On Sunday, October 27th community members from Taymouth and greater New Brunswick travelled to the Taymouth Community Association and walked down a quiet dirt road, on a mild fall day to gather for the interment of Peter deMarsh. There had been two prior memorials at Wilmot United Church and another at the Taymouth Community Association. Lifelong friend, Sandra English read a beautiful poem about our River Valley and community, we sang a few hymns and then made our way back to the community centre where Peter spent much of his time.
In the summer of 2016, I had the privilege of working with Peter for a few weeks on the family’s large riverside gardens. My neck was sore, my hands were blistered and the no-see-ums had made their way under my bug jacket. I felt quite miserable but, as I watched Peter happily hoeing his parsnips and not complaining, I kept my complaints to myself and concentrated on pulling weeds. My physical reward was produce delivered to me in September. The memory of spending a bit of time with Peter in the garden, a much better reward.
Having only come to the community in the winter of 2015 I feel very much welcomed and a part of Taymouth. I’m still getting to know many, and getting to know neighbours better. One thing that I can say for certain is that I have an admiration for the whole deMarsh family. Jean with her work in our community and also for decades of work in Namibia, Luke for his work with in environment and First Nations and Peter for his work in community building and family/community forestry. I would say that there is something more to this family, more than the work that they do… it is a quiet humbleness that is admirable.
In my observation of Peter, he was extraordinarily present; a fairly uncommon trait in modern life. Peter would look at you sincerely when you spoke, take a pause to work the idea through, and then respond. This deep sense of personal respect surely helped him in his work with large groups, communities and governments. Diplomacy is one word that comes to mind, but sometimes diplomats are working on their own agendas. My feeling is that Peter worked until people felt heard, respected and satisfied. I’d be willing to bet a lot, that he never said one thing and then did another.
As someone who cares deeply about rural community development and the environment, I will continue to be inspired by Peter’s work and way of holding space for people. For the many others who have also been inspired, one way that we can give back is by donating to the Peter deMarsh Memorial Award. This fund will be administered jointly through the Canadian Federation of Woodlot Owners, the International Family Forest Alliance and UPA Développement International.
The fund will create bursaries for Canadian or International graduate students who are conducting research at a Canadian University on rural community development, woodlot owner’s associations or the role of woodlot owners in helping to solve pressing local, national and international issues relating to equality, opportunity and sustainability. The fund may also be used to provide financial support to give voice to representatives from grassroots community organizations in Canada and internationally seeking to attend an international conference on developing rural communities through forestry.
Donate to the Peter deMarsh Memorial Fund here.
Amy Floyd runs the Permaculture Atlantic Network, works with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and is deeply passionate about rural rights and earth/ community healing work.