Photo: Mollie Cartmell in a tartan sweater and a scarf. In the background are blue waves.​

It is with sadness that we mark the passing of long-time Canadian Canoe Museum volunteer Mollie Cartmell, who died in her riverside home in Peterborough on August 10th. Anyone involved in museum affairs, certainly anyone who attended any of the dozens of events that occurred since the Museum’s inception in the mid-1990s, will remember Mollie. She would appear quietly, usually sometime after the event had begun, and then methodically work her way through the crowd documenting everything that was going on with her camera, often shepherding people into groups or clutches with her unmistakeable Dunfirmline burr as she backed up onto a chair and clicked away, before vanishing back into thin air. And then, collages of these photos would appear on the volunteer bulletin board or in newsletters and, famously, in the handmade calendars she would distribute to museum friends and allies at year’s end. Her photos are an important record of the Museum’s evolution going back to its very beginnings in Peterborough.

Mollie, an English and Phys Ed teacher at Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School, came to Canada from Scotland in 1969 and to the Museum in the 90s through her work at the Peterborough YMCA (of which she was the first female board chair) and the Peterborough and District Sports Hall of Fame (of which she was a founding director and eventual inductee for her exemplary work as a winning field hockey and soccer coach and her decades-long involvement in the Canadian Olympic movement). She brought with her a passion for and commitment to community building and a network of friendships and connections that allowed her to contribute behind the scenes to the growth and evolution of the Museum through its early years. Notably, Mollie was a member of the ad hoc Volunteer Committee that nourished the spirit of The Canadian Canoe Museum by meeting off-site and keeping the volunteer flame burning through the difficult times while the Museum was closed for restructuring in 2006-2007.

More recently, Mollie was a member of the volunteer committee who, along with staff, planned and executed the signature Canadian Canoe Museum fundraiser, The Beaver Club Gala, that ran from 2008-2018 and raised over a million dollars for museum programs. It was Mollie who would channel her Scottish Nor’Wester Spirit and, during the setup period for the event, instruct everyone in the proper voyageur’s knotting procedure for cinching a ceinture fléshée around the waist. And then, of course, she would appear after the event had begun, take her photos, and be gone—the proud ‘lassie fray Fife’ who had mastered the quintessential Irish goodbye without a word, her leaving marked by the taillights of a vintage Volvo sedan disappearing into the darkness.

Now, as Mollie paddles on, The Canadian Canoe Museum remembers and thanks her for her many contributions over the years. Mollie leaves behind many friends, memories, and photographs to carry on her legacy. 

A more fulsome obituary detailing her many awards and other accomplishments, written by Mollie’s longtime friend and ally Ken Armstrong, is published on the Ashburnham Funeral Home and Reception Centre website, where there is also a digital wall where tributes and memories of Mollie can be shared.