By Bob Barnes
Special to the Citizen
AMHERST - With his passing earlier this year, a highly regarded native son was lost to Nova Scotia, particularly the Parrsboro Shore area.
Les Kirkpatrick became a leading professional figure in electrical energy, including early interest in Fundy tidal sources, which is now beginning assessment in the Minas Channel just west of Parrsboro at Black Rock.
His obituary outlined his many professional credits and associations as CEO of Nova Scotia Power Corporation. Not perhaps stated was that ongoing high regard held for him by former employees reflecting on his life and as now recalled by Doug Trewin, Parrsboro/Amherst, and Eanis Collins of Amherst, among others.
Allow me to perhaps broaden your knowledge of this remarkable man. Over a period of seven decades I was aware of his resolve, humour and knowledge, including a period as an Amherst neighbour. We also had many summers sharing First Beach in Parrsboro together with our families.
An early vivid memory occurred in 1940 when, with my dad and a family army M.D., we traveled below Halifax to "York Redoubt," a coastal defense gun battery. Upon arrival we were greeted by Les, impressive as a new well-turned-out junior artillery officer. That moment was not lost on a young teenager! That military moment was a forerunner of his actions in Europe following the 1944 allied invasion, often in exposed positions. His leadership role led to his being awarded the Distinguished Service Order, in helping to drive German forces out of occupied territory.
He returned as a major to Canada in December 1945 to then join Canada Electric in Amherst. He soon commenced a "hands on" leadership role in extending the first electrical power to the Advocate shore. A formidable route was taken over its many wooded hills and valleys, as workers were lacking the machines that are available today. Manpower and horses were among his project assets of that era.
Canada Electric later was to become part of Nova Scotia Power Commission. He moved on to become president and CEO of the Nova Scotia Power Corporation.
About three decades ago, Les, along with the government of the day, began active assessment of tidal energy in the Minas Basin area. At his invitation, I shared a helicopter sweep over West Bay, near Parrsboro. His area of interest at the time was the feasibility of a tidal dam, intended to harness reversing tidal flows.
In his early years, Les was an active competitive athlete, competing in sports such as hockey, tennis and golf. He was also a member of the Parrsboro boxing club. His golf and tennis activities continued into his 90th year. For over four decades we shared weekend golf in Parrsboro, along with good friends or family members. He certainly remained competitive beyond the norm at age 90! he was also an ardent salmon angler. As time allowed, he supported his Masonic lodge in Parrsboro.
In later decades, Les experience health issues, including open heart surgery as well as an aneurysm (signaled while on a Halifax golf course, fortunately with a medical friend on hand). In both cases, he was back at golf within a month. His heart incident led him to become chairman of the Provincial Open Heart Patients Support Group for 20 years.
During his well attended 90th birthday celebrations at the Old Asburn Golf Club in Halifax, Les was acknowledged by leaders of Nova Scotia Power, government and medical circles.
Being with Les on the golf course always involved warm exchanges with members or guests with obvious respect for him observed at all times.
The Parrsboro club's closing banquet in September 2009 was our last shared event. His humourous recollections again surfaced. He described winning the club championship "twice" on the weekend, decades earlier. His opponent was a senior and former champ, a reluctant loser, to say the least. I clearly recall his opponent and I am sorry I missed that event. His audience responded warmly to his remarks, and they now will form a poignant thought as the club moves to another year of golf fellowship without him.
Now, if I could, I would simply say, "Great memories, Les."