EDITOR - TODD LIHOU: Charlebois, and Renaissance, appear headed for the sunset

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Kind of a shocker at city hall this week - and it had nothing to do with a decision made at the council table.

It was our old friend Chuck Charlebois, who almost in a nonchalant way, told all of us that his beloved Groupe Renaissance Group, would soon be no more.

At the media table we all kind of looked at each other. Did he really just say that?

Turns out, he did.

While in the midst of an exchange with city councillors over the controversial waterfront tank issue, Charlebois said the 14-year-old group that had made the beautification of the city's east end its chief priority would soon be no more.

All that's left is a simple audit of the group's financial statements, and a final meeting to officially put it to bed and Groupe Renaissance Group will be a thing of the past.

It's kind of sad. I can remember touring parts of Montreal with Charlebois back when his agency was simply known as the "Renaissance Group." Charlebois, accompanied by his friend Avi Friedman, a Montreal architect, marveled at some of the work that was done in the city to turn old commercial properties into condos and living quarters.

Charlebois believed the same could be done right here in Cornwall.

He was right. The condo project that eventually developed in Cornwall's east end is a direct result of the intervention of Charlebois and Renaissance.

The group also took on derelict landlords in an effort to clean up properties that had fallen into disrepair. "Drug houses" were demolished or fixed up.

Thanks again, Chuck Charlebois and Renaissance.

It's sad that the group is in its final days. The reason boils down to the simple passage of time. Chuck, it would seem, is getting tired. I can hardly blame him.

He spoke Monday night of moving aside so that perhaps someone else could take the reins of community stewardship he has so staunchly held for years. Who that will be is anyone's guess, and Charlebois has suggested he'll be there to offer advice and support where it's needed.

But it would seem his days of leading the charge are coming to an end.

I respect his decision, lord knows he deserves a break – but I'll miss seeing him at the head of the charge. He is a respectful person, who can have a chat with a stranger on a Cornwall street just as easily as a government official or political leader. Even when he disagrees with you, passionately, Chuck does it in a way that makes you feel better for the exchange.

His ability to build support for a project or issue comes with a grassroots fervor very few can emulate.

It's a shame that Renaissance is ending its time on a down note of sorts. The group "lost" – in Chuck's words – its battle to remove the waterfront tanks recently built on Cornwall's waterfront.

The irony is inescapable. A group that spent years working feverishly to improve the waterfront and Cornwall's east end has to endure the sting of another industrial component to an area that could eventually become a residential paradise.

Like he's done on so many other occasions, Chuck has been forced to roll with the punches.

His health has been a concern of many for years. To think that he has rallied so many in our city to various causes, all the while facing a battery of health issues, never ceases to amaze me.

He's lost both his legs to amputation, has endured heart problems and has experienced strokes.

I can recall during an interview shortly after he came back from a stroke many years ago he broke down a little during a chat we were having about the waterfront.

He knew what he wanted to say, but was having difficulty articulating his thoughts because of the effects of the stroke. Tears rolled down his face.

"Sorry," he said. "Sometimes I get like this."

I wish everyone in the city "got like that" when it came to talking about improving Cornwall. Passion like that can't be faked and is difficult to ignore.

Organizations: Groupe Renaissance Group

Geographic location: Cornwall, Montreal

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Recent comments

  • Trevor Forsey
    May 15, 2014 - 12:10

    Very nice article. Sad to see him step down.