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by Isabel Mosseler
The Honorary Marshal for the June 6th West Nipissing Cycle For Charity event will be someone known to many in West Nipissing: Fernand “Boots” Beauparlant. In this third annual event which sees cyclists making the trip from Sturgeon Falls to Lavigne, or beyond to Monetville for the more intrepid, Boots Beauparlant has joined the team to encourage others to start cycling.
“I’ve been cycling all my life,” says Boots, who will turn 87 in July. Formerly a popular teacher in Sturgeon Falls and now long retired, he has always been active. “From a very early age my motto was ‘healthy body, healthy mind’. I was raised in Verner, and my dad bought me a bike when I was 12-years old. I got that bike and went to Sturgeon Falls, one speed. When I got to Sturgeon Falls, I was worried because my dad would kill me!”
Evidently, his dad didn’t kill him, and Boots developed a lifelong love for cycling. “Ever since I was twelve, I always used my bike. Later on when I played hockey, I used it to warm up – no helmet, no gloves, one speed.”
Dan Roveda, along with his wife Cynthia and several other organizers, have dedicated themselves to growing the annual Cycle For Charity into a regional event, drawing cyclists from across the province to give cycling in West Nipissing a try. This one-day event captures the interest of cyclists of all levels of proficiency, and has potential to grow even further in popularity. Last year, Dan Roveda wanted to pay homage to the dedicated older cyclist, showcasing the long-term health benefits of the activity, so he began selecting an Honourary Marshal for the event. Mr. Beauparlant fits the bill at age 87, and going strong despite some physical setbacks.
“I had a hip replacement ten years ago, and because of arthritis they had to shorten my leg 2 inches, and my doctor told me ‘Your hip is not steady and if you fall off your bike, I won’t be a happy camper’. I decided to give my bikes away, to my daughter, to my son, to Children’s Aid in Newfoundland. …Then I bought a 3-wheel bike, it’s what I have right now, trying to get used to it,” Boots relates. He’s only had his bike for about 3 weeks now, and he’s not too sure if he likes it yet, but he’ll give it a try for the trip to Lavigne.
Dan Roveda, who is also a runner, has some obvious affection for Fern Beauparlant. “It’s because of Boots I run today,” says the daily jogger. “Boots was a big runner. I used to see him running all the time.” Beauparlant responds, “I was really proud of that, used to see them running by. …You can solve all kinds of problems running, and cycling does that too.” The two men discuss what it means to get ‘in the zone’. Boots says a bicycle is “not a tool just to exercise, it’s a machine to travel and see things. …It’s beautiful. It’s like you’re pedalling but pedalling in a cathedral, a big cathedral. You can hear the birds, smell the manure, but it smells good! …You get that sensation, every sense; sight, smell…”
Fernand “Boots” Beauparlant (left), aged 87, will be the Honorary Marshal leading off the West Nipissing Cycle for Charity on June 3rd. Organizer Dan Roveda (right) says the former West Nipissing teacher has been his inspiration for many years, and he hopes Boots will inspire more people into active living.