The passing of Ben Lecours of Lecours Lumber, one of the very last independent family-owned sawmills in Ontario
Sunday May 14, 2023 marked the passing of Benoît Lecours, a devoted and loving father, husband and grandfather to his loved ones, and an important pillar of Ontario’s forestry sector.
It was Benoît’s (Ben’s) father, Arthur Lecours, who established the first family sawmill in 1939, then located on Carey Lake east of Hearst Ontario. In 1943 it was sold and rebuilt in what remains today its current location on the shores of Constance Lake. In the 1970’s, the five brothers purchased the mill from their father. Driven by Ben’s interest for mill technology, he developed networks with other mill owners and travelled extensively to seek the best of efficiencies. For the better part of 30 years, through restructuring, significant investment and consolidation of ownership, he ensured the sustainability of the family run mill.
In 1989 Lecours Lumber was the first sawmill east of the Rockies to use curve sawing technology, something that Ben had seen in Sweden. In the mid 1990's Lecours Lumber was the first company in Canada to produce Machine Stress Rated lumber (MSR) using X-ray technology. Lecours played a major role in helping to develop this technology in order to get approval from the Canadian Lumber Standard (CLS).
A humble man of few words, Ben was thorough in his search of efficiency and technology. Many considered him a barometer; if Ben purchased equipment, others would follow. In his wry humour, Ben would sometimes say “Qui n’avance pas, recule!” (If you are not going forward, you are in reverse).
Ben received the Lumberjack award in 2005 from the Ontario Lumber Manufacturers Association (OLMA), of which Lecours Lumber was a member from inception in 1966.
While he dedicated his career to perfecting a single mill, throughout Ben’s career he always ensured to do right by the communities he served in Constance Lake First Nation, Hearst and Mattice Val-Côté. Much of his passion for community was outwardly demonstrated in his tenure with Ontario’s first cooperative Sustainable Forest License, held by Hearst Forest Management Inc., the company that manages the Hearst Forest.