New Brunswick

New Brunswick victim of Ethiopia crash remembered for sticking up for 'little guy'

Peter deMarsh carried his dusty, wrinkled hiking boots wherever he went, putting miles on them, whether in the small community of Taymouth, where he lived, or the highlands of Scotland and beyond.

Peter deMarsh of Taymouth was one of 18 Canadians killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash

Peter deMarsh, chair of the International Family Forestry Alliance, has been identified as one of the victims of the Ethiopian Airlines crash. (Facebook/Red Mexicana de Organizaciones Campesinas Forestales)

Peter deMarsh put miles on his dusty hiking boots, whether hiking around the small community of Taymouth where he lived or the forests of Scandinavia and beyond.

"Walking in the woods with Peter was an experience in itself," Bob Austman said Monday as he joined friends and colleagues in mourning deMarsh's death in a weekend plane crash in Ethiopia.

DeMarsh was one of 18 Canadian passengers on the Ethiopian Airlines jet that crashed Sunday morning south of Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people aboard.

Dominic Walubengo, the director of Kenya's Forest Action Network, said deMarsh was on his way to a conference on family-owned forests and climate change in Nairobi.

DeMarsh was the chair of the International Family Forestry Alliance and president of the Canadian Federation of Woodlot Owners.

The impact of his death was felt around the world as international community forest groups expressed their condolences.

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In New Brunswick and other parts of Canada, deMarsh is being remembered for his dedication to stewardship and sustainability.

The 'epitome of stewardship'

Austman, of Manitoba, knew deMarsh for more than 25 years and worked with him through the Canadian Federation of Woodlot Owners.

"Peter was the living epitome of stewardship," he said.

DeMarsh worked tirelessly for landowner rights and was respected across Canada for his work in sustainable forest management, Austman said.

DeMarsh was one of the first vendors at the Taymouth Community Market, selling his organic vegetables. He is pictured here with his wife, Jean Burgess. (Taymouth Community Market Facebook page)

DeMarsh lived sustainability, from tending his own small organic garden to working on environmental issues on a global scale.

"The simpler the better," Austman said. "Sitting down to a breakfast with his own homemade maple syrup on pancakes and homemade vegetable soup from his garden — those are the things that he enjoyed and lived for."

He worked for the landowner rights of the little guy.- Bob Austman, Canadian Federation of Woodlot Owners

Austman said deMarsh's quiet and dignified leadership style had a way of connecting people on opposing sides.

"He worked for the landowner rights of the little guy."

On their many hikes together over the years, Austman said, he could admire deMarsh's eye for stewardship.

"Wherever Peter went, he carried his dusty old, wrinkled hiking boots that he was so proud of."

A loss for the province

Bud Bird of Fredericton worked with deMarsh in the 1980s, during the early days of the Crown Lands and Forests Act, when Bird was the provincial minister of natural resources and deMarsh represented private woodlot owners. 

"He was really a dedicated disciple of the environment and of forestry, and he devoted a good deal of his life to forestry subjects in New Brunswick," Bird said.

DeMarsh's death is a loss for New Brunswick, Bird said.

"​He was a very balanced and genuine and sincere individual," he said.

He was one of my favourite people that I've met in my days in the New Brunswick wood industry.- Bud Bird, former natural resources minister

"I was always taken by and admired his ability to negotiate difficult subjects and to find ways to go as far as we could to get together. And then, when we decided to disagree, we would disagree in a very agreeable way. He was one of my favourite people that I've met in my days in the New Brunswick wood industry."

Rick Doucett, the president of the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners, said he was shocked and saddened by the death of a friend and colleague.

"It's a great loss," said Doucett, who began working with deMarsh on forestry issues in the late 1990s.

'One of the great New Brunswickers'

Doucett said deMarsh's "big passion" was the idea that communities need to be connected to the land around them to understand its benefits.

"If you're talking about private woodlot owners, if you're talking about climate change, if you're talking about community forests, some of that stuff's not readily embraced by the standard political leadership and there's certainly other forces that are working against you," Doucett said.

DeMarsh had a way of bringing people together to work on environmental issues, said Green Party Leader David Coon. (Family Forest Nepal Facebook page)

But deMarsh never got discouraged by the lack of progress, he said.

"In fact, I think it seemed to embolden him further. … He wasn't going to give up on anything."

David Coon met deMarsh in the 1980s, when he started working with woodlot owners.

"I count him as one of the great New Brunswickers," Coon said.

The Green Party leader said deMarsh was dedicated to advancing rural communities dependent on forests for their income.

I count him as one of the great New Brunswickers- New Brunswick Green Party leader David Coon

"He I think demonstrated more than anything that by working together and co-operating we can make real change to better the lives of people," Coon said.

Coon said deMarsh brought the same approach whether he was working in Taymouth or Nairobi.

"People loved him for that."

Premier Blaine Higgs tweeted about deMarsh's death Monday morning, sending condolences to deMarsh's family and community.

DeMarsh was also a founding member and president of the Taymouth Community Association, which spoke out against shale gas development.

A statement released by the association said he created the TCA Writer's Guild and travelled around the world to share his expertise on rural farming and environmental issues.

With files from Jennifer Sweet and Shane Fowler