Living in a small town in rural Ontario it is easy to overlook the talent. The relevance is often closer than you’d imagine. Granted we of Ramsay Township and Almonte are familiar with our celebrated heroes James Naismith (inventor of basketball), R. Tait McKenzie (sculptor) and James Mackintosh Bell (famed geologist).
James Abbott Mackintosh Bell was born at St Andrews, Quebec, Canada, on 23 September 1877, the son of Andrew Bell, a civil engineer and architect, and his wife, Marianne Rosamond. The family moved to Almonte, Ontario, when James was a child, and he received his early education there. He studied at Queen’s College, Kingston, graduating MA in 1899, then went to Harvard University in 1903 to study for his PhD, which he received in 1904. His field work included pioneer exploration in Arctic Canada for the Geological Survey of Canada with his uncle, Robert Bell. He also worked for several companies as a mining expert.
But there are many other unsung heroes, men and women who are a credit to Almonte and area in particular and to humanity in general. The realm of business is no exception. Jim Houston’s son Bill is one of the people behind Sunshine Building Maintenance.
Bill Houston is in good company. Sculptor Stephen Brathwaite and his siblings kitchen designer John and puppeteer Noreen have all become famous. Dave Scott’s two sons, Paul and Steve, are among the champions of Toronto insurers and mandarins. Dr. Franz B. Ferraris’ children, Erin and Marco, are leaders in McKenzie Financial and Shopify. Nor must we forget Leonard Lee of Lee Valley Tools. Or General Bob Morton (one of Canada’s leading soldiers) son of Stan Morton who was Almonte’s longest-lasting businessman succeeded only by John Hawley Kerry. Meanwhile Tommy Levi (son of Almonte entrepreneur Jack Levi and grandson of a Pakenham farmer) is continuing the legacy of the finest customer hardware service.
Robert Tait McKenzie (sometimes written MacKenzie; May 26, 1867 – April 28, 1938) was a Canadian physician, educator, sculptor, athlete, soldier and Scouter. Born in Ramsay Township, Lanark County, Ontario, Canada, he attended McGill University in Montreal as an undergraduate and medical student, and was an instructor in its medical school beginning in 1894. In 1904, he moved to the United States to teach at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the 1930s, he returned to the county of his birth, retiring to the Mill of Kintail in Almonte.
Add to this list of distinguished persons Shirley Fulton/Deugo of Ontario’s maple syrup industry and her husband Al Potvin who re-invented the modern play structure. There is also John Jamieson (son of my predecessor Raymond A. Jamieson QC) who owned First Air and ended selling it to First Nations people. Don’t overlook Peter Brown founder of Mevex Corporation now headed by his son David.
For more than 25 years, Mevex has grown from a small accelerator engineering company into the only system integrator providing e-beam, X-ray, gamma and Ethylene Oxide sterilization solutions and services.
And don’t forget Dr. Matthew Tiffany (local family physician) whose father Trevor (also an Almonte resident) is a world leader of Olympic swimming pools.