I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that if it weren’t for Harold Jessup, I would not be a whitewater paddler. Ok, maybe calling myself a whitewater paddler is a bit of a stretch, but whatever paddling skills I possess today are courtesy of the muscle memory formed as a child, up at Palmer Rapids on Jessup’s Campground with my family.
Harold owned a stretch of land along one of the most beautiful corners of the Madawaska River just west of the town of Palmer Rapids, where hundreds – probably thousands – of whitewater pros and newbs have been honing their skills, discovering innate bravery, and exploring their love of nature and adventure.
My first trip to Jessup’s Campground was about 30 years ago, though the bulk of my visits have been in the past ten years. I have an indelible memory of Harold and his wife of 72 friggin’ years, Lucinda, cruising around their land in a little VW, hauling milk crates of wood and collecting cash from my friends and I. Always chatty, always friendly, always welcoming.
Harold died a couple weeks ago, on September 22. Truly the end of an era in Ottawa.
Harold Lloyd Jessup
April 12, 1925 – September 22, 2018
Choose to chance the rapids
Dare to dance the tides
Harold was born on April 12, 1925 in Palmer Rapids to his parents, Renetta Michaelis and John George Jessup, and was a sibling to John and Douglas Jessup. He didn’t settle very far from his childhood home when he married Lucinda Hartwick on May 10, 1944. Together, they had four children; Stanley, Verna, Morley and a baby girl who passed away at birth. Harold has eight grandchildren: Annette, Corey, Michelle, Vicki, Shelley, Colette, Yvette and Duane. He also has five great-grandchildren: Hannah, Caitlin, Jack, Jonathan, and Marlo.
Harold lived a simple, but full life. He became the patriarch of the family, just by being his authentic self; strong, hard-working and confident, with some stubbornness thrown in. Harold wasn’t afraid of hard work. He had a job in construction, was a bus driver and then started his own insurance company, all while maintaining a farm that he loved.
Even though Harold loved his life on the farm, he also loved travelling to Cuba, Florida, British Columbia and the Maritimes. Harold had the ability to connect with people from all walks of life. He wasn’t afraid of the human race and he wasn’t afraid to be himself. Harold was also a visionary. It takes a special person to be able to look ahead to the future and decide what the world needs. Harold was one of those people. He knew the unique treasure that he had in his land beside the Madawaska River, and he knew that it needed to be shared with a larger population. He began by allowing one canoer to come to the property, that most people now refer to as “Jessup’s campsite”, to ride the rapids. It didn’t take long for the knowledge of the beauty of that place to be spread by word of mouth, and the number of kayakers and canoers increased each year. Every spring, Harold’s demeanour became lighter with the anticipated return of his campers.
Harold continued farming and running the campsite until 91 years of age, along with his wife. We are grateful for those 91 years. A lesson that both Harold and Lucinda have taught us is that living life and hard work can help keep us vibrant. Perhaps the best way for us to honour Harold’s memory is to work hard, be more open to share a story with a stranger, and be willing to consider the future and what we can do to make it better.
The family would like to thank the Doctors and Nurses of St. Francis Memorial Hospital for caring for Harold for the past year. In memory of Harold, please consider a donation to the ALS society.