by Wendy Rampton for Hub Hospice Palliative Care Board of Directors
There is a new Comfort Sugar Maple tree in Augusta Street Park in Almonte. Beside it stands a plaque that reads “Al Potvin. With our deepest appreciation. HHPC.” It would be hard to imagine a more fitting tribute.
From left, Jane Henderson, Chair of HHPC Board of Directors, Shirley Deugo Potvin, Al Potvin, Ed Lawrence and Christine Bois, Past Chair. INSET: The plaque that stands beside the tree.
Photo credit: Nancy Deschenes
This is a man who has had a longtime, indelible impact on our community. Working to create a better, vibrant community has clearly always been on Al’s list of “things to do.” He has been involved with the Mississippi Mills Field Naturalists, a pivotal mover for the Al Potvin Observation Tower, a prime spot for birders (yes, he even found a way to make the lagoons – a waste water treatment plant – a beautiful place to visit). He has been a member of The Almonte General Hospital/Fairview Manor Foundation Board. He has planted thousands of sunflowers – just for the enjoyment of people in the area. He has provided space on his property for people to take their leaves and yard clippings, then turned that into compost and sold it, donating the proceeds to The Almonte General Hospital/Fairview Manor and later to Hub Hospice Palliative Care (HHPC). With the brush people left there, he would hold a Winter Solstice bonfire and invite the whole town. He and Shirley Deugo Potvin even asked guests at their 2013 wedding to donate to HHPC in lieu of gifts, raising $8000. And these are just some of the things we know about!
Al and his late wife, Barbara, moved to Almonte in the early 60s and raised four children here. After leaving his job at Bell Northern (the precursor of Nortel) in the early 70s, the couple started Hilan Creative Playstructures, a company that manufactured modular play structures, employing a significant number of local residents over the years. Their designs were groundbreaking, and Al was an active proponent for ensuring children’s safety across the industry.
In 1999, Al came up with the idea to sell trees to raise funds for the Mississippi Mills Chamber of Commerce. This was a win-win for him. Funds could be raised for a worthwhile organization, and the environment would benefit as well. After the now-defunct Chamber decided to discontinue the program, Al approached the organization and asked if he could reach out to HHPC about taking over the programme to help raise funds for their worthy cause. Since 2015 Al and a dedicated group of volunteers, including horticultural experts Ed Lawrence and Ron Ayling, have been carrying on the legacy of this greening initiative, raising over $24,000 to date.
When asked about his philosophy about the importance of community involvement, Al — in typical Al fashion — just talked about the incredible level of community involvement in Mississippi Mills, and about the huge number of people who quietly go about contributing to bettering our community, taking little credit for himself. He made a point of asking that we mention that the tree sales simply couldn’t happen without the support of large numbers of people, including the staff at the Mississippi Mills garage.
Al estimates that about 8,000 trees have been planted as a result of these tree sales. So, on May 14, 2018, on a lovely early summer evening, it seemed incredibly appropriate to stand in the beautiful dappled sunshine at Augusta Street Park with a gentle breeze blowing through and observe that generous, creative man smile quietly as we honoured him with a stately tree that will be a symbol of his legacy. Thank you, Al.
Hub Hospice Palliative Care (HHPC) is a not-for-profit registered Canadian charity funded through donations and targeted fundraising initiatives. We are a “Hospice without walls.” We provide in-home palliative care support for adult clients and their families (personal residences, long-term care homes, retirement homes or hospitals).