So many superlatives come to mind when thinking about Martin Rudy Haase who died August 22 in a modest hospice on the edge of the village of Chester, N.S. Where to begin? He was 95. His heart gave out. “I’m quite prepared to go,” he said in a phone conversation from Massachusetts back in June. He was only very unhappy that the diagnosis of an incurable condition came only after thousands of dollars had been spent in the U.S. where he was wrapping up what he called his “odyssey;” a trip to New Zealand where he and his family had lived for a time many years before.
Rudy hated spending money on himself. Other than for the occasional excursion by train or boat he put his wealth to work helping others and the planet. He avoided airplanes whenever possible. He drove an old Volvo and lived in an old farmhouse back off the road in East Chester. Goat Lake Farm is at the end of a long wooded driveway that he shoveled by hand every winter until recently. The house sits above Goat Lake and below a hill that he mowed off each late summer (after bird nesting season) with his trusty BCS walk-behind tractor.
The lake, the hill, the land and forest around are to remain undeveloped thanks to an easement with the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. Saving wild spaces was a constant in Rudy’s life for more than half a century. Others describe those efforts well. (See page 41.) In addition to recognition here, the Internet has several good stories – including Syd Dumaresq’s “Our Dear Rudy,” at www.friends-of-nature.ca.
Rudy founded “Friends of Nature” before words like ecology and environment came into common use.
Chester, Nova Scotia, is known for its wealthy people and grand estates. That’s not altogether fair to “regular folks” who keep the joint running throughout the year, but there it is. On one (west) side of the village, asphalt baron Carl Potter is busy turning Haddon Hill into an equine Spruce Meadows East. On the other side, lobster fisherman John Risley can’t seem to settle on how many islands or kilometres of shoreline are enough to look after friends, cattle, and his own string of steeds. In between are found too numerous examples of ostentatious flaunting of wealth.
What a contrast then, down in East Chester where Rudy and his wife, Florence (Mickie) Haase who died a couple of years ago, raised a family, built wooden boats, ran a day school and a library, and established the Chester Educational Foundation that over many years must have distributed many thousands of dollars in support of promising young people, the arts, education in general, land conservation, and on it goes.
Rudy Haase’s name came up frequently over the years in connection with land and resource conservation. Reasonably so, not only because of the remarkable efforts the Haases directed that way but also because groups like the Nova Scotia Nature Trust benefit when benefactors go public. Others, then, may follow suit, or so it certainly is hoped.
A name we did not often see was Mickie’s. She avoided publicity. This despite the fact that her family inheritance, through a trust, was behind much of the benevolence we came to associate with the Haase family. Little matter the source of those funds. The point is that family money was not turned to living like kings or queens nor to gathering more riches.
I never met Mickie. Wish that I had. I only learned of her behind-the-scenes financial role through Rudy in the course of a couple of final visits this past July and August. Mickie, who grew up outside of Boston, lost her parents early-on. A trust had been established to look after her, though, and it must have been substantial.
It was not money she had earned, however, and, according to Rudy, she chose not to lavish it on herself. Rather, the money would go to support education and other worthy causes. “Just don’t mention my name,” may have been her advice to whomever was on the receiving end.
An example, according to Rudy, was the new Chester Consolidated School built several years ago. On learning that plans did not include a library, Mickie determined that that simply was not acceptable. The school was built, with the addition of a library and extra classrooms thanks to Mickie’s quiet generosity.
Some good writer must capture the Haases in a biography that will carry on the inspiration of these two. There should be plenty of raw material to work from, starting with The Calico News, Rudy’s own chronicle of events “super edited by Sir Calico Cat” from 1933 (with a break during college and Second World War years when Rudy served in the U.S. navy).
Too, Rudy kept a daily journal from 1946, stowed in ammunition boxes – appropriate choice for a man of peace who would not own a gun.
So many wonderful stories always filled a visit with Rudy. What a superb memory he had for detail. What a way he had of disagreeing with others without getting personal or losing his sense of humour and compassion for all things and people. He could recall a meeting with cabinet ministers 10 years back, who was there, what each said, every nuance.
Had I asked, Rudy could have told me where we first met, how, and why. For me it is all a blank. Had he filled me in I’d have been in awe, as so frequently was the case when I had the good fortune to spend some time with Sir Calico Cat’s printer. DvL
PS: Plans for a celebration Nov. 24 of Rudy’s life are in the works. Keep an eye out for details at www.friends-of-nature.ca.