Ideas are being kicked around in some quarters about how to publicly recognize Noble Villeneuve, the voice of Eastern Ontario farmers, in a lasting way, including the possibility of a plaque or some other tangible marker in a likely location such as Maxville.
Progressive Conservative MPP for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry from 1983-99, Villeneuve is a beloved former Minister of Agriculture. Sidelined by a stroke in 2002, Villeneuve passed at the end of February in Glengarry Memorial Hospital, Alexandria, aged 79; his funeral service was in Moose Creek.
Other tributes have been paid, including by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, and Laurentian University which gave him an honorary doctorate for his role in establishing autonomous French language school boards in Ontario. But friend and admirer Doug Thompson, a former Ottawa municipal politician, thinks more could be done and is looking into possibilities.
In ’83, Noble set aside his career in farming and real estate appraisal to take a run at the provincial seat vacated by the passing of distant relative Osie Villeneuve. In 2014, Noble’s daughter Roxanne was unsuccessful in attempting to continue the family PC tradition in Eastern Ontario, losing to Liberal Grant Crack.
Among many who have passed on condolences, former PC cabinet minister Frank Klees said “Noble was rightly named.” Klees called him a gentleman who carried out his duties as an MPP with grace and dignity and “brought honour to the calling of public service.”
Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark, PC Party Deputy Leader, remembered Villeneuve as a strong voice in Cabinet for farmers and for Eastern Ontario. North Dundas Township Mayor Eric Duncan cited his reputation as hardworking, down-to-earth and a great orator.
Former provincial Cabinet Minister and retired Senator Bob Runciman said his hard-driving friend was a natural for the agricultural portfolio after the Harris Tories swept to power in 1995. Thompson called Villeneuve a great man and a great community supporter.
Anecdotes abound about Noble Villeneuve, mostly about him lending support and a helping hand. His record of service should be etched in stone.