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TI Life Editor Susie Smith Named 'Keeper of the Islands’

It's a crisp October afternoon in Rockport and the sky and River are postcard perfect blue. The sun is shining brightly just in time for an 'aboard meeting' of TI Life.

I'm joining photographer and author Ian Coristine aboard his new boat with editor Susie Smith and website guru Mike Cox. Coristine navigates us past landmarks such as St. Brendan's Church and the statue of St. Lawrence towards Ivy Lea and the international bridge.

There seems to be a little trouble with the Rinker so Cox, a former boat mechanic at Ed Huck Marine in Rockport who now resides outside of Ottawa, checks things out, quickly resolving the issue.

Smith, typically at the helm of her boat at Sagastaweka Island near Gananoque, relaxes in the passenger seat and takes in the scenery with the kind of zest you might expect of a tourist seeing the Thousand Islands for the first time.

This, I recall thinking as I watched familiar shores and islands rush past, is my kind of meeting. I first met Smith a little over two years ago when she was approached by Coristine to become editor of

I met Coristine some months earlier when I embarked on a newspaper series of island stories. He introduced me to his friend and mentor Paul Malo, a Syracuse preservationist, architect, professor and author of a trilogy of books on the Thousand Islands, who had started this website with the help of Mike Franklin. He died in July 2008 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 78. I had agreed to contribute stories and photographs to the e-magazine. It was Malo's wish someone would carry on this legacy of preserving a sense of place with stories and photographs about its unique beauty, architecture and history.

Smith, a longtime Thousand Islands advocate and author, involved with the Thousand Islands Land Trust and the Arthur Child Heritage Museum and the Thousand Islands Association, willingly took it on and has been doing precisely that for the last two years as editor of TI Life.   The magazine - which just celebrated its 4,000th subscriber - shines an international spotlight on the Thousand Islands.

TI Life - featuring the photographs of author Coristine and a design created by graphic artist Dave O'Malley and Cox - now has 50 contributors from both sides of the border including Smith, who writes articles each month. And everyone receives the same salary: Zippo.

The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce recognized Smith's outstanding contributions Friday night at a gala awards ceremony with in an aptly-titled 'Keeper of the Islands Award.' It was an honour to accept Smith's honour on her behalf as she was in California visiting family.

Other award recipients included: Scott Ewart, of the 1000 Islands Kayaking Company in Gananoque, who was presented with the Hal McCarney Tourism/Hospitality of the Year Award (Up Close by Kayak written by Kim Lunman); John Le Blancq of Le Blancq Design, who received the Business/Industry of the Year Award; Karen Eaton of Curves in Gananoque, who received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award; John Peter, who received the Keeper of the Gates Award, Kristin O'Neill, who received the Athlete of the Year Award, and fundraiser Bunny Randall, who was named Gananoque’s Citizen of the Year.

Coristine first became familiar with Smith through her book, The First Summer People: The Thousand Islands 1650-1910.

"It was immediately after I had purchased the island and I was rabid to learn as much about this amazing place as I could. Can you imagine what a windfall it was when I discovered a book which not only dealt with the overall history, but then went into detail about every single island here, including mine?

Coristine recalled his first introduction to Susie Smith through Joan Michie, former director of the Arthur Child Heritage Museum of the 1000 Islands in Gananoque. "Joan offered to introduce me to this larger than life individual - Susie Smith, if I would stick around long enough to wait for a board meeting to end. Out walked this tiny lady who thrust out her hand, introducing herself. Somehow this didn't correlate. How could this little lady have taken on such a Herculean task and done it so well, all by herself? I was in awe, but too shy and intimidated in her presence to do anything more than mumble my appreciation for her wonderful book."

Franklin, who taught Malo, a retired architecture professor at the University of Syracuse how to post the website, and Coristine were anxious to find someone who might keep Malo's legacy alive. "Her name kept coming up as being involved in many organizations and as a strong supporter of all things "Thousand Islands," Coristine said.

They met with Smith at her summer home on Sagasteweka Island and asked her take over the volunteer role of editor of the non-profit TI Life Magazine.

"We were waiting at the dock in Gan when a powerful center-console boat roared into view, seemingly without a driver," recalled Coristine. "It was Susie, who pulled up expertly at the dock and then headed out with us to her island with all the skill and confidence of a seasoned Captain that I have yet to acquire. Why should I have expected anything any less from this amazing lady?"

To their surprise and pleasure, the busy grandmother who spends her winters in Ottawa with husband Marceli agreed despite her many other personal and professional commitments, including the post of presidency of Thousand Islands Land Trust and of an organization representing another one of Smith's passions - antique buttons.

Said Coristine: "My admiration for this incredible lady has no bounds and I am 100% certain that Paul looks down with admiration, approval and just as much amazement as me. She has done an exemplary job, not only of reliably producing and forging the many pieces into a magazine every month, but by building a community of talented contributors, each adding to a greater whole."

The purpose of TI Life has always been to build a greater understanding and appreciation of the place. I know I'm grateful and I also know there over 4,000 subscribers who feel exactly the same way. THANK YOU SUSIE!

'You truly are the "Keeper of the Islands."

By Kim Lunman

Kim Lunman has been writing about the Thousand Islands since her return to her hometown of Brockville in 2008.  In fact, we have published more than 35 of Kim’s articles in TI Life.  At the beginning of May 2010, Kim's new company, Thousand Islands Ink, distributed 25,000 copies of  Island Life, as an insert in eastern Ontario with distribution through the EMC papers and in New York through the Thousand Islands Sun.  This summer she gathered new material for next year’s magazine  - stay tuned…

Editor’s Note:  I asked Kim to attend Gananoque’s Chamber of Commerce Awards Ceremony on TI Life’s behalf. I am truly honoured by this recognition and my hearttfelt thanks goes out to all who help me get each edition up-and-running. So thanks to all.  And...  I also thank everyone for their comments... I am truly blushing.

Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Connie Johnson
Comment by: Connie Johnson ( )
Left at: 6:34 AM Monday, November 15, 2010
What an apt description of Susie Smith and how fortunate we are that she is the "keeper of the islands". My thanks to everyone involved in providing such a wonderful magazine about our "magical" river.
Chris Street
Comment by: Chris Street ( )
Left at: 7:56 AM Monday, November 15, 2010
Congrats Susie. Thanks for all your hard work on behalf of the Islands!
Carolyn Kitchen
Comment by: Carolyn Kitchen ( )
Left at: 9:47 AM Monday, November 15, 2010
I don't know Susan Smith personally but I certainly recognize her contribution to the islands and this wonderful magazine. A special thanks to both Ian and Susan for solving our email issues this summer. We are all so lucky to have you willing to do the work that produces this joyful look at the 1000 Islands area.
Michael Joyce
Comment by: Michael Joyce ( )
Left at: 10:20 AM Monday, November 15, 2010
It was interesting to ready Ian's comments about meeting Susie Smith for the first time. I went to talk Susie gave at the Antique Boat Museum and remember thinking, "Oh my God, that's the woman who wrote THAT book." For anyone who loves the River her book The First Summer People is the single most important book in their library. How lucky we River Rats are to have Susie Smith and Ian Cortese carrying the flame.
Lori Moose
Comment by: Lori Moose ( )
Left at: 10:26 AM Monday, November 15, 2010
Congratulations do a wonderful job, Thank You for it all.
Judy Kiernan
Comment by: Judy Kiernan
Left at: 10:31 AM Monday, November 15, 2010
Susie - CONGRATULATIONS. This is a well deserved award for your hard work with River organizations and as editor of this magazine. Four thousand subscribers. Amazing! Your efforts are truly appreciated.
trude fitelson
Comment by: trude fitelson ( )
Left at: 11:15 AM Monday, November 15, 2010
Dear Susie,

You indeed are keeper of the islands! What a wonderful honor and as I sit in California this am with a vast view of the ocean in Big Sur I think of Paul and how proud he would be! 4000 subscribers to TILife! Wow! Kim, Ian and Susie thank you for raising the bar and giving the public the beauty and script of our beloved river!


Herb Swingle
Comment by: Herb Swingle ( )
Left at: 6:33 PM Monday, November 15, 2010
You are So deserving.What a tremendous Honor!
John Le Blancq
Comment by: John Le Blancq ( )
Left at: 9:33 AM Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Well done, Susan.
Together, you and Kim make a great TEAM.
"To you from failing hands the Torch is past..."
Sue Saiter
Comment by: Sue Saiter ( )
Left at: 9:59 AM Tuesday, November 16, 2010
We're on manitouana in the summers and see you coming and going and do appreciate all you do for the islands. You are definitely the Keeper of the '
Islands. Then when we're home in Texas for 10 months your monthly editions of TI Life are so welcoming to read and hoppe next summer would hurry up and get here. Thanks for all your hard work. See you next summer.
John & Jennifer Bourne
Comment by: John & Jennifer Bourne ( )
Left at: 12:40 PM Tuesday, November 16, 2010
We always enjoy TIL and cannot believe that it is only two years old. Love
Marcia Streb
Comment by: Marcia Streb ( )
Left at: 11:07 PM Wednesday, November 17, 2010
We so look forward to each copy of TIL. The winter read only excites us for
the springtime and getting back to THE RIVER.
Ted Bradford
Comment by: Ted Bradford ( )
Left at: 9:51 AM Saturday, November 20, 2010
Well done and a well deserved honor. I look forward to TIL arriving, so to speak, every month. Thanks Susan for doing such a wonderful job keeping this publication "afloat" and educating, with the help of the talented contributors, people about this wonderful part of the world!!
Martin Zonnenberg
Comment by: Martin Zonnenberg ( )
Left at: 11:04 AM Sunday, November 21, 2010
Hi Susie:
Having passed the Thousand Islands Magazine landmark of 4000 subscribers tells the whole successful story of all your hard. excellent and dedicated work as editor of this great 'on-line' magazine!
And of course congratulations with your prestigious: 'Keeper of the Islands' award!
Well deserved!
Martin Zonnenberg
Mt Dora and Grindstone Island