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Niagara Falls
Friday, July 12, 2024
Letter: In honour of three special men

Dear editor:

Lord Mayor Betty Disero proclaimed International Men’s Day on Nov. 19 as a day to celebrate men who have made a positive impact on their families, their communities and the world. I would like to talk about three men in Niagara-on-the-Lake whom I count myself privileged to have known.

The first is my father-in-law Georges Masson (1911- 2011). Georges grew up in Nancy, France, became a veterinarian and moved to Quebec in 1935 to teach biology to the monks at Oka.

In 1967, while driving through St. Catharines, he heard an advertisement on a local radio station about property for sale in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

Remembering a steamship trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls in the mid-1930s, he decided to pull off the road and have a look at the town. Planning to retire to the south of France, Georges and his wife Helen instead bought an abandoned house, had it renovated and lived in town for the next 48 years.

Georges established a large garden, which was on the first Niagara Horticultural Society garden tour in the 1990s. He also wrote two books about wine, one called “Wine from Ontario Grapes” and the other, “Vigne et Vin au Canada.” He taught wine appreciation classes in the evenings at Niagara District Secondary School and I am told was known among grape growers here as “the little Frenchman.”

I would also like to mention two “gentlemen of the old school” – men who are always courteous, polite and hold the door open for a woman to enter before them. Not like the current practice of letting the door slam in a woman’s face as she enters the post office.

Jonathan Kormos and his wife bought the oldest house in the village of Queenston in 1960. Jonathan soon became the head of the Queenston Citizens Association, which fought, with success, the building of a 500-home development on a 100-acre farm off the Parkway.

The association, with Jonathan as its head, also fought numerous other proposals for development in Queenston. For that reason, it remains the quiet village it was 200 years ago, except between May and October when the noisy jet boat buses rumble through.

Another person who, like Jonathan, always indulged my interest in the history of the area was Calvin Rand.

Calvin was the son of George Rand II, who made the Marine Midland Bank (founded by Calvin’s grandfather) into the largest banking system in the state of New York.

Born in Buffalo, Calvin always spent summers at Randwood in Niagara-on-the-Lake. With Brian Doherty, he founded the Shaw Festival and was the first chair of its board of directors.

Calvin also established the Niagara Institute at Randwood in the early 1970s. It was an organization that held leadership conferences attended by people such as Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau.

His home was sold first to the Devonian Foundation of Calgary, then became The School of Philosophy, after which it was purchased by Trisha Romance and Gary Peterson who planned to turn it into The Romance Inn. Calvin continued to visit his cottage behind the house until shortly before his death in 2017.

Unfortunately, the estate that he loved so much is now in ruins. 

I hope that in future years, the residents of Queenston will not have to endure jet boat buses travelling from the Parkway to the dock on the Niagara River. And that the next generation of Rands will be happy to visit the John Street estate of their forebearers.

Betsy Masson


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