September 04, 2013

Steve Revell devoted to community of Erin

As published in The Erin Advocate

I met Steve Revell at an all-candidates meeting five years ago and we formed a friendship, based on our interests in history, politics, hiking, music and environmental issues.

Steve cared about a lot of things, but mainly he cared about other people. He lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last week, and in the flood of emotion that follows such a loss, I regretted that I had not met him sooner.

“Life is a gift,” said Steve, and while he was sad knowing that it would soon end, he did not display any bitterness. He put his visitors at ease and was good company until the end.

Steve Revell could not attend
the awards dinner held by CVC last
March to honour people and groups
like Erin Trails who have worked hard
on behalf of the environment, but he
agreed to have his photo taken with the award.
He was very grateful for the support of Donna, his best friend and wife of 41 years, especially during the rough times of his chemotherapy treatments. “She is my hero,” he said.

He wrote his own death notice, in the classified section of last week’s Advocate, saying he was blessed to have many caring people in his life, including his “wonderful” children Brian and Peggy.

Steve was born in 1947, grew up in Etobicoke and lived in Mississauga and Brampton. Erin was chosen in 1986 as an ideal place to escape from city life. For Donna it was like coming home, since she was raised just west in Everton.

Steve retired from the Peel Board of Education in 2002, after teaching 17 years at Alloa Pubic School and 14 at Caledon Central Public.

He helped East Wellington Community Services, hauling loads of excess clothing and books to the Wastewise depot, and was active with the Wellington County Historical Society.

In 2007, Porcupine’s Quill published his booklet, A Brief History of Erin Village. With typical humour, he dedicated it “to the fond memory of ‘Hunk’, who accompanied the author some thirteen years in the study of Erin’s natural and architectural treasures, each of which was sniffed with equal enthusiasm.”

As part of a group that worked with conservation authorities, he helped establish the Elora-Cataract Trailway. He also chaired the Erin trails committee, developing the Woollen Mills Trail with its educational signs, just east of downtown Erin. More recently he helped create the Rotary Trail near the water tower and was working on the Riverside Park project next to Hulls Dam.

"I always felt that I was fortunate, and that I should be giving back," he said.

To say that Steve had an interest in trains would be something of an understatement. Over the years he converted his double garage into an elaborate model train display of the historic Credit Valley Railway, which ran through the Forks of the Credit, with a branch line through Erin on what is now the Trailway.

In his train display, Steve included a figure of himself
playing with a cat beside the tracks, along with his
father Gerry and daughter Peggy.
He included models of people, classic cars and the Niagara Escarpment terrain and it became a meditative place, where the hum of remote-control engines helped him reflect on his explorations of the real world.

"It's a very soothing sound. I've been here. I've hiked here. I've explored these buildings. I've seen trains climbing these grades. It's re-creating good times," he said. "I'd take kids out for hikes to Cataract, through the Forks park, down to Forks of the Credit, and then up the escarpment."

Steve was a Friend of Credit, recognizing his work with Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) to protect the river and enhance the environment. He was part of the Stream of Dreams project, resulting in the colourful Dreamfish mounted on chain link fences near elementary schools.

“This is a big loss for everyone,” said David Beaton, Manager of Community Outreach at CVC. “So many of the photos I have of Steve are of him holding a shovel, so we'd love to have a planting be a part of a memorial.”

I was glad that Steve made it out to the community tree planting at the Deer Pit in May, despite his illness. Councillor John Brennan said he was “honoured and deeply humbled” that Steve came to see him at the Town works yard that same day during the Green Legacy tree distribution.

“We have lost one of those great people you meet only rarely and we will need to find a way to commemorate the wonderful things he has done,” he said.

Former Mayor Rod Finnie said Steve was a motivator, “inching” people into doing things they had not considered before. “I certainly miss him and his owlish good humour, and it would be great if we could do something that incorporated trails and history,” he said.

Heather Yates, former Supervisor of Rural Outreach at CVC, worked for several years with Steve on trails, river clean-ups and tree plantings.

“Mr. Revell had been my teacher at Caledon Central Public School – funnily enough, he remembered my science fair experiment from middle school when I had plumb forgot,” she said.

“He was proud of his students. Steve quietly inspired many around him with his kind, good natured way. He took care to connect with people, although was extremely crafty at evading the camera when it came out at volunteer events. He was my favourite Friend of the Credit.”

A model train crosses the river on the Credit Valley Railway, approaching Forks of Credit Station just east of Belfountain, headed for Orangeville. Just to the north at Cataract, a branch line was opened in 1879, providing rail service to Erin, Hillsburgh, Orton, Fergus and Elora. Those rails were lifted in 1988 and it is now the Elora-Cataract Trailway.