In Memoriam: Tom Stephenson

With a very heavy hearts we announce that our dear friend, mentor and kettle boy leader Tom Stephenson passed away early Sunday morning, March 26th.  Tom was a close friend to our family as he made Fortune Farms his spring home for the last 25+ years.

I met Tom at Forestry School at Algonquin College in Pembroke in 1981.  Tom was a unique professor, stressing the need for human relationships, attention to detail and pragmatism.He had a low tolerance for slackers and challenged many students over the years to do better. He focused on the need for useful skills in forest fire fighting, forest industry operations, safety, and surveying.  He had an extensive network of contacts and helped many of his students secure their first positions with the Ministry of Natural Resources and launch their careers. Tom’s infectious enthusiasm and energy were contagious, and we became good friends.

Tom Stephenson with Jamie and Sherry Fortune at Fortune Farms sugarbush.
Tom with Jamie and Sherry Fortune at Fortune Farms in March 2020, explaining how tapping affects trees.

In the 1990s when Tom’s “sugar bush” at Achray Station was closed down, I invited him to bring his kettles to our farm.  Not only did he bring his kettles, but he also brought countless handmade toys and a few of his friends. 

My mother, Ruth, branded Tom and crew the “Kettle Boys” and the rest is history!  The Kettle Boys entertained hundreds of people each spring at the farm and branched out to cameo appearances at Winterlude, local fairs, and maple events.  Tom traveled far and wide collecting maple items, making friends and telling stories the whole time. He is widely known and will be fondly remembered by many.

Tom was a character with many names – the “Jigger”, “Red”, “Soupy” (his middle name was Campbell),  and Kettle Boy “Shorty”.  I have a vivid image of Tom one Easter weekend walking from lunch to the Kettles wearing his Easter bunny ears fashioned from old fire hose, his coveralls, felt hat, and a fluffy white cotton tail while yodeling. What a guy!

We gathered at the kettles Sunday evening and toasted Tom with fresh kettle boy syrup, recognizing how he brought us all together and that his legacy lives on. 

We are grateful for Tom’s friendship and the wonderful times we had together and extend our sympathies to his family.

Jamie Fortune