Valley Lives - Meg Weber

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the December 05, 2012 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Nakkertok ski queen reigned over family 'kingdom'

Cantley ski club co-founder known for quirky art, sharp wit

by Lucy Scholey

On 100 acres in Cantley, where Gatineau City suddenly turns into sprawling farmer's fields, resides the Weber "kingdom."

Christoph Weber uses the word to describe his mother's 50-year-old house that is arguably a historical landmark in the Gatineau Hills. It's where Meg Weber once skied the 10 kilometres of trails that she, with husband Hans, eventually doubled to create the Nakkertok cross-country ski club.

Valley Lives
Hans and Meg Weber, who helped found Cantley's Nakkertok ski club, enjoy a cross-country jaunt in 2002. Meg Weber passed away Nov. 9. Photo courtesy Christoph Weber.

One of the oldest houses in the Gatineau Hills, the "little red cottage," sits on the property. Weber first saw the building, dating back to 1824, beside the Alonzo Wright Bridge and she bought it for $1,000. After it was moved to their Cantley property, the couple rented it out to many people over the decades.

Even Weber's art studio - an addition her husband built in 1995 - is tied to history. Hans Weber used 70-year-old timbers from logging booms to construct the rustic space for his wife's painting, sculpting and pottery.

Now three families are living at the Weber homestead, the Nakkertok membership has grown and the art is mostly packed up in boxes.

On Nov. 9, Nakkertok's cofounder died. Weber was 87.

Weber 'fun-loving,' 'energetic' late in life

Born in Axminster, Devon, in the U.K., Weber moved to Montreal in 1952. The then-27-year old physiotherapist relocated to Banff, where she met her future husband, Hans, during an avalanche rescue.

When the electrical engineer accepted a job in Ottawa with the Geological Survey of Canada, the couple moved to this area with their three sons: Christoph (now a doctor); Richard, (known for his polar expeditions), and Adrian, or "Adi," who died in a drowning accident in 2000, just nine years before the death of his father.

As physically strong as her sharp British wit, Meg Weber could have been an Olympic athlete if it were not for the Second World War intervening, according to Christoph.

Swimming, canoeing and cross-country skiing topped her favourite outdoor activities. Working on their Cantley hobby farm, once home to 24 cattle and a dozen pigs, became another passion for Weber.

She co-founded Nakkertok with Thea Holloway in 1971. Eventually, the Webers built up 400 acres of land, and crisscrossed the trails 24 km from Nakkertok South to North with only one road crossing.

The Webers sold off 300 acres in 2002, but kept the access rights for public trail use. In the couple's latter years, the club created special trails just for the duo near their home at the base of Nakkertok South.

Meg Weber stayed mentally quick into her latter years and was troubled about her move from the family homestead to Le Manoir seniors' residence in Wakefield.

A broken hip in 2010 necessitated the move, according to Christoph Weber. She broke her shoulder a year later

Many Wakefield residents would have known Weber as the sprightly woman who walked the village out of Le Manoir every day. She would stop into the General Store for bananas and cookies, a coffee at Cafe Molo or the Low Down office to drop the latest news.

"It frustrated her that her mind was still going, but her body was not there," said Betzy Meyer, 73, a long-time friend of Weber's. She remembered sleepovers at the house, where she would be served a hot cup of tea in bed, an English tradition the couple reserved for special occasions.

"She was very fun-loving and very energetic in everything she was doing, whether it was art or working on the farm," said Meyer. The two would often craft pottery together over long chats.

As regards her art, Weber saw a face in a whale spinal bone, a quirky body form in an antler or some combination of both. But softer water colour paintings of goats or landscapes also fill her studio space. Weber continued her artful passion until her latter years and some pieces in her studio remain un-finished.

She also participated in the Dragonfest winter festival snowsculpting competition in January. With Wakefield teen Sebastien Benoit-Molgat, the team took first-place for the dragon sculpture Weber first designed on a piece of paper.

After family members get first picks, Christoph Weber said he plans on selling the remaining pieces and giving all proceeds to La Maison des Collines palliative care home that is planned for the region.

There will be a memorial service for Weber at the Wakefield Community Centre on Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to La Maison des Collines. For more information, visit www.lamaisondescollines.org.

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