Dave Stewart impacted forestry and shaped modern-day Cobden

Cobden -- The community is mourning the passing of a man who in large measure shaped present-day Cobden and also impacted the forest industry worldwide.

Family members say Dave Stewart, 85, passed away peacefully early in the morning of Saturday, February 4, at Miramichi Lodge in Pembroke where he had resided since 2021.

Mr. Stewart served as reeve of Cobden from 1982 to 2000 and served as Warden of Renfrew County in 1997 and 1998.

“I always had a great appreciation for Dave,” said Dean Sauriol, now CAO of Laurentian Valley Township, who began his municipal career as clerk for the Village of Cobden, serving in that capacity from 1991 until 2000. “As a leader he was very progressive. He always wanted to talk to the government ministers and get their ear, and he didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer lightly.”

It was largely because of Reeve Stewart’s efforts that Cobden got 85 per cent government funding for a major project: separating the storm and sanitary sewers.

“Now, most of the time, you get a 33-33-33-per cent split among federal, provincial and municipal funding for projects,” he said.

On a personal note, he is grateful to Reeve Stewart for hiring him and giving him the opportunity to start a career in municipal administration.

“He certainly was a supporter of mine,” said Mr. Sauriol. “His was always a wise voice.”

Mr. Stewart left municipal politics in 2000 after he was unsuccessful in an election for mayor of the new Township of Whitewater Region, which was created with the amalgamation of the villages of Beachburg and Cobden and townships of Ross and Westmeath.

In the broader community, he served on the board of Renfrew County Community Futures.

Cobden resident Wayne Heubner remembers Mr. Stewart as a staunch community supporter and promoter, and an enthusiastic participant in The Cobden Connection which, for over a decade, brought together people of the Cobdens in Australia, New Zealand, Illinois in the United States, and Cobden, Ontario.

“When Cobden (Ontario) hosted the gathering in 1998, Dave went to Illinois and met the delegations from Australia and New Zealand there and escorted them to (this) Cobden,” he recalls.

He also volunteered with the Cobden Recreation Association.

He was a 1959 graduate of the University of New Brunswick forestry program and spent much of his life working for the betterment of forests in Canada, working at the Petawawa National Forestry Institute (PNFI) for the last 25 years of his career. He also served as a chairman of the Algonquin Forestry Authority (AFA) for many years.

Dave Lemkay of Douglas, who worked at PNFI since the early 1980s until it was closed in the mid-1900s, and in 2019 succeeded him as chairman of the Algonquin Forestry Authority, has many memories of working with Mr. Stewart on local, national and international forestry projects.

“We were both on the promotional committee when the Ottawa Valley was designated the Forestry Capital of Canada in 1984,” Mr. Lemkay recalled. “And we were on the organizing committee for the World Forestry Congress, an event with 3,000 delegates, held in Montreal in 1990. Preliminary work for this event involved the two Daves travelling extensively in Europe and scoping out special forestry projects and ongoing work in the discipline there. They were also involved in collaborating with countries in Southeast Asia including Thailand and countries in Southern Africa.

“Many people have no appreciation of how revered Canada is in the forestry community around the world,” Mr. Lemkay said. “It takes people like Dave to personify the Canadian forest ethic internationally. He had the capacity and capability to professionally represent the Canadian forestry sector abroad.”

Mr. Stewart is survived by his wife, Judy (Crozier), and was predeceased in 1989 by his first wife, Margaret McLeod. He is also survived by four children and two stepchildren and their families, as well as extended family.

As was his request, cremation will take place followed by interment of ashes at a later date. The family requests that memorial donations be made either to Miramichi Lodge or Hospice Renfrew. Arrangements are entrusted to the Fraser-Morris & Heubner Funeral Home.

Flags at the municipal office in Cobden and at the park have been lowered until February 10 in tribute to the late Mr. Stewart.

Marie Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader