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Saying Goodbye to the River

In early May, I received an email from Dudley Danielson to say that he would be leaving Clayton, for “points unknown”, and he wanted to know if TI Life would like his 17-year collection of Relax! In The 1000 Islands. I responded with a most-enthusiastic, "Yes please".

As I had never met the Danielsons, I had no idea how impressed I would be with this gentleman and his life in the Thousand Islands.  Looking at the box of newspapers and seeing his published works, I realized Dudley was responsible for promoting tourism in our island communities for a quarter century. When I learned he and his wife, Diane, were leaving Clayton, I asked if he would write a piece for us before he leaves. Dudley kindly obliged.

On behalf of the TI Life team, we pay tribute to Dudley, and we look forward to hearing of the next adventure(s).

Susan W. Smith, Editor

Dudley's Letter

As I crested Mc Carn Hill on entering Clayton in the spring of ’82 I said: “I’ve come home!”

That sense of belonging to a community and feeling adopted by the River has never left me. Not once in these past 27 years. However it is time – time to go and explore other worlds, but not without regret; for this is where I leave a large slice of my heart. To have it all make sense I need take you back with me to July 4th 1970

I was a very busy, professional photographer and was driving to a wedding. Out-of-the-blue, I felt a tremendous “explosion” in my head. There wasn’t really one, it just felt like it. The reason? I had been working too often, too long, and too hard. The medical profession would call it “stress”, a little word with potentially-large implications for one’s life.. Those long-and-stressful 15-to-20-hour days had finally taken firm hold of me in a way that will be forever etched in my memory.

It was, simply, the result of “Burning the candle at both ends” and it took me more than five years to recover. However, that is another story! The experience had such an impact on me that I became dedicated to the word “Relax” in my own life and in communicating the concept, and need, to others.

Born from that devastating experience was a radio show on WWNY called "Joy In The Morning".  I followed that with three “treasure” books where I hid a brass key and wove clues into those books that would lead the reader to a not-insignificant amount of money for their efforts.

$ilver Trea$ure rambled all over Jefferson and Lewis counties for a prize of $1000. Treasure Island II was set in the 1000 Islands with a key worth $1500. The third, Joshua’s Secret, had a $2500 prize. The last two were set in the 1000 Islands and it was here that I discovered the true treasure in this “Garden of the Great Spirit” : Peace-of-Mind!

As my workload increased so did my need for rest and relaxation. Finally, I closed the doors of our very-successful studio. It was easy. One day I simply chose not to unlock its door and I placed an ad for a little cottage, hopefully on the River.

The answer to my “need” came in the form of a tiny 10’ x 14’ garden cottage on Steele’s Point in Clayton. That first entry into the town was as an answer to a prayer: “I’ve come home!” For a time I simply rested, ate when I felt like it, slept short-or-long, played with rabbits at 3 AM, watched two families of ducks grow up, always absorbing the refreshment of the St Lawrence.

It was not only my personal need for relaxation but also the necessity of having to earn a living that prompted the launch of "Relax! In The 1000 Islands". Advertisers and readers responded with enthusiasm. I was delighted in that I could marry my joy of writing with my gifts of  photography. It worked! It had a 17½ year run.

The following year I worked out of a refurbished, 16’ travel-trailer parked at French Bay Marina. By 1984 I had found the perfect apartment on Riverside Drive and I also shifted my radio show to the banks of the St Lawrence. How delighted I was to be able to share with my listeners the ever-changing face of the River. As I continued with the newspaper I worked as a partner- Innkeeper at the Hart House Inn on Wellesley Island. The work was hard, but it was a joy to serve our guests. Guess what? Slowly, but surely, I had returned to my old-and-stressful habits. So, we sold out in 2005 and finally I gave priority to my new lifestyle: cherishing the River.

I am usually seen with a Canon Rebel XTi slung over my Swedish shoulder. I’ve been fortunate to live in Japan, Hawaii, and travel extensively in Europe. There is nothing I’ve found to match the 1000 Islands in what the Indians named it: The Garden of the Great Spirit. It is a place of peace. It is for healing of body, mind and soul but only if you look for it.

It has been a remarkable 27 years. My age numbers are now reversed – 47 has become 74. It is time to leave. I am fortunate that I have thousands of images of the islands stored in my computer. I have a millions softly stowed away in my mind. How blessed I am!

It will be only a few more days until we leave. Diane and I often come to the River to walk with Elsie, our little French Bull Dog, just to feel the pulse of this soaking-wet waterway. It always eases the stresses of life. It breathes in new life. I recall a fishing guide who said to me, “When yer fishin’ nuttin’ bothers ya. Nuttin’ at all.” Truer than truth! I recently told a friend how much we hated to leave the River. Their response? “Dudley, you can leave the River but it will never leave you.”

So, empowered by the River, I go forward with nearly ten-thousand sunrises, and sunsets, locked in my garden of memories.

Thank you for allowing the Danielsons to be a part of your life. We leave you with that word of magic and love and wonder: Shalom – peace to you!

~ Dudley E. Danielson,


Dudley's Photography

All photos

© Dudley Danielson, 2009


A tribute from Ian Coristine

I first met Dudley Danielson in 2000 when I was dipping a toe in the water to test its temperature by publishing a Thousand Islands poster to see if there was any interest in my aerial perspective. Heather Howard at the Canadian Duty Free Shop was very supportive and quickly offering them for sale. By the very next day I had a call from Dudley. 

He was effusive in his praise and invited me to his home (and business), the Hart House Inn on Wellesley Island East. I didn't know anything about it and was blown away when I got there to find it was the former club house for the polo grounds in George Boldt's time. More than that, it was a major chunk of the 80-room cottage that George Boldt removed across the ice from Heart (then Hart) Island before building his castle. Historically very important. 

Dudley, and his ex-wife Kathy, had seen this badly-deteriorating treasure and bought it with the intention of running a B&B. But there was a small problem – money – which had all been spent on the purchase. So, any ongoing renovations were of the blood, sweat, and tears variety.

In any case, their efforts saved the building and their restoration was impressive. Subsequently they sold it, though it's now on the market again so its future is clouded. Without their efforts however, it would have been lost by now. Here's hoping someone else with their passion and energy picks up the ball and runs with it from here.

In any case Dudley is a man who has done just about everything in life, working as a (talented) professional photographer, a book, map and newspaper publisher, inn keeper, preacher and much more. He has given selflessly of himself to the region for many years, always incredibly supportive of my efforts and those of any others who are trying to build a greater appreciation for the place. The Thousand Islands will miss you Dudley as will I. May your next adventures be great ones old friend.

By Ian Coristine

Posted in: Photography, People
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Dave Fownes
Comment by: Dave Fownes ( )
Left at: 12:29 PM Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Thank's for that heart felt resume. It certainly helps me greatly appreciate my attachment to that amazing part of the world. A firend of mine who has a cottage close to the bridge recently said to me that what she loves about the 1000 islands is that nothing changes, which is extremely comforting in our fast paced and ever changing lives. Thanks to so many devoted thousand islanders. I hope it continues to stay the same.
Brian Johnson
Comment by: Brian Johnson ( )
Left at: 4:09 PM Thursday, June 18, 2009
It has taken me almost a lifetime to realize the beauty of the Thousand Islands. As a 'boat skipper' of nearly everything that toured the many hidden channels, I was too absorbed in trying not to 'hit anything' instead of merely looking around. Ian, both you and Dudley, with your incredible talents, make people like me stop and watch the sunrise and sunsets!
This is a Great Story! Thanks!
Pat Regan
Comment by: Pat Regan ( )
Left at: 12:44 PM Thursday, June 25, 2009
Ian and Dudley have both expressed the "Magic" of the River and how it can become a part of one's life. How true that is. My first memory was crossing the International Bridge shortly after it opened. My Second memories was doing my Hotel Management training working as a Waitress in the Dining Room, Rock Terrace and tending Service Bar at the old Hotel Crossman, After that I enjoyed camping on both sides of River for many years. But in spring 2006 I returned and settled in Cape Vincent. I can finally enjoy the peace, quiet and beauty of the St Lawrence River in all Seasons.