2008 in review

January marked our first full year living in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Thanks to the many individuals who welcomed us in by inviting us out to such community events as
Robbie Burns Night
, Rotary Club luncheons, Eastern Star lobster dinner as well as into their homes and into their unique lifestyles like commercial fishing on Lake Ontario, poultry farming, waterfront homes and sailing. Also, thanks to those who offered me freelance photo jobs.

Through Lynne’s church and our boys’ school and baseball teams we have been immersed into this community at all levels. In fact it seems that our neighbors just around this block make up the “Who’s Who” of The County — public personalities in business, government, tourism, the art world and, of course, the church. You can’t open a local newspaper or website without seeing at least one familiar face from li’l ol’ Bowery Street!

Last January with this eclectic gang we

Sandbanks beach

We make the most of our water world, spending summer family time at Sandbanks Provincial Park.

held the first-ever Super Bowl party for parents and kids. It didn’t matter that half of us weren’t aware of which teams were playing or whether the NFL had 4 downs or 3 like the CFL. We’re looking forward to the next one on Feb. 1 and if the Steelers make it everyone has to wear black and gold.

Cole computer

Grandpa's office in Mars, Pa. can hold 4 male computer addicts when our family visits. Cole connects wirelessly from the boss' big chair.


Cole’s keyboard skills transpose well between computer and piano. He has become a frequent performer on the church’s new grand piano and is able to enter a zone where he has no awareness of a hundred people watching him; he’s so into his music.

The same happens when he’s on the pitcher’s mound in Little League. You wouldn’t think this quiet little guy with a simple motion and delivery would be such a threat but it was remarkable how many opponents he struck out. And on the base paths there was no stopping him, not even me waving my arms as the third base coach. Remember, he’s a runner.

Cole, 11, was recently asked what sports he plays. “I’m a runner,” he replied. That is true in more ways than one. For instance, today I told him he couldn’t play computer games all weekend so he ran away.

When he returned he agreed to do his school project (on the computer of course). We suggested that he choose a topic that he knows personally. He immediately chose “Addiction to technology” and is enthusiastically researching it on the Internet as we speak.

We don’t accept all of his topic ideas, however. Last year for the science fair he wanted to do a study on the effects to someone who played video games all night, and he wanted to be the research subject.

Cole and cats

There is one thing that can pull Cole away from the computer--cats. Here he volunteers some patting and play time at the Loyalist Humane Society.

Ski trip

Phil and Cole on school ski trip to Oshawa Ski Club.

Luke putty

A typical Luke creation; they're everywhere!

Although Mommy cringes every time she finds all us boys on our respective computers, it is a form of 21st century literacy that Cole has definitely acquired. He now films home videos and uploads them onto an account he set up on YouTube. He chats with fellow World of Warcraft game players all over the world, originally by typing, now with a mic and headset. Proud father could go on and on about each of his offspring, so let’s move along to “the smart one” (as Luke was dubbed by his brother).

Everyone at school knows Luke and he knows everything about everybody from pre-K’s to Grade 8’s. (At Sonrise Christian Academy that means about 45 students.) Not only does his academic achievement warrant mostly A’s, he is very much a people person and true to his February 14 birthday, a true lover of life. A millennium baby, he’ll turn 9 in 2009.

Luke’s mantra could be “Drawings ‘R Us”. There is so much of his art lying around the house that I agreed to let him use some of it today to learn how to light matches and build a fire out in the snow. He got a digital camera for Christmas and by all indications Dad has finally found the son who will carry on the 5th generation of the Norton photography tradition. We will soon post some of his Photoshop creations on his website www.lukenorton.com.

Luke Norton


Luke at his desk and with the entire private school in Picton, Ontario, Canada.

Sonrise Christian Academy

Which brings us to our favorite wireless, jet-setting, perfectly bilingual, gorgeous daughter Gabrielle, 21. Now in her second year at the University of Ottawa, she is juggling a full line-up of business courses with demanding early and late work hours at the Starbucks coffee shop on Elgin Street, just a couple blocks from the Canadian Parliament.

Candee jumping

Gabrielle and Candee negotiate jumps at a competition in Blainville, Quebec.

Last summer she decided to go back to showing Candee at jumping competitions and, despite a number of scares about her horse’s health, the duo brought home some impressive ribbons at famous venues like Blainville, north of Montreal.

Gabrielle Norton

For her summer job she returned as a bank teller where she had worked 2 years before with her aunt Marie-Claude in L’Assomption, Quebec. That’s where her mother Brigitte still lives and commutes to work in Montreal.

Isn’t it ironic that just as Grandpa Charles fazes out his lifelong career as a banker, in the footsteps of his father and his father before that, Gabrielle steps into that line of work! You might have noticed there was a one-generation gap in that family tradition.

Who me?

Phil in forest Phil in his forest on Covey Hill, Franklin, Quebec. Through a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy of Canada, a grove of old-growth hemlocks is being declared "forever wild" and a management plan for the sugarbush will guarantee that this woodlot is safe from over-exploitation so it will remain in a natural state.

I have been working very hard doing what I do, whatever that is, you are probably asking. Well, for starters, I look after the church minister, plus 2 rambunctious boys, but most of all, trips back and forth to our farm, keeping the property in order and going through the hoops to sell it has consumed most of my energy, www.hightrails.net.

We had a signed, conditional purchase offer all summer but that buyer backed out mostly due to my zeal in protecting the mature hemlock forest and rare salamander habitat with a conservation easement, but also the effect of the economic crisis.

Sun in trees

Fortunately now we have another signed buyer and all being well we will turn over the key in February. The 2 years back and forth (4 hours down Highway 401) since our move has given me a transition time to realize that we are truly leaving the farm with its ski trails and maple syrup, and the Chateauguay Valley and “Le Quebec”. We miss all of it and hope that we can keep contact with our friends in that unique community and make return visits to one of the most beautiful regions in Canada. ›


My mountain bike gets me around, parked here in northern Pennsylvania.

At age 77, both Chuck and Lois show little sign of slowing down. Besides their various social engagements and maintenance of home and rental storefronts in Mars, they keep making the long drive to Canada again and again, and successfully organized our whole family to join them to the Dominican Republic at New Year’s.

Lois Norton

Mom with tuliptree leaf. We found time for a day trip through Penn's Woods West this fall which ended with a stop to a local apple cider mill with Amish women selling donuts.

Dad and I are gradually working on digitizing the collection of antique family photos. He has an online family tree in the works for his Irvines and Nortons. Some of Mom’s Jeroy puzzle was pieced together in Canada when a Picton friend led us to information about their lives in Ontario and origins in France.

Just as my grandparents embraced the turn-of-the-century inventions of the automobile and cameras, our whole family is full speed ahead into the new technology of computers and digital media.

Old car

Copying old photos like this one of Grandma Ethel taking the wheel while Averill captures the moment with his Kodak Bulls-Eye camera.

Career-wise I look forward to continuing to make photo documentaries of various regions of Quebec where I now publish 4 annual calendars, and stock photo contracts with tourism agencies and writing the occasional travel article for The Montreal Gazette. The same sort of work could open up in Ontario where inroads have been made by getting the cover photo of the County’s tourism guide, but there are a dozen other photographers around here so I am looking into teaching media at the high school or college level.

I build websites for clients but like the cobbler’s kids that have no shoes I rarely get around to designing my own. So, in December 2008, in honor of the 50th anniversary of a conservation book that inspired me, I launched the website www.pennswoodswest.com and look forward to populating it with many of my photos, essays and audio recordings from the revisits I have been making over the years to the special natural areas of western Pennsylvania.

My environmental experience allowed me to be appointed to Quinte Conservation’s Source Protection Committee, which is part of a pioneering, Ontario-wide program to protect municipal drinking water sources. On Valentine’s Day I will perform as a soloist with the Butler County Symphony Orchestra. Of course I will not be playing an instrument, rather illustrating a composition with my photos as part of the orchestra’s 60th anniversary.

Dad will be in his tux in the woodwind section as usual. He has been with the symphony since the beginning and has enjoyed a run of publicity on Pittsburgh television stations that interviewed him in studio.

Charles Norton clarinet

Charles Norton, 60 years playing clarinet for the BCSO.

Studio WQED

Dad and another member of the Butler County Symphony Orchestra prepare for an interview in the studios of WQED in Pittsburgh.

Although we missed the Irvine Family Reunion and American Thanksgiving in Mars this year, we met up with most of the Dobson / Howard relatives in Atlanta in October for cousin Darren’s wedding. And we reunited with our various Texas, California and Virginia (Jeroy lineage) kin on visits to Mars. There were also funerals of close friends which also serve to reunite old acquaintances.

Lynne’s father Walter Donovan, 83, shown below at far right, is still traveling worldwide and is still a walking encyclopedia of old songs and poetry. He moved from Buffalo, NY to Regina, Saskatchewan, visited a son in Athens, Greece, made frequent visits to his homeland in rural Ontario, and accompanied us to Pennsylvania and to Quebec for Thanksgiving with great country friends and neighbors (below).

Thanksgiving meal

Did I forget anyone?

Lynne Donovan

Lynne saw a long-time dream come true as her church opened a Ten Thousand Villages store in Picton.

Ten Thousand Villages

At this time with our countries at war and the world in recession, we feel blessed to be able to take actions like this for Third World sustainability, and with environmental threats like global warming, the conservation of wild forest and groundwater on our farm.

... Oh yeah, my cute little wifey. One image of the minister immediately comes to mind; she was in fine form mixing drinks at home on Christmas Eve after the big candlelight service at the church.

When Lynne’s not losing her mind around Luke and Cole and me she is successfully guiding the congregation into many new directions, inspiring them from the pulpit and bringing out their individual skills.

Most notable is the purchase of a store on Picton’s Main Street where they have established a fair trade store, Ten Thousand Villages, to support Third World artisans. We are both shareholders in this “business” venture and invite anyone else to join us by investing in a $10,000 share.

Lynne Donovanti

The Reverend mixing Cointreau on Christmas Eve!

Gabrielle's birthday

The siblings choose from the menu for Gabrielle's 21st birthday in Ottawa.

Pearl the kitten

And we got to meet the newest member of our family, Pearl, the white kitten at Gab's apartment.


More family snapshots:
Spooky trip to Ottawa

On 11-11 Gabrielle turned 21. We had a family gathering in Ottawa to celebrate and visit the nation's capital.

We spent a night in the warden's room of the old (haunted) Ottawa jailhouse which is now a youth hostel.

Ottawa jail



© Photos 2008 by PN