Last month, the Shawville area lost a pillar of the community. He was a local business owner and an instructor at Pontiac High School who passed on his knowledge and work ethic not only to his own kids, but many in the area as well.
That man was Sylvio Richard.
He was working in the bush on Dec. 7, 2018 when he was killed in an accident. He was 61.
He left behind his wife of 41 years, Dianne (née Telford), as well as four children, Andrea, Keri-Ann, Nathalie and Sébastien, and three grandchildren: Blair, Zoé and Ethan.
Sylvio was born and raised in Otter Lake and was out working in the forest from a very young age.
“He was in the bush from probably the age of six, seven and by eight years old he was running a chainsaw,” Dianne said.
Dianne grew up in Shawville and the two met at a social function. Sylvio managed to catch her eye (it was his smile, she said), and they were married in 1977. She added with a laugh that he was an active athlete and many games of hockey and broomball had taken their toll on his teeth over the years.
Hervé LaSalle met Sylvio playing hockey 30 years ago and the two were friends from then on.
“He was a very easy person to become friends with, he was so generous and easygoing,” LaSalle said. “We hunted together, we fished together, played hockey … I hated [ice fishing] but I went because he wanted to go.”
Early on in the marriage, Sylvio and Dianne moved to Cochrane, Ont. and Sylvio went to work in the logging industry.
“We were in Cochrane for about 10 months,” Dianne said. “Sylvio’s mom’s side, there were some family there.”
Though the money was good for a while, the couple decided to head back to the Pontiac after a strike stopped work at the company.
“He did really well up there … the people in the camp just loved him,” she said.
He worked for a short time at Campbell’s Bay Ciment and the Hilton Mine before establishing his own welding and fabrication business, Magnalum, in 1985. Sylvio had been renting shop space prior to the construction of the current shop that sits on the edge of Shawville along Hwy. 148.
Dianne noted that over the years the shop was expanded with new office space, as well as areas for sandblasting and painting.
From an early age, his children were involved in the family business.
“They helped a lot. He didn’t let them slow down, he made sure every kid had a job,” Dianne said. “He didn’t want lazy kids, and they all work hard like their dad.”
Sébastien recalled starting out running countless base plates through the drill press as a youngster during his afternoons or days off from school. Under his father’s instruction, he began accumulating welding certificates in his early teens.
He said that though mixing business with family was tough at times, he was grateful to be able to see his wife, sister and dad at work every day.
“Me and my dad, we had our spats, don’t get me wrong, but the best thing [was], we didn’t hold a grudge over anything,” he said. “We’d get mad, we’d yell and scream at each other and that night we’d sit down and have a beer over supper and it was like we’d never fought.”
Sébastien fondly remembered the days where he and his dad worked together on site, or the odd time they would fell trees in
“If he could bring me with him, when we’d be doing a job, I’d be there,” he said.
Outside of work, Sylvio had a love for the outdoors and cultivated a large vegetable patch in his backyard. Dianne recalled the dozens of canned tomatoes and pickles he would process after the harvest.
He also spent plenty of time with friends up at Squaw Lake Outfitters or at the hunting camp up at Oxbow Lake. LaSalle noted that Sylvio managed to bag his first moose earlier in 2018.
Thirteen years ago, Sylvio was approached about filling in as a welding instructor at Pontiac High School. The gig was supposed to only be a few days but turned into a 13-year career, Dianne explained.
“He loved the kids, he loved teaching them,” she said. “He knew his job really well and he was good at it.”
One of his students, Megan Tubman, would go on to marry Sébastien and will be stepping into Sylvio’s big shoes at PHS’ welding department.
“He was a fun guy, liked to take you under his wing and show you stuff. A good teacher,” she said. “Since I graduated I worked beside him, so I learned lots from him … as a teacher, as a boss, as a father-in-law.”
PHS Principal Debra Stephens noted that Sylvio was a hands-on and engaging teacher.
“He had a real way with students, he was quite gentle and yet strong at the same time,” she said.
She recalled one project in particular from several years ago that stood out. Students were given the task of constructing full-size catapults to hurl watermelons and pumpkins across the school field. School admistrators Don Stevens and Mike Dubeau were sent into the field to measure the projectile’s range, not realizing that they might also be used as targets for the students’ siege engines.
“[Sylvio] thought it was just the funniest thing,” she said.
Stephens added that there would be a barbeque in Sylvio’s memory held at the school on Feb. 1.
Sylvio’s devotion to his students was only surpassed by his adoration for his grandkids.
“If my dad wasn’t gone to the bush, my young lad would want to see his père every morning,” Sébastien said. “He lived for us and the grandkids.”
“We were always first, and he was second,” Dianne said.
By Caleb Nickerson
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