Nova Scotia

Don Reid, fossil collector, dies at 94

"He was just a great human being. He would help people out if they needed help, and he was just a one of a kind guy," said Brian Hebert, who has been friends with Reid for 25 years.

Reid recently received the Order of Nova Scotia at an October 12 ceremony

Don Reid's fossil collection is now housed at the Joggins Fossil Centre. (Jon Tattrie/CBC)

A life-long fossil collector and member of the Order of Nova Scotia has died. Donald Reid, who was known in Joggins as a "Keeper of the Cliffs," died Thursday. 

"He was just a great human being. He would help people out if they needed help, and he was just a one of a kind guy," said Brian Hebert, who has been friends with Reid for 25 years.  

Hebert recalled meeting Reid on the beach, when Hebert was 12-years-old. Reid was decades older, but they formed a bond over their love of fossils. 

"Particularly in geology, it doesn't really matter how old you are. If you have an interest, you all have the same interest," Hebert said. They both were fascinated by the rocks that resembled plants, bones, or animals.  

"He would tell me he loved how they looked. He wasn't sure what they were - there was something that was different," Hebert said. 

"It was the ones that you weren't really sure what they were, those were the ones that fascinated him, as well as myself. We're always on the outlook for something that's brand new, that nobody's laid eyes on. Because you know you're the first person in the history of mankind that's ever seen this thing. And that's quite intoxicating. It's addictive - you want to be down there quite often."  

Order of Nova Scotia recognition

Mike McLellan, a councillor for the Municipality of Cumberland County said he frequently saw Reid walking along the beach, and even ran into Reid shopping the day before he died.   

"He's always out and about, he's very active for his age - 94-years-old," said McLellan. "Everybody just thought the world of Don."  

Reid worked as a coal miner and had no formal training in paleontology, but through careful observation he amassed a significant collection, which is now housed in the Joggins Fossil Centre.

Reid recently received the Order of Nova Scotia on Oct. 12.

"I was joking around with him and saying 'was he going to wear that medal when he goes to bed?' And by the look on his face he probably would have, just because he was so honoured with the Order of Nova Scotia," said Hebert. 

The honour came after the province recognized his work as "essential" in getting the fossil cliffs designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

McLellan called that designation a source of great pride in Joggins. 

In 2013, Reid received the Laing Ferguson Distinguished Service Award from the Atlantic Geoscience Society.

"He was quiet, he kind of kept to himself," said McLellan. "He'll be missed for sure."

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