• Alex 50km Lahti Champion
    • Margaret-Ann (Meg) Crockford-Weber

      November 26, 2012

      Margaret-Ann (Meg) Crockford-Weber, 1925-2012
      The Matriarch of Nakkertok: A cross-country race wasn’t complete without a bowl of soup and a ‘Meg mug’ for the winner


      Meg Weber and her husband Hans loved cross-country skiing, so when they and their friends felt there wasn’t enough scope for the sport, they did the only logical thing.
      They created a ski club on and around the Weber family farm in Cantley.
      For four decades, Meg Weber was not just a founder of the Nakkertok Nordic club, but its social centre, the woman who made race prizes and invited skiers into her farmhouse for tea.
      As the years passed, she played a central role in expanding to new territory, making the cross-country club Canada’s largest.
      Mrs. Weber died Nov. 9 at the age of 87, after a rich career as a physiotherapist, artist, ski entrepreneur, farmer and athlete.
      Sue Holloway, whose parents joined the Webers in buying land to establish Nakkertok, calls the two couples “leaders of the community in terms of making things happen to better the sport.”
      The Weber and Holloway families belonged to the Ott­awa Ski Club in the 1960s, but felt the club wasn’t doing much to invest in its cross-country part.
      The Weber farm had a working part (two dozen beef cattle, a dozen hogs, some geese, a milking cow), with a large section of bush out back. It just made sense to carve out ski trails.
      “So we did,” Sue Holloway said. It was 1971.
      That area is now known as Nakkertok South, combining the farm and right-of-way access negotiated over nearby properties.
      Meg Weber was also a sculptor, painter and potter, and in the early years she made mugs, plates and bowls for all the club’s racing prizes. (Her son Christoph remembers helping to fire the pottery late in the week, barely in time for Saturday races. Today people still treasure their “Meg mugs.”)
      Meg Weber wasn’t a racer. Christoph calls her a good recreational skier. She was strong enough to complete the first Canadian Ski Marathon (from Pointe Claire to modern Gatineau) with Hans in 1967 — and every annual marathon for 40 years after that.
      As years passed, the farm and neighbouring property weren’t enough. Skiers wanted new trails.
      Meg Weber and Thea Holloway bought another 370 acres farther north in Val-des-Monts to create trails on an area now leased to the club and known as Nakkertok North.
      “They’re British. They do stuff like that,” Holloway said, referring to both women. “If you care, you invest. And they did.”
      • • •
      Young Meg grew up in England, where her father was a physician and her mother a nurse. She studied physiotherapy but left postwar Britain for Montreal, working at the Royal Victoria Hospital. In 1954, she took a trip to Banff, and was helping victims of an avalanche when she met a young Swiss PhD student, Hans Weber. He was an accomplished climber and skier. The couple eventually married. (Meg enjoyed telling people she was one day younger than her husband.)
      The young family moved east in 1960, when Hans got a job as a geophysicist with the Energy, Mines and Resources department. They settled on a Cantley hobby farm where they built a log house.
      Christoph remembers that the club started without much fanfare.
      “My parents had the farm and lots of bush, and bought some extra bush lots, and they just decided to start a ski club,” he said.
      It began with about 20 families and has now grown to about 600.
      “There was also difficulty getting cross-country ski equipment at that time, so my parents opened a ski shop.” It began at the farm and later moved to the ByWard Market.
      “It was the camaraderie” that his mother loved, he says, “and just being out of doors, keeping fit. She was always very athletic. She swam, she loved field hockey in her youth. If the war hadn’t come along, she could have been an Olympic-level athlete of some sort. But it didn’t happen for that generation.”
      They named the club “Nakkertok” because this is an Inuit word for “travelling fast.” At least, they thought it was. That etymology turned out to be iffy in time, but it made a good story and the name has stuck.
      Her legacy, and her husband’s: “You can ski all the way from Val-des-Monts down to Gatineau and you only have to cross one road. It’s quite remarkable.”
      Oddly, she seldom went to the northern Nakkertok area over the years.
      “She didn’t do all the work on the trails that the Holloways did,” Christoph said. “She was busy on the farm.”
      The farm became a social hub.
      “During the fall when people were ‘brushing’ (maintaining) trails, and during the winter when people were skiing, they would always stop in for tea” at the farm. “Soup and tea, because she always had a big pot of soup on the stove.”
      Late in life she found a new sport: paddling. Meg Weber travelled down the Nahanni River in her 60s, and later began dragon boating with the Cascades Club. She was one of the River Ravens, a team for senior women. Christoph thinks she joined in her 70s, but she may have been in her 80s.
      She broke a hip in 2010, recovered enough to rejoin her dragon boat friends in the summer of 2011, but fell again last spring and broke a shoulder.
      Hans Weber died in 2009. The couple has two sons, Christoph, a physician, and Richard, who skied to the North Pole in 1995. A third son, Adrian, died in 2000.
      The club records add a further story about how she shaped the land around her, and why: “In 1964, Meg Weber spotted a ‘little red cottage’ that was for sale near the Alonzo Wright Bridge. She bought the building for $1,000 and eventually had it moved to the Cantley farm where you can now see it on top of the hill, overlooking the farmhouse.
      “It was constructed around 1824 by Tiberius Wright, son of Philemon Wright, who founded Wrightville (now Gatineau), the first settlement in the National Capital region. It is one of the oldest buildings in the Outaouais.
      “In an interview a few years ago about the cottage, Meg noted ‘Being born in England, things that are old are important. And you keep them that way.’”

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