Our Network: Camp Comfort Retreats

Marie Smith-Desbiens,

February, 2006

Camp Comfort….halfway between Thetford Mines and Sherbrooke, where I grew up. Camp Comfort…where my mother’s family and the Axtell family were neighbours. Camp Comfort…filled with happy childhood and adolescence memories.

My grand-father Codère inherited the cottage from my great-grand-father Stenson and then passed it on to the eldest of Mom’s brothers, uncle Hector. Uncle Jean Moïse bought the cottage next door a few years later. Today, the “Codère cottage” belongs to Dr. Côté, who also spent his summers growing up in Camp Comfort. My cousins have rebuilt Jean Moïse’s cottage as a year round residence. And, members of the Codère, Belhumeur, Dussault and other families are still at the other end of Camp Comfort, some year round.

Camp Comfort is where my grand-mother and my mother spend all their summers, with childhood and adolescence friends, some of whom became lifelong friends. Mom and Betty Axtell, Tom’s mother, were such friends. I feel like I saw Tom grow up, although he is only 3 years younger…such an immense age difference for children! Now, we are like brother and sister.

My father’s side of the family summered on the other side of Lake Aylmer. My father’s parents had a cottage in Garthby and my dad, Bobby, used to come to Camp Comfort to play tennis at the Codère cottage. Later on, in the early 60’s, some Smiths built cottages in Baie des Sables, near Stratford, where I also visited.

Couples formed in Camp Comfort. My parents met there and married at St. Charles Borromée church in Garthby, during WWII. I know of two Camp Comfort marriages between people of my generation.

Even though my parents didn’t own a cottage, I was fortunate enough to spend the major part of my summers at Lake Aylmer, staying with uncles and aunts, mostly in Camp Comfort, but also at Baie des Sables. We also spent a few complete summers at Jean Moïse’s cottage when his children were of the age where the cottage is the last place you want to spend the summer. One of Mom’s cousins also let us use her cottage one whole summer when I was about 11 years old.

I moved away at 19 to study at the University of Ottawa, and stayed on to work for the federal government. For many years, I had very few opportunities to visit Camp Comfort, other than quick stops to say hello to uncles and aunts with my parents. I re-connected with Tom in the early 1990s, when he came to work in Ottawa, and he invited us out to the lake. On one of our visits to Thetford, we took Mom with us for a visit at the lake. It was the annual Labour Day Codère reunion at Camp Comfort…the Codères “from the other end”. What joy in Mom’s eyes when she saw all these people after many years, many of whom I’d never even met! She spent time reminiscing with her cousin John Codère, who passed away later that year. They talked bout their happy memories and of all those who’d been part of those times. She was able to spend time at her friend Betty’s cottage, and share her memories of Betty with Tom and his family.

Tom moved back to Camp Comfort at the end of his work contract in Ottawa, but we stayed in touch, thanks to emails! Tom’s life has undergone many changes since and he has moved back to the Ottawa area, where we see each other more often. Three or four years ago, he invited us for a weekend at the cottage. We have been back quite regularly since, spending a week there once in a while, when the cottage is not rented, alone, or with Tom and his family. I feel very blessed to have a friend who so generously shares this wonderful place with me and my family!

This is the place where I rediscovered my long-forgotten roots! This beautiful house that Tom has added to throughout the years has kept its history and its warmth. The incredible view of the lake warms the soul. As I read the testimonials in the cottage signature book, I realized that the cottage has the same effect on everyone: warmth, comfort, beauty, love and fun!

Now, we must hope that future generations will continue the Camp Comfort tradition and build their own lasting memories there. My children visited a few times and never miss a chance to go back! Tom’s daughters who will inherit the cottage….but not for many, many years!...grew up there and will surely keep up the tradition. Already, Tom has 2 grand-children who are starting to build Camp Comfort memories of their own!

This is a place in the heart, where the past feeds the present. A place that will warm the hearts of future generations.

Version: 1.0 (January, 2006)