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50 Years, 50 People: Bill Palmer

A photo of Bill Palmer.

From 1915 to 1996 Bill Palmer and the Miramichi river were inseparable. His first trip on the fabled New Brunswick river was in the early 1920s, in a rowing canoe. For more than seven decades, “Mr. Miramichi” – an educator, instructor, and inspiration – was instrumental in introducing thousands to the joys and pleasures of canoeing. For 18 years, he supervised the University of New Brunswick-sponsored canoeing school. He founded the Atlantic Canada canoe instructor’s school. Through the years he conducted hundreds of clinics for novices and experts, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, church groups, and the public. Bill was the reason many life-long friends of Canoeing got involved.  He was an instructor at the 1st “Atlantic” National Canoe School in NS in 1973 and again in 1974.

For his considerable efforts, “Miramichi” Bill Palmer was made a lifetime member of Canoe New Brunswick (CNB). He received the Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association’s Award of Merit in 1990 for his contributions to canoeing in Canada, Bill, then in his late seventies,

Bill is considered as the “Grandfather of Canoeing” in NB.  He worked with the Provincial “Department of Youth”.  His responsibilities included the promotion and teaching of canoeing.  One of his key allies and paddling friend was Henry Lounder, an employee at Mactaquac Provincial Park near Fredericton.  Henry was in the CRCA Cross Canada Voyageur event and Bill was involved in the New Brunswick leg.

In the early years of CNB, the association held many introductory courses throughout the province and where there were very few instructors, it was Bill and a handful of others who were travelling to run the courses.  Over time, clubs were formed in these areas and they in turn developed their own instructors thus greatly easing the responsibility on Bill and the others.

In 1976 Bill and CRCA Director Richard Faulkner conducted NB’s first canoe school – a 5-day Canoe Camping Program at Magaguadavic Lake.

In 1991 Bill also attended the first CRCA Coastal Paddling Course on the Bay of Fundy.  On one of the two days the group paddled a challenging 8 nautical mile stretch and Bill held his own against a strong tide and wind – he was 76 years young.  Bill was a short, wiry military veteran – tough, determined and never looking for any favour because of his age. Bill passed away in 1996

Written by J. Eberhard

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