||January 15, 2010
Mattawa’s 125th Anniversary a
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.
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
Heritage Perspective Home Page