Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan
Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan
I’m hoping this isn’t the start of something big, but we are about to lose the first doctor from the wave of young family physicians who came to the Pontiac in the 1970s and ‘80s. Maurice and France Lamarche are retiring and moving to Gatineau at the end of this year. This isn’t far, but their move marks the end of a remarkable era, centred at the Pontiac Community Hospital. Although new physicians still arrive (and leave), there is today no wave of optimism with an influx of family doctors – for which Pontiac became well known and well-served.
Arriving in 1976 (France in 1977), the Lamarches were not convinced they’d stay, and gave themselves five years. Forty-five years later, they are among the first of that influx to say goodbye to the friends
and comrades with whom they’ve spent such influential years of their careers.
Maurice leaves with a CV full of service and community involvement. He spent many years on
the hospital’s board – and is still there, scheduling doctors for long-term care. He has participated on numerous hospital committees. His managerial skills and financial acumen made him a natural to manage the Main Street doctors’ clinic before the arrival of the Lotus Clinic. A member of the Society
of Rural Physicians – a national organization Pontiac doctors founded – he was also Treasurer of the local GMF, Quebec’s organization of family doctors which has become a model for other provinces.
Also an active lover of the natural world, Maurice joined Lionel Tessier in setting up and managing the Base Macrocarpa campground near Davidson, along the Ottawa River.
Maurice’s patient list stretched from the Upper Pontiac down to the Municipality of Pontiac. He was an emergency room stalwart for many years. And while it is difficult to imagine replacing him, France’s own participation and contributions to her community here will also leave huge gaps to fill.
France and Maurice raised two accomplished sons, Julien and Daniel, and France never ended her vocation of teacher and model for Pontiac’s kids. She was one of the founders of the Children’s Activity Program (CAP) which brought an eye-opening list of activities to central Pontiac – dance, gymnastics, Judo, plus arts and crafts. She was also one of the founders of the Pontiac School of the Arts, nationally-recognized, which grew to be included under the umbrella of the Pontiac Artists’ Association (artPontiac). She served as president of artPontiac for six years, and continues – perhaps even at a distance! – to volunteer with this valuable organization.
France’s interest in education led her to volunteer with Bourses Pontiac which fundraises and awards scholarships for Pontiac youths’ post-secondary education — for over twenty years. She was a local organizer of the Cancer Society’s Daffodil Days, Relay for Life, and the local wig-distribution centre.
She was a central figure in Pontiac’s Women’s Wellness Network and Feel Fit program.
As artist Valerie Bridgeman has commented, France personified the expression "still waters run deep". She was a member of St Edward’s parish and a loyal member of the church choir. Her lovely alto voice graced several other choirs, and this will be one of her retirement activities, for certain.
"We are not going far," Dr Lamarche insists; they have family in the urban region, and given their activities, their participation ethos and love of the natural world — from gardening to kayaking — no doubt they will spend time in the Pontiac, and the Pontiac will remain a big part of their own hearts.
As we say goodbye, we note that the 1970-80’s wave of young physicians is turning; we will have fewer family doctors — even Ontario across the river is facing a shortage of physicians. Isn’t this
our problem now, best approached earlier than later? We must thank them all for their service, dedication, and for the robust health-care system they’ve created here for us. Every one of them, including
the Lamarches, have made our lives in the Pontiac immeasurably richer, healthier and happier.