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Discussion: Pierre Brassard and Ginette Cormier

in: Orienteering; General

May 18, 2015 2:23 PM # 
From our Orienteering Ontario Facebook page - I'm sure many of you met these lovely people over the years. Pierre was the president of Orienteering Ottawa at the time of his death and also when they hosted the North American Orienteering Championships last fall.

Dear Members and Friends of Orienteering Ontario:

It is with deep sadness that we are informing you of the sudden death of Pierre Brassard and his wife Ginette Cormier in a tragic accident.

Pierre and Ginette were long-time members of Orienteering Ottawa and Pierre was in his second year as president of the club. Prior to coming to Ottawa, Pierre and Ginette were in Hamilton where Pierre was an integral part of the Golden Horseshoe Orienteering Club (now Dontgetlost).

Pierre was a soft spoken gentleman who had a deep passion for the outdoors. He thrived when challenged with the most difficult parts of any orienteering competition. Although often found navigating the long course, Pierre’s favourite orienteering disciplines were ultra-long races and rogaines.

Ginette would often participate in the club’s recreational events and was a fixture at the finish line cheering on runners whilst waiting for Pierre to return. Ginette was also a committed volunteer for the club, contributing her great energy and joyful smile to the tasks at hand.

Both will be sorely missed. A book of condolences for Pierre and Ginette was signed at today's Orienteering Ottawa meet in Arnprior.

On behalf of all the orienteers in Ontario we would like to extend our prayers and condolences to both Pierre and Ginette’s families.
May 18, 2015 4:07 PM # 
Pierre was also a former President of Golden Horseshoe Orienteering (now DontGetLost Adventure Running) and also a former colleague of mine at McMaster University in Earth and Environmental Sciences. He will be greatly missed by the orienteering and academic communities alike.

Pierre championed the 'just get out there' participation aspect of our sport. While at GHO he introduced 'D' meets. Simple event set-up to get more people outdoors. Less time organizing and more time 'well you know' (as he would always say) to just have more fun. These events were the foundation of what would become the THOMASS series in southern Ontario. Despite the 'keep it simple' approach to the sport Pierre also developed an electronic finish timing system (pre SI) that was used at the 1994 Great Lakes O Fest. He also developed a simple checkpoint lighting system that was adopted at GHO night events to get more people to enjoy night navigation.

His wife Ginette while not as active in orienteering was a key part of GHO's social committee and also enjoyed participating in rogaines with Pierre.

It would be a tribute to Pierre and Ginette's memories if OOC and DGL could combine their efforts to create an event or challenge that encourages participation.
May 18, 2015 4:45 PM # 
I'm very sad to hear this news. Perhaps my most vivid memory of Pierre is from the time when he was participating in one of our rogaines perhaps fifteen years ago, and came limping back into the hash house in the middle of the night with his partner (Jim Waddington, I think). He had slipped on a wet log many kilometers out on the course, and had driven the splintered end of a broken branch ten or fifteen cm into his leg. Despite his obvious pain, he was still quite cheerful when he arrived back at the start, and was reassuring us that he was really perfectly OK, that his partner would just drive him off to the local hospital emergency room and that we didn't need to have any further concerns about him. Definitely one of those people who always loved being out in the woods, even when things weren't going very well, and thinking about the concerns of others even above his own convenience.
May 18, 2015 5:43 PM # 
Pierre and Ginette. Just really fine people. So sad.
May 18, 2015 7:50 PM # 
I never met them. But I am saddened to hear about this loss. Sending positive vibes towards Ottawa.
May 19, 2015 1:11 AM # 
There are so many Pierre and Ginette stories that it hard to know where to start. I never tired of hearing Pierre retell our rogaine adventures in CNYO country. The retelling got better every year.

Hammer mentioned, “Despite the 'keep it simple' approach to the sport Pierre also developed an electronic finish timing system (pre SI) that was used at the 1994 Great Lakes O Fest.” This system wasn’t so simple and thankfully so.

Pierre’s program included a rudimentary attempt at automatically storing and using registration information. Just as he finished inputting all the data he was about to present to me the only floppy disk. The disk fell from his outstretched hand and passed right through a crack in our newly constructed cedar deck. We dismantled the deck successfully.

The competitors passed through a light beam at the finish, the computer recorded their time, we input their bib number and the program looked up their information and did the necessary calculations. Just the sort of thing that we do with SI now. The output was displayed on at large CRT monitor. (before the days of laptops). We could printout lists are class and course. Very nice.

However, on the Saturday of the O’fest the finish was in a sandy parking lot. Just as the last finishers were arriving the sky turned black, thunder and lightening and high winds. Hurriedly we started to type in the commands to print out results. Just then the wind picked up the sand from the ground. Somehow it got into the back of our computer; there was a little smoke, the computer shut down and the screen turned black. There goes our copy of all the results!

Back to describing Pierre. He was unflappable. Just like Eldersmith said, remarkably “he was still quite cheerful.” A crowd was assembling for the prize giving and we didn’t have a clue who had won. Pierre calmly announced that it was very dangerous for us all to be outside with this thunderstorm about to hit. Please leave immediately. We will give out the awards tomorrow. As far as I know none of the competitor guessed that we couldn’t give out the awards right then.

Don’t worry, Pierre assured me. I t was only then that I found out that Pierre had been storing every keystroke entered and the automatically recorded finishing times on a separate file on a floppy. We spent the evening in a metal roofed building at our campsite, in the thunderstorm, recovering everything.

With his usual big smile, Pierre had saved the day.
May 19, 2015 2:08 AM # 
Hey Hamilton! I love the idea of an Ottawa/DGL collaboration to create a tribute event to Pierre and Ginette. Something with the Ottawa Rogaines and the DGL Raid events? Something to make Pierre smile once again. Thanks Mike and Jim for the idea!
May 19, 2015 2:27 AM # 
Pierre was one of five participants in the 1968 first Canadian Orienteering Championships still known to be active in Canadian orienteering circles. I believe he was our first Junior Men's champion. I first encountered him in 1970. He was a nice young man then and ever since.
In recent years I didn't know him to be so competitive but the last time I saw him was as we finished the recent Challenge the Gats Rogaine. He was just elated with how well he had been able to move through the terrain and that he had had a clean run. Even after 46 years the thrill of orienteering still created sparks in him.
He also had developed a passion for flying. His retirement project had been building his own plane.

An eye witness account of their accident says it was quite horrific.
Pierre and Ginette were flying in Pierre's home made ultra light plane approaching an airfield in St Lazare, Quebec. It was then seen nose diving straight toward the ground from an altitude of several hundred feet.
Rest in Peace Pierre and Ginette. We miss you.
May 19, 2015 3:00 AM # 
Yes, Pierre was the first ever Canadian men's Champion. I believe M20E in 1968 was the elite men's category.
May 19, 2015 10:56 AM # 
John Disley of Great Britain was the first Canadian Senior Men's Champion. Pierre was the Junior Men's Champion.
Category designations such as H 21 E, soon to be replaced by M 21 E, did not come until some years later.
May 19, 2015 8:37 PM # 
The memories make me smile, so let's try to continue with them. When Pierre and Ginette lived in Hamilton, I did some painting in their house. We would spend hours talking about English as they learned new words and phrases. They were both particularly fascinated with idioms. Pierre, Ginette and I shared many laughs about these. Fast forward a few years and Pierre was sharing a cabin with my family at an orienteering race in Ottawa. This was just after the ice storm of 1998 and the woods were physically challenging. We were all exhausted after the first day of racing. My father lay down on the bottom bunk and exclaimed, "I'm pooped!" Pierre looked to me, his eyebrow cocked just slightly. And then he said, "I am hoping this ''I'm popped' thing is one of these very strange English sayings which mean something completely different than what the words say." We all had a great laugh. So many fun stories about these two. Keep them coming please!
May 21, 2015 12:28 PM # 
Pierre was a pioneer in many respects. He was my first PhD student to enrol in INRS Eau's new program in the early 1980's. Very creative, he designed many experimental instruments to facilitate his research; he was incredibly good at thinking 'outside-the-box' . As a couple, I was very impressed with how he and Ginette had such a thorough understanding of each other.
Anecdotally, I remember sitting in an A&W with him, and the restaurant's mascot came in and extended his hand to Pierre. Straight-faced, Pierre looked at him, without flinching and said: ' No thanks, I don't do politics'.
May 27, 2015 4:41 AM # 
From their family:

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Pierre Brassard and Ginette Cormier on May 14, 2015. They leave to mourn a large family and many friends and colleagues from Ontario and Quebec.

The family will receive condolences in Montreal on June 6 from 1:00 to 7:00 pm at Alfred Dallaire Memoria complex, 1120 Jean-Talon, Montreal

No flowers please. Contributions can be made in their memory to the Golden Horseshoe Orienteering Club (c/o Michael Waddington, 99 Bond St N, Hamilton ONT L8S 3W4
Jun 1, 2015 6:43 PM # 
My best Pierre story:

One sunny Fall day in Gatineau I was running full tilt on a Long Advanced when I passed Pierre in the woods. A few seconds later I arrived at a ledge bordering an opening in the forest. Without hesitating I leapt from the embankment and plunged mid stride into a chest deep pond freshly disguised by fallen leaves. Stunned and completely soaked, I turned around to find Pierre above the shore inspecting his map. He looked down and all business informed me: "The swamp is marked on the map you know." He then sauntered off, leaving me to sheepishly paddle back to land, a big smile on my face.
Jun 1, 2015 10:16 PM # 
posted this memory on Facebook, but thought I should share it here too....

I will always remember racing at Bark Lake many, many years ago. The woods were thick and there was a lot of deadfall. I had made many errors in my nav. I was not enjoying myself at all. After what seemed like an eternity of fighting my way around this course, along bounds Pierre with a wildly huge grin on his face. "It's like Indiana Jones?!" he shouted at me. He was beaming, thoroughly enjoying his adventure.

This discussion thread is closed.