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Valley Lives - Carol Martin

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the January 18, 2017 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Chelsea loses a champion of local history

by Ben Bulmer

When Carol Martin did something, she made sure she did it properly and she definitely made sure she got it right.

An avid historian and former president of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society, which she joined in 1976, Martin headed back to school following retirement in 1995 to complete a master's degree in history at the University of Ottawa.

Carol Martin
Avid historian and honorary lifetime member of the Gatineau Valley Historicial Society, Carol Martin during the inauguration of 'A Walk Through History' in Meech Creek Valley September 2014. Adrienne Herron Photo

"She wanted to take this seriously, so she went back and got the professional qualifications," said Robert Martin, her husband of 58 years. It was indicative of the sort of person she was, turning her master's thesis into a book titled 'In Memory of Chelsea's Historic Cemeteries'.

"She was the one who brought us back to our roots in the historical society," said GVHS President Marc Cockburn. "She was always making sure that what we did was authentic."

Cockburn praises Martin for her leadership and the direction she steered the GVHS over the years. The not-for-profit group may be volunteer-run, but as the only body recording the history of the Gatineau Hills, Martin made sure it was a solid and dependable voice of that history.

As the editor of the GVHS yearly publication 'Up the Gatineau' from 1991 to 2011, Cockburn said she always made sure the record was straight. "I'd get calls from Carol at eight in the morning because she was raring to go, always on top of things and always hit her deadlines," said Cockburn. "She was definitely a formidable person and very well qualified and very well educated and very much community spirited."

With her dedication and aptitude for doing things properly came a very strong will, but Cockburn said if heads ever clashed it was always "bygones" afterwards: "She never held a grudge, she moved forward all the time."

His words are reiterated by Martin's cousin, Harold Reid, who described her as "a driving force in the community."

Carol Martin
Carol Martin at the GVHS auction in 1986. Photo courtesy GVHS

"Anything she took on, she would see that it was completed," said Reid, "or wanted to know why it wasn't." From their early days as children swimming in the river at Kirk's Ferry, Reid said Martin was always strong-willed.

That sentiment is shared by childhood friend and neighbour Rene Nielsen. "My brother and I and Carol and her brother spent the summer hanging out," said Nielsen. "She was always wanting us to hike through the bush to Meech Lake... she was always the instigator of all the strange things we got up to." Nielsen said even as a child, Martin was strong-willed and had a very strong personality. But Nielsen remembers a kind and considerate friend, who was "a lot of fun to be with."

Carol Martin was born Jean Carol Craig in Montreal in 1934. With a family history dating back generations in the Gatineau Hills, she would spend every summer at a family cottage in Kirk's Ferry, where her uncle Ernie Reid ran the general store. "For me, the Gatineau was like the garden of Eden," she told the Low Down in an interview in 2008. At age 16, Martin bought a piece of land along the Gatineau River in Kirk's Ferry from her grandfather, working for five years afterwards to pay it off. She met her husband-to-be at a wedding in Toronto in the midfifties. "I was her designated escort for the wedding," said Robert. "We had an instant like for each other." The couple married in 1958, built a house on the land in Kirk's Ferry, and had two children, one of whom still lives in Chelsea, the other in Seattle. Martin completed a degree at McGill University in Montreal before heading to Toronto to complete a master's in sociology and continuing with a successful career as a researcher, working for various public and private organizations.

Martin may have had a rich interest in history and research, but her passion for learning didn't keep her cooped up indoors.

"She was committed to an active life," said Robert. She swam in the Gatineau River early in the year, continuing late into the season, and was a crosscountry skier and snowshoer and a weekly fixture hiking with the Wakefield Walkers.

"She was an all weather person," said Tom Ryan, founder of the Wakefield Walkers. Regardless of the weather, he said, "[She] makes a commitment and she sticks to it."

Martin was also a dedicated tennis player, and was still playing at the Larrimac club in November last year.

"She was my favourite tennis player," said Christiane Claude. "She was my idol." The pair played regularly and Claude always admired her technique and her competitive nature. "She was very competitive," said Claude, but more than her hankering to win, Claude remembers her friend as a person with an open mind who was full of encouragement. "She had a beautiful intelligence," said Claude. "I always knew she would not let me down... [and] never judge me."

Not content with a devotion to history and a lust for the outdoors, Martin was also a passionate singer who could play the violin and piano. A member of Castenchel Choir, the Ottawa University Choir, the Canadian Centennial Choir, and CAMMAC, music, said Robert, was something she very much enjoyed.

Martin received an honorary lifetime membership for the GVHS and was on the board until her death. She was also Chelsea Citizen of the Year in 2000

Carol Martin died Dec. 20 2016. She leaves behind her husband, two children, and three grandchildren. A celebration of her life will take place this spring.


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