, particularly with young people.

“I was 19 when I enlisted,” said Nashen, a Baron Byng High School graduate, “and I wasn’t that worldly. I didn’t understand much about politics. By 1938, with the rise of Hitler, the terrible threat to the free world started to become clear. I thought, I have to go over.…

“It’s important for young people to learn about the atrocities and the sacrifices of the Second World War. Do they really know the seriousness of war, the feeling of daily life, when you get issued a helmet and a gas mask to make sure you survive the day?”

In 1943, Nashen was stationed in London. “I went over on the Queen Mary,” he recalled. “We were 26,000 enlisted men and women; the ship normally carried only 2,000.

“It was a humbling and scary few years. I remember the rumbling of incoming and outgoing bombers overhead, every night in London. The stakes were enormous, and the freedoms we take for granted today were in peril back then. That should never be forgotten.”

Nashen expressed his appreciation for the medal, but stressed that he would only accept the honour in the name of all the veterans.

Each spring, Birnbaum bestows three D’Arcy-McGee national assembly citizenship medals upon individuals chosen for their community contributions by a three-member jury. Nashen will formally receive his medal at that ceremony, which will be held on June 1. The names of all the medal winners become part of the permanent national assembly record and are noted in perpetuity on its official website.

Canadian Jewish News

Raffi Service Station closes after 50 years in CSL

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Like Cher or Madonna you don’t need a second name to know who Raffi is. In Cote Saint-Luc, Raffi has celebrity status.

Raffi Abikian has been running the service station at Guelph and Westminster for 27 of the last 50 years, mostly as a Shell Station. His regular clients number in the thousands and generations of Cote Saint-Lucers have entrusted their prize possession to Raffi’s Service Station.

Unfortunately, the pumps and bays are quiet at Raffi’s now. The last full service garage in CSL has shuttered, as reported by Mike Cohen.

Raffi’s nine employees kept the pumps flowing and the mechanics bay busy, seven days a week. And Raffi’s service doesn’t end there. Several years ago he acquired a garage in lower NDG (near the Reno Depot) where his staff do body work to round out their service offering.

If that weren’t enough Raffi was dedicated to the community and regularly sponsored major Kiddushes (meals following a traditional synagogue service) at Beth Zion, and was often involved in one way or another in other community events.

You won’t find a more honest and hard working garage owner than Raffi who was part and parcel of the fabric of Cote Saint-Luc. 

Raffi has reluctantly merged all operations to his NDG service station/body shop after the property owner, Sobey’s, decided not to renew Raffi’s lease. Mike Cohen reports that Raffi may even implement a shuttle service down to his NDG centre. 

My family relied upon Raffi and his automotive mechanical and maintenance services just as we would our family physician, dentist or lawyer. Raffi and his team will be missed in CSL. 

 

Raffi Abikian (Photo Mike Cohen)(

A Day to Remember

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Three generations marking Remembrance Day 2019: George, Glenn and Jeremy Nashen

Each year, on Remembrance Day, our family takes time out to pay tribute to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who served in wars, conflicts, peacekeeping missions and here at home. We remember those who fell in action and who were injured. We think of those who continue to serve and we acknowledge the hardship for their families.

Closer to home, my family pays tribute to my father, George Nashen, for his service as a Sargent in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII.

This year we attended the Cote Saint-Luc ceremony held last Friday in City Hall. While the number of WWII veterans sadly diminishes each year we were fortunate to be with my dad, as one of only three veterans in the capacity crowd.

George Nashen surrounded by mayors, councillors, MNA, MP, clergy and emergency responders as school children look on

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein honoured the attending veterans, Alan Ruben, former City Councillor Isadore Goldberg and my father, George. The Mayor produced a video highlighting their contributions to Canada. Below you can watch the portion about my father.

 

There were three main pillars to this year’s events: the children, the wreath laying and the speeches.

Four elementary schools (JPPS, Hebrew Academy, Ecole de la Monde and Merton School) and two high schools (Bialik and John Grant) participated. The children recited poems, including In Flanders Field, and sang songs, such as The White Cliffs of Dover, in four languages. It was an impressive showing of the next generation and was reassuring that the fading memories of long ago sacrifices would still be remembered.

Wreaths were deposited by the politicians, emergency services, volunteer and community organizations, students and the staff of the city. One moving episode had three generations of the Reichson family including former CSL Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson, along with his father and daughter, laying a wreath in memory of his grandfather while holding his shining service medal from WWII and his photo.

The speeches were poignant and emotional. Mayor Brownstein spoke about educating the next generation and how the CSL Dramatic Society fulfilled an important mission in presenting the Broadway smash hit, Cabaret, earlier this year. The musical exposed the troubling times emerging in Germany as the country, and Europe descended into despair and chaos.

Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather gave a stirring speech about the veterans who returned to Canada and built our community. With his voice cracking with emotion, Housefather highlighted the veterans’ contributions and participation in civic life and noted that this spirit has endured and has made Cote Saint-Luc a volunteer-rich community with residents passionate about being involved.

Polioce Station 9 Commander Luis Olivera lays a wreath, accompanied by vCOP Susie Schwartz

D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum was solemn and retrospective and in his typical eloquence and charm marveled at the passing of the torch down through the generations.

The speeches were heartfelt and meaningful. I am grateful to our Mayor, MP and MNA for singling out my father as an example for the next generations.

MNA David Birnbaum, Cllr. Dida Berku, Fmr. Cllr Isadore Goldberg, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Mayor William Steinberg, MP Anthony Housefather and George Nashen

A minute of silence in memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice serving in the Canadian Armed Forces

George’s Story

 

Sergeant George Nashen, Royal Canadian Air Force, 1944

George Nashen, 96, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from December 1942 to April 1946 and was stationed at RCAF Overseas Headquarters in London, England for nearly three years. Luckily, he was not called up to the front lines. But his buddies were. Some never returned.

My father enlisted in December 1942 with several of his friends from Baron Byng High School, and was shipped off for two months of basic training in Toronto where the RCAF had taken over the CNE Fairgrounds. From there he was stationed at the Rockcliffe Airbase in Ottawa from February until August 1942 and then to Halifax where they boarded the Queen Mary cruise ship that had been commandeered to transport troops.

“We were 26,000 troops and 1,000 crew members crammed into the ship for the four day crossing to London, England,” my father told me. “There were 54 troops to a room and we took turns sleeping, 27 at a time slept on the hammocks lined up three high in nine columns,” he said. “It was so uncomfortable and there were so many disturbances that I chose to sleep in the hallways and stairwells. But the ship would list from one side to the other every seven minutes as it curved to avoid sailing in a straight line to escape any pursuing German U-boats. I remember the empty Coke bottles rolling bake and forth in the halls and hitting the walls preventing any rest there as well,” my dad said.

RCAF Aircraftsman 2nd Class, George Nashen (1943)

“In London, we slept in the Canadian Legion Hall until we could find an apartment,” my dad reminisced. There were no barracks in the city as they couldn’t chance losing so many soldiers in a targeted German bombing raid. “One night a bomb fell right outside the Legion Hall and blew in the doors and windows. As the glass flew and the ceiling collapsed I immediately rolled under my bed to take cover,” he said. “I yelled out to my buddy, Mel Nicol. ‘Are you alright Nic?’ Mel Nicol was real joker and responded, ‘I’m not sure, I’m looking for my leg’. Of course, he was just fine,” George said.

George and Mel eventually rented an apartment at Queens Gate Gardens about a 30 minute walk from Harrods, where the RCAF set up their administration and accounting division. We often joke that my father served in women’s lingerie during WW II, in reference to the department in Harrods where the Accounting Office was located. They were paid $2.50 per day subsistence allowance for their lodging and another $1 for food.

As an Aircraftsman 2nd Class they received $1.30 per day. Dad used to send $10 per month back to his Mom in  Montreal to save for him. Upon his return, three-and-a-half years later he had saved up about $300.

George Nashen in front of the Cote Saint-Luc cenotaph in Veterans Park 2012

One night they were awakened by a bomb blast and heard that the nearby hospital was hit. Mel and George raced over to offer their assistance only to find out that 30 babies had been tragically killed. “It was the saddest day of my life,” my father said.

Back at Harrods he was busy taking care of Airman Pay Accounts to ensure each of the troops received their salary. Daily Routine Orders were meticulously entered for the tens of thousands of airmens’ accounts, all manually, of course.

My dad lost his best friend in battle. “Jay Singer was like a brother to me,” my father recounts. “Jay and I were inseparable from kindergarten through Baron Byng High School. Jay was an air force pilot from the age of 19. His plane went missing while laying mines in the Baltic Sea on June 15, 1944. Jay was just 22 year’s old when he died in service. I’ll never forget him.”

Jay Singer

Jay Singer

My father endured the bombardments and hardship of everyday life in London but fortunately was safe relative to so many others. The thick, dark clouds that hung over the city many nights from fog made it impossible to see right in front of you. My father recounts as he would feel his way along the walls of the buildings on his way home, counting off the number of doors and turns in the road to find his way home.

One night a bomb fell at a pub just outside of Harrods and some Londoners were killed. The next day, a young Princess Elizabeth, came by to visit and offer her support. My father watched excitedly from the window as the future Queen made her way along the street.

My father returned home in April 1946.

Three generations of Cote Saint-Lucers: George, Glenn and Jeremy Nashen 2013

Each year, I ask dad to take out his medals and his beret and to teach my own kids what it meant to serve Canada as a soldier.  They listen in amazement at his stories of 70 years ago, as they reflect on their lives in the best country to live in, Canada.

WWII veteran George Nashen, 93, deposits the wreath on behalf of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 97 at the Cote Saint-Luc Cenotaph in Veterans Park. Accompanied by his grandson Cory, son Jeff and vCOP Phil Mayman. (Photo: Darryl Levine, CSL).

Each year on Remembrance Day, I salute my dad, and all those who served, who paid the ultimate price, who sustained injury and who were lucky to return just like George. His bravery and commitment, and theirs, to stand on guard, to liberating those who had their freedom taken from them so many years ago, to keeping Canada glorious and free, shines like a beacon to my kids and our entire family.

With my dad on Remembrance Day (Jewish General Hospital, 2014)

We’re proud of his accomplishments and grateful to still have him, and my mother, as our bridge between our past and our future.

 

George and Phyllis Nashen at their 95th and 90th birthday party (June 2018)

N

More:

Mount Royal Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather’s speech

Councillor Mike Cohen’s blog

 

CSL holds memorial tribute for Cllr. Ruth Kovac

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Last week the City of Cote Saint-Luc held a moving and emotional tribute to remember Councillor Ruth Kovac who passed away on October 1, 2019. The mayor, councillors, former council colleagues and members of the public spoke publicly along with Ruth’s family.

The first video, below, is a photo-video montage remembering the civic contributions of Councillor Kovac.

The second video, below, is the footage of the speeches as well as the photo-video montage all in one. You can watch the full event or you will find my tribute at 18:45 and the family’s remarks at 37:40.

I welcome your comments and memories of Ruth right here on my blog or on Facebook.

My speech begins at 18:45

Goodbye friend. A tribute to Ruth Kovac.

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I met Ruth Kovac nearly 40 years ago. We were both enrolled in an Emergency Medical Technician course and so began a four decade long friendship that was rooted in our common desire to help others in their time of need.

Ruth always sought out opportunities to give back to her community. We volunteered our way up through the ranks at Cote Saint-Luc Emergency Measures Organization in the 1980s, responding to hundreds of medical emergencies, helping those who were sick or injured and organizing CPR courses.

We decided together with my friend Mitchell Brownstein that the best way to make a bigger impact and help more people was to run for public office. The three of us were elected to Cote Saint-Luc City Council in 1990. Ruth developed expertise in many civic areas, but she excelled when it came to Parks and Recreation and Urban Planning. For years she championed these departments working closely with staff of all levels.

Councillors Glenn J. Nashen and Ruth Kovac enrolled at the Emergency Preparedness College of Canada 1991

She was a fierce defender of Canadian Unity and proudly wore her Maple Leaf flag but never forgetting her rich Dutch heritage.

Councillors Ruth Kovac and Glenn J. Nashen

Ruth and I worked closely on seeking recognition of Paramedics in Quebec, on getting CPR into school curriculum, on acquiring Automated External Defibrillators in our municipal buildings and vehicles. One of our biggest efforts was promoting bilingualism, especially on emergency communications from the government and also from companies doing business in English-speaking areas across western Montreal. She continued this gargantuan effort most recently with Harold Staviss.

Celebrating demerger victory (June 2004) with Ruth Kovac, Anthony Housefather and Mitchell Brownstein

Ruth and I fought for pioneering No-Smoking bylaws in the early 1990s and for promoting the first mandatory municipal cycling helmet bylaw in Canada. We also worked together to make Cote Saint-Luc first to require residential sprinkler systems for single family homes.

Whether it was her beloved Mount Sinai Hospital, where she served in several leadership positions through the years, or Canada Day festivities in Cote Saint-Luc which we co-chaired numerous times or the annual blood donor clinic that she chaired year after year, she put her heart and soul into every activity that she touched. And my, how she touched a lot of organizations and people.

Our seats were side by side for all 24 years that we served together on City Council. So, she jokingly referred to me as her “Council-husband” and she affectionately became my “Council-wife”.

We co-chaired so many projects and events and together with Mitch, Dida Berku, Allan J. Levine, Isadore Goldberg, Harold Greenspon, Richard Schwartz we became a Council family. We supported one another’s ideas and projects and always tried to seek consensus. Sure, we all fought a bit behind closed doors, but we always emerged as friends and colleagues for the benefit of our beloved City of Cote Saint-Luc. Ruth would have it no other way. She would stick two index fingers to her lips and blast out an ear piercing whistle to catch our attention. “When we go out there, we are united,” she would blast. And so it was.

Councillor Ruth Kovac greeting new citizens on Canada Day with Councillors Sam Goldbloom, Glenn J. Nashen and Steven Erdelyi

She was one of the few who got along quite well with Mayor Lang, respecting his perspective and experience and often playing the diplomat in connecting divergent opinions.

Ruth agonized over each new development, every exterior home renovation, each zoning bylaw and amendment. Box loads of cheques would be sent before each weekend to her house to cross-check invoices and ensure that our city operated smoothly and transparently. She would read through stacks of paperwork and only sign the cheque once she was satisfied that staff met her expectations in due diligence. She took this responsibility very seriously and made it a full time endeavour.

Celebrating another victory: Ruth and Peter Kovac

Every year or two we would travel, along with a few other council members, to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conferences across this great country. Ruth proudly represented our city, region and province and loved engaging with councillors, aldermen, reeves, mayors, provincial and national legislators. She would have no issue walking up to anyone and starting a conversation. She loved to boast about our amazing services back in Cote saint-Luc and to learn from others. She developed acquaintances across Canada and would reach out from time to time.

Ruth with the Boys in Blue. She always admired Constable Vincent Di Angeles of PDQ 9.

Ruth banded together with Mitch, Anthony Housefather and me as the co-chairs of the Cote Saint-Luc demerger committee. We fought mega-Montreal and against all odds we succeeded in reestablishing our City of Cote Saint-Luc. The four of us worked very closely on numerous files and projects, with Anthony as our new mayor along with our new colleagues Mike Cohen, Steven Erdelyi and Sam Goldbloom. The council family evolved and worked so well together, succeeding at major expansion with the new Aquatic and Community Centre which Ruth championed with gusto, like she was building her own house.

Ruth Kovac actively involved in the development of the Cote Saint-Luc Aquatic and Community Centre in 2011

We typically greeted each other with a goofy, “Hello friend.” We chuckled each time.

Ruth developed a great working relationship with successive police commanders from Neighbourhood Station 9, which we fought to protect from closure, together with Anthony and Mitch. We won.

She relished in her relationships with directors and managers and all city staff. She remembered everyone’s name and always gave a cheery hello to all as she entered City Hall.

Councillor Ruth Kovac with Commander Bissonnette and Director Jordy Reichson

And we fought to save our Emergency Medical Services from being wiped out by the merger madness. And won again. Ruth was determined to do the right thing, she would say. “Listen to the people,” a quote she’d remind us of from one of her political favourites.

Councillor Ruth Kovac even convinced her husband, Peter, to join vCOP. Seen here on Canada Day 2012.

Somehow, she managed to carry out a very full council agenda for three decades, all the while raising her three children with Peter and then taking an active role with her grand-kids. And she was so devoted to her mother, Ilse, bringing her everywhere she needed to go. But Ruth would rarely miss a meeting, was always prepared, did her research and got ready for discussion and debate. She was a wise and thoughtful woman of balanced and sage advice and kept a calm head about her.

She would berate Anthony and me for not wearing ties, for being too casual. She’d offer to take us shopping for more formal attire. “You need to dress smart, look sharp,” she’d say. She liked to think of herself as old fashion, but she was really quite avant guard.

Ruth was always so proud of those around her, especially when she worked to see Anthony Housefather elected as our Member of Parliament

Ruth never backed off from a battle. She pulled herself together no matter the odds and gave it her all. She handled her bout with cancer in the same way, preferring to keep it as her secret for the very longest time. And throughout this period she attended her council meetings, read the reams of required documents even when she was too weak to lift them, responded to emails from constituents and posted city announcements on her Facebook page. Most others would likely have thrown in the towel. Given up. Not Ruth. She slugged it out to the very end. As she always did.

I’m so lucky that I had one last chance to sit and talk and laugh and cry with Ruth last Thursday and together with Anthony and Mitch send her flowers to share online for her very last Shabbat, as she made a weekly habit of posting beautiful flowers to share with her world and to send messages of peace and togetherness.

As I left her home my eyes swelled with tears at the thought this could be my last, “Hello friend.” Luckily, I had never had to deal with such a suffering friend or the prospect of loss. Ruth, knew this and in her own generous way made it easy for me, and for others. She told me she was at peace with her circumstances, was proud of her accomplishments and those that we achieved together. She couldn’t ask for more than the beautiful family that she and Peter had raised and the wonderful friends that surrounded her nor the supportive community that comforted her. I told her that her legacy would carry on for generations and that I was proud of all she had done for so many people.

Ruth pushed me to go beyond my limits. She enriched my life. I will forever be grateful for our friendship.

Goodbye friend.

Cote Saint-Luc loses a civic giant

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Mitchell Brownstein, Anthony Housefather, Ruth Kovac and Glenn J. Nashen tally up results in leading the city to victory in the demerger battle

Ruth Kovac passed away this morning.

Cote Saint Luc City Councillor, champion volunteer, wife, mother, grandmother- Ruth was a woman of extraordinary accomplishment who was deeply loved. Our council was like a second family and having been co-chairs of the demerger campaign with her we felt exceptionally close.

At times Ruth could be like a second mother or sister but she was always an exceptional friend. Nobody was more pragmatic. Nobody more driven and nobody cared more about the community she loved in.

CSL demerger co-chairs, 10 years later: Mitchell Brownstein, Anthony Housefather, Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac

Up until last week she was responding to resident emails and proposing improvements in her City and at her synagogue. She even arranged for remote viewing of High Holiday services so those who were home unwell could watch.

We have lost a leading light of our community and extend our deepest sympathies to Peter, Debbie and Anthony, Jeff, Tammy and Jason and her entire family.

We love and miss you Ruth.

All our love, Mitch, Glenn and Anthony

Celebrating demerger victory (June 2004) with Ruth Kovac, Anthony Housefather and Mitchell Brownstein

More:

Longtime Cote Saint-Luc City Councillor Ruth Kovac passes away, CTV News

‘She was one of a kind’: Côte Saint-Luc city councillor Ruth Kovac passes away, Global News

Obituary: Longtime Côte St-Luc city councillor Ruth Kovac, Montreal Gazette

Côte Saint-Luc mourns the death of longtime city councillor Ruth Kovac, CBC News

Ruth Kovac: A personal tribute to a warrior, The Suburban

Beautiful Laurentian bike ride through history on Ptit Train du Nord

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If you’re headed up north with bikes for the day, weekend or vacation you must already have heard of the Ptit Train du Nord recreation path that runs more than 200 kms from St. Jerome to Mont Laurier. Indeed, it is part of the Trans Canada Trail that spans the entire country. Our family has enjoyed the trail for years, choosing different segments most weekends. We used to pull the kids in a bike trailer till they finally managed two-wheelers on their own. What a fun family outing, sometimes lugging picnic lunches, other times stopping at the ice cream or sandwich shops along the way.

I had read about a newly paved section and decided to make that our Labour Day outing so we packed up the bikes and headed up the 117 to St. Faustin-Lac Carré.

The St. Faustin train station was built in 1893

The old train stations at each town are a delight to explore. Well preserved and exhibiting old photos of yesteryear, I can just imagine what it was like to take the voyage by train from Montreal, way up into the Laurentian Mountains. On today’s journey, I imagined my dad’s train ride to St. Faustin station in 1940. He vacationed in Lac Carré at Cantor’s Square Lake Inn, for just $15 a week!

Cantor’s Square Lake Inn, St. Faustin, Qc. Samuel Cantor, his wife Rachel, and brother Myer Cantor bought the Inn in 1935 and owned it together until the death of Myer in 1945. When Rachel died in 1961 the Inn was sold. It burned to the ground one year later, never to be rebuilt.

The St. Faustin-Lac Carré station is a meeting point in the town. The grounds are well groomed with outdoor artistic pieces, playground, a petoncle court and even a metal tree with heart shaped red locks with the names of lovers and their important dates (haven’t seen that since Paris). There is a lovely café and a couple of ice cream shops to suit your taste.

We decided to ride from St. Faustin to St. Jovite, aka Centre-Ville Mont Tremblant, a distance of 12.5 km. The asphalt was smooth as can be and most of the northbound ride was slightly sloped downhill so I enjoyed the breeze and sights without pondering the return uphill trip. In 30 just minutes we arrived at our destination. Along the way we saw beautiful views of the Riviere du Nord which hugs the trail much of its length.

There’s wildlife, farms, lovely old homes and places to stop and relax along the way. We saw butterflies and ducks on this trip. Previously we’ve seen deer.

I decided to explore and take pictures on the slower southbound climb. I hope you’ll enjoy my shots and come and see for yourself.

Many thanks to the good folks who maintain the Ptit Train du Nord and to their sponsors who provide the funding for this magnificent, free recreational gem.

Happy Cycling!

Lovely old Quebec homesteads to see along the Ptit Train du Nord
Riviere du nord, as scene from the Ptit Train du Nord, St. Faustin – Lac Carré
Beautiful colours and gorgeous homes along the bike trail
The views while cycling along the Ptit Train du Nord
Judy and Barry enjoying the warm breeze on the trail
Lovers locks in St. Faustin – Lac Carré
The Millette farm, passed down through the generations
Famille Millette farm equipment preserved for younger generations to explore
Old dam wheel to control water levels along the Riviere du Nord
Plenty of distraction for the little ones along the trail
Barry studying all the trail options in the Tremblant area
Step down into Lac Carré

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