Once in a while, we receive a donation that humbles us. Several years ago, Ontario Nature became the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. In this form of planned giving, the donor names Ontario Nature as the beneficiary and receives a tax receipt for the premiums paid annually. The gift is in honour of Graeme Whistance-Smith. Suzanne and Peter, Graeme’s parents, write:
Our son Graeme was born on March 12, 1974. Even as a baby, he always loved to be outdoors. When he was very young, we took him for long walks on the trails along the Credit River valley near our home in Mississauga. We introduced him to the beauty of the rushing water, the dense forest, the bird life and the wildflowers.
When he was only four months old, Graeme became a true camper. We filled the car with baby gear and set off for the northwest shore of the Bruce Peninsula. The fresh air must have agreed with him because he slept soundly each night, oblivious to the storms that raged around our tent. The days, however, were bright and sunny, and he slept in his baby carrier for most of our long walks along the rocky shore.
During the next decade, we camped in most of the provincial parks and conservation areas in southern Ontario. Graeme was able to explore lakes and rivers, sand dunes and wetlands, caves and mighty cliffs and to observe all the wildlife living there. His favourite adventures were in our canoe very early in the morning when many creatures could easily be seen in the water and on the shore.
Graeme was an avid reader. He liked books about nature, but he didn’t read animal stories because he thought that they would be too sad. He read all of Gerald Durrell’s humorous stories about life as a naturalist and a traveller. I think that Graeme would have liked to follow in his footsteps.
At the beginning of Grade 13, Graeme was diagnosed with a very rare bone cancer. Tragically, he died on April 23, 1993 just after his 19th birthday.
Because of his love of nature, we thought that a “Graeme Whistance-Smith Nature Reserve” would be the perfect way for him to be remembered. If he were alive today, Graeme would be very pleased to know that a small part of our beautiful province would be protected in his name as a safe haven for many of the plants and animals that had so fascinated him.
Graeme’s story inspired Ontario Nature to create a Legacy Grove in our Cawthra Mulock Nature Reserve. A tree dedicated to Graeme was the first of many that will be a living legacy in honour of people who have passed away. Every spring, more trees will be planted and more lives will be honoured for people who include Ontario Nature in their estate plans.