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First hand accounts of people involved in Ontario's forest history

An Unforgettable Storyteller — Brent A. Connelly by Jim Farrell

While our paths never crossed, his legacy around Lake Superior Park lived on past his move back down south in 1974 after 10 years as a forester for Weyerhaeuser Canada.

Brent worked out of Sault Ste Marie while I was a junior forester working for Abitibi-Price P&P Co in Wawa in 1977. In 1975 Brent signed on with the Algonquin Forest Authority and enjoyed 25 years with them until his retirement. I read his first book, Holy Old Whistlin’ -Yarns About Algonquin Park Loggers, in 2006 and it brought me back to many of the stories I had heard in the bush camps of Manitoba and around pickup trucks and after work drinks in Northern Ontario. Shortly after this book, Brent produced another, Finer than Hair on A Frog-More Yarns About Loggers and The Like in 2007. Brent authored two more books, but those may be featured in another article.

In the year I retired, 2011, I prevailed on John Pineau, then Executive Director of CIF, to find some room for a forest history session at the AGM at Deerhurst near Huntsville, Ontario, which he graciously provided. While pretty late in the planning stage, the first speaker I contacted was Brent and he very graciously accepted my invitation. The rest of the slate included a Deputy Minister and a forestry scholar from UBC, but Brent won the hearts and minds of those in the room. He was very comfortable telling his stories and brought these colorful characters to life. At least one that I knew was Tony Vorlicek who was Weyerhaeuser’s Logging Superintendent in the Soo, who as Brent points out in his second book, was a very fine gentleman. We shared a very fine bottle of distilled spirits one evening in his small trailer parked in a gravel pit east of Wawa. Tony is quoted in the second book as observing Lake Superior’s rugged terrain in saying, “I swear that in Lake Superior Park, the creeks all run up hill”.

While the stories are too many to mention and could possibly run the risk of being a ‘spoiler’, they feature McRae Lumber Co and the McRae family and employees, Herb Shaw and Sons Lumber and family and employees, Joe Bird, the first General Manager of the Algonquin Forest Authority and many local and colorful characters in and around Lake Superior Park and up and around the Ottawa Valley.
On June 10th, 2023, after a courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease, Brent Connelly passed away at the age of 83. Brent spent a rewarding career spanning 39 years as a forester in the Lake Superior and Algonquin provincial parks. A natural storyteller, Brent published four books about his life in and out of the forests. I urge you all to track down Brent’s books and settle down for a great read.


Brent C Books


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