Remembering John Beedell

John Beedell

John Beedell, 1933 – 2014

The Adventure Canada community has lost a dear friend. The late John Beedell was a longtime traveller with Adventure Canada and the father of photographer Mike Beedell, A.C’s longest serving guide & resource person.

John Beedell & Joe Derochie

John Beedell & Joe Derochie

John had a storied life. He competed in the 1960 Rome Olympics for Canada as a sprint paddler and directed the Ontario Leadership Centre at Bark Lake for many years.

A passionate science teacher and outdoor educator, John taught at Ottawa’s Ashbury College from 1968 – 1988.

A tragic accident while he was building a home in 1988 ended his formal teaching career but John handled his disabilities with amazing tenacity and stoicism. He became an outstanding volunteer and patron of the arts, giving his time generously to many worthy causes.

John was fascinated by different cultures and he was an avid naturalist. He had a reverence and sense of wonder for all aspects of the natural world… from a tiny tundra wildflower or a sculpted glacial boulder to a breaching humpback whale.

His journeys took him to the Northwest Passage, Greenland, Spitsbergen, Russia, Mongolia, The Labrador Coast, Nahanni National Park, Haida Gwaii, the Scottish Isles, Antarctica, North Africa, Timbuktu & Guyana to name a few.

He is survived by Ann Beedell and their sons, Michael, Jeff and David and his five grandchildren.

Norway - Explorer 2006 (15)

John received fitting tributes from Maclean’s, as well as articles on CBC.ca, the Ottawa Citizen, and the Ottawa Sun.

Mike’s brother Jeff remembers their father this way:

Allow me to close with one of my own memories – really a picture in words about my Dad’s return to sailing this past summer after 25 years away from the sport. One of our sons, Leslie is a sailing instructor and last summer helped with a sailing program for persons with disabilities at the Pointe Claire Sailing Club. Leslie thought that his Grandpa might be interested in trying this out through a similar program at the Nepean Sailing Club called ABLE Sail. We contacted the program and Caroline the head instructor asked about my Dad’s age, the nature of his disabilities, and said she would have to assess his abilities first to see what level of instruction course he would require before being permitted to take the boats out with just a volunteer companion.

Out we went to the Club on a Sunday afternoon in August – Caroline showed Dad the boats – they use a special Martin 16 sloop with a weighted centreboard, 2 low seats facing forward one behind the other like in the old bi-planes, the main and jib sheets all run to the hips of the skipper in the front seat with a vertical stick tiller for steering. There is a manual hoist on the dock to lift a disabled sailor in and out of the boat.

The short story that day was that my Dad said “well, let’s give it a go”, he waived off using the hoist, managed to roll down on to the dock, and slide himself into the front seat, Caroline taking the back seat, off they went onto the Ottawa River where it widens as Lac Deschenes, and by the time they came back 30 minutes later Caroline certified my Dad fit to sail anytime he wished with a volunteer companion, no sailing instruction course required. And so he did thru August and September.

But the picture I want to leave you with is this – not a photograph, just a memory – of my Dad, John Beedell underway in his Martin 16, low in the skipper seat with just his head and shoulders visible above the deck, the front brim of his Tilley hat cocked up like an old sea dog, a fresh warm breeze, sails trimmed, waves lapping at the bow, a big smile on his face ….. the master of his ship…

Our hearts go out to Mike and his family. John will be very much missed.

2 thoughts on “Remembering John Beedell

  1. John’s spirit lives on in his children who are intellectual, athletic, love the outdoors, and support their community. He must be so proud of them!

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