EDITOR’S NOTE: Manitoulin is being transformed with the influx of new residents and business owners who bring with them fresh ideas, experiences and perspectives that are enriching the area. Some individuals and families are still unpacking boxes, having only moved in the past month or two, while others made the over the last few years and are now comfortably established in their new communities. Here are some of their stories.
by Heather Marshall
“I never imagined myself living in the suburbs, but when they’re outside Manitowaning, it’s just fine with me,” laughs Lynne Dee Sproule, from her home in Sunsite Estates. After leaving her hometown of Espanola in her teens, she spent almost her entire adult life in big cities in southern and eastern Ontario. That invariably involved living in a downtown core where she could easily walk to work, shopping, and entertainment or catch public transit just steps from her door. The thought of commuting to the ‘burbs was never part of her life’s plan.
Based in Ottawa following university, Lynne Dee spent the first half of her career as a consultant specialized in organizational and policy issues, working primarily for Indigenous communities as well as non-governmental organizations. That was followed by a move into the public sector, again engaged in policy work on a range of socio-economic files with the federal government. However, for all the years Lynne Dee lived in an urban centre, her heart remained in Northern Ontario and, as the years passed, more and more it belonged to Manitoulin. So, the home she and her husband, Henry Mink, purchased in what she jokingly refers to as the “suburbs of Manitowaning” in the fall of 2019 is a perfect fit for the latest chapter in her life.
Like lots of youth living on the North Shore, Lynne Dee had spent time on the Island visiting the family camps and cabins of friends and attending Tehkummah Saturday night dances whenever she could. She also worked in Sheguiandah at the Gables as a teenager and loved it. But it was only when her parents retired and bought a place at Leask Point near Black Rock Lodge that the love affair evolved into a determination to one day make Manitoulin her permanent home.
“We spent lots of time there over the summer months, especially when the kids were young. My Dad and Mom would take them on adventures around the Island, so our sons have grown up loving the Manitoulin as much as me,” says Lynne Dee. “Henry will tell you how grumpy I could be when we had to leave. He says we always had a fight as we approached city limits.”
After retiring from government, Lynne Dee was able to spend more time on Manitoulin, continuing to work remotely as a consultant. She passed a winter solo several years ago, living in Little Current, as she supported her mother through hip replacement surgery and scouted out potential locations to move to when Henry was ready to join her.
“I feel so at home here and always have, but my concern was, how will Henry do? The biggest challenge in making the move was getting Henry onside, not wanting him to feel coerced into it.”
Henry had lived his entire life in major centres, having been born in Cleveland, Ohio before being raised in Toronto. After meeting Lynne Dee and moving to Ottawa he became a confirmed nature buff—an avid cross-country skier, snowshoer and hiker in Gatineau National Park. Yet, he admits that going for a walk on a pitch-dark night on his first trip to her family’s cabin was daunting. “It scared the heck out of me! I was convinced there was a bear or wolf lurking nearby out to get me.”
Henry spent most of his career working in the capital’s high-tech sector for firms including Newbridge Networks, Alcatal and Nokia. As retirement approached, and with Lynne Dee itching to move to Manitoulin, he decided to test-drive Island life before fully committing by working remotely for one final year to see whether he could cope with the isolation during the winter months.
“Being here in summer was one thing but I couldn’t imagine winters without movies, restaurants and live concerts,” says Henry. “Boy, was I wrong! We are now almost a year into retirement and it’s so fantastic being here year-round, with beautiful scenery everywhere you look and so much to explore and do. You can head out the back door to go snowshoeing or stargazing. I especially love that people have time to get to know each other here.”
Taking daily walks with their beloved rescue dog, Karma, has helped enormously in getting to know their neighbours. And the couple has found there is no shortage of interesting people to spend time with. Prior to COVID, Lynne Dee was active in the Burns Wharf Theatre Players in Manitowaning, satisfying her lifelong passion for theatre and music. She is fulsome in her praise for the many artists and artisans she has met since making the move.
“We are living on an island where half the population is First Nations, so we are in such a culturally and historically rich place. Like lots of island cultures and communities, Manitoulin is a magnet for artistic people and talent. The people who come here just for the summer don’t realize there is an active and vibrant community throughout all four seasons.”
For Henry, it’s the beauty of nature, the camaraderie of welcoming locals and laid-back lifestyle that makes him feel so at home. It would be hard to get the former city boy back into an urban centre now that he’s had such a positive taste of country life. “I loved living in Ottawa, but it’s just not the same and I’m enjoying the Island just as much or more.”
Heather Marshall and her husband worked as journalists and communications consultants in the National Capital Region for more decades than they care to admit before making their Sandfield summer cottage their permanent home. A lifelong learner, Heather loves discovering new things and people and relishes the opportunity to write about newcomers to the Manitoulin. If you would like to share your story or know of recent arrivals we should meet, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.