||December 21, 2007
Remembering Ralph Bice
Ralph Bice from Kearney, S.E. of Burk's Falls (1900-1997)
died 10 years ago this summer. He was an extraordinary trapper, leader, writer,
and personality. I had the pleasure of visiting and taping him in the winter of
1997 at the Rowanwood Residence south of Huntsville where he lived for the few
months before his death.
||Ralph Bice and some of his furs.
I was particularly interested in his writing and we signed
and exchanged books. I had been reading his column Along The Trail which he
wrote in the Almaguin News for 30 years for a decade and he was an inspiration
for my later columns in Community Voices along with some other scribes who I may
recognize later in these pages.
Ralph wrote 5 books and some are still available online
including his best known work Along The Trail in Algonquin Park. His friend
George Purdy wrote a biography called Ralph: The Story of Ralph Bice in 1999.
Ralph only had a grade school education but was
intelligent, articulate, and assertive all his life. He is primarily known as a
trapper and guide and he knew Algonquin Park and its history inside out. He
believed in the importance of trapping in the balance of nature and was a
conservationist in many ways especially in humane trapping. He often taught and
discussed trapping with children and trappers. Ralph was a founding member of
Ontario Trappers' Association in 1947 and was president from 1954 to 1960. He
was the first recipient of the Lloyd Cook Memorial Award presented by the Fur
Institute of Canada. In 1997 at the Annual Convention of the Fur Harvesters
Auction he became the first inductee into the Trappers' Hall of Fame.
His greatest recognition was in 1985 when he became a
member of the Order of Canada. The occasion did not cramp his wit and he told
fellow recipient The Right Honourable Pierre Elliot Trudeau that he (Trudeau)
was the "Luckiest fellow in this room". When Trudeau asked why, he said
"Because there is only one trapper in this room and you are sitting next to
||Ralph Bice receiving Order of Canada 1985.
Ralph often told people that he got a late start as a
trapper because his dad wouldn't let him go alone in a canoe until he was four
and for years he only got to carry the canoe for his dad.
Ralph made some enemies with some of his strong opinions.
In my interview with him he had his take on the death of Tom Thompson whose name
he insisted should have been spelled Tomson. He said Thomson was a "drunk" and
probably fell out of his canoe and died by accident or killed himself in a bout
There was some criticism of the naming of a lake after him
after his death, but it was done. A larger memorial project to develop and area
near his lake (The Ralph Bice Sustainability Centre Experience Project) with
trails, camping and cabins etc. has not materialized but has not died.
Ralph was a regular speaker at events, particularly church
events where he often preached. He loved music and poetry which he often
quoted. He was a Mason for 74 years.
Bill Steer has written about Ralph and his article is
online and Astrid Taim in her book Algonquin, A Highland History did as well.
Ralph was preparing a book of some of his columns at the
time of his death. At the time of his death he had six children, 22
grandchildren and 41 great grandchildren. His son Doug was a longstanding Judge
in Muskoka and his great grandson Mike Peca is an outstanding NHL hockey
player. Ralph is still with us in many ways.
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