Molson, Colin John (Jack) Grasset
Colin John Grasset Molson 1902 - 1997
C.J.G. “Jack” Molson was born in St. Thomas, Ontario to Mary Letitia Snider and Kenneth Molson. The family moved to Quebec City when Jack was two years old, where Kenneth worked as a manager for a branch of the Molson’s Bank. During Jack’s childhood he spent his summers with his grandparents (John Thomas Molson and Jenny Baker Butler) in Métis.
He learned to play the violin as a boy, and for his high school years he attended boarding school at Ashbury College in Rockcliffe Park, near Ottawa. He went on to study economics and accounting, and as a young man he was hired by Coopers & Lybrand.
Jack met Doris Amelia Carington Smith at a coming-out party aboard the HMS Hood, (built in 1922, the largest military vessel in the world at the time), anchored in the Quebec harbour in August of 1924. They were married in Montmorency two years later.
From then on, Jack would spend time with his family each summer in Tadoussac, where the Carington Smiths had a summer home. They had two children: Robin, in 1929, and Verity in 1932. Jack owned a little wooden sailboat called Lilith, but sold the vessel when war started in 1939.
He became Paymaster for the Black Watch in Montreal. He and Doris continued to come to Tadoussac with their children through the war year summers. After peace was declared, in 1945, he bought land in Dwight Park and had a house built on it of his own design.
Jack Molson continued to work as a chartered accountant in Montreal, while over the years his interest in Quebec’s history and heritage grew. He became one of the founders of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild and was one of the first to support the efforts of Inuit carvers and print-makers. In 1955 when Westmount’s Hurtubise House (1714) was threatened with demolition, Jack mounted an effort to save the island’s oldest home. He persuaded his friend, James Beattie, and his aunt, Mabel Molson, to help him buy the house. In the next few years, he purchased two other properties, including natural sites in Gaspé that were vulnerable to commercial development. By 1960 the Canadian Heritage of Quebec was incorporated and had an active board of professionals as directors. The CHQ foundation, under Jack’s direction, would save Simon Fraser house in Ste. Anne-de-Bellevue, the Laterriere Seigneurial Mill at Les Eboulements in the Charlevoix, as well as Les Rochers, Sir John A. Macdonald’s summer home in St. Patrick, and dozens of other heritage properties on both sides of the St. Lawrence River, including Bon Désir and Point à Boisvert on the north shore. Here in Tadoussac, Jack Molson and James Beattie purchased the Pilot House (Molson-Beattie House) with the intention of converting it to a museum. When historical fishing vessels and sailboats were donated to the CHQ foundation, Jack had barns erected on land behind the Pilot House in order to preserve them. He bought land above the sand dunes which he later donated to the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. He was also very supportive of the Tadoussac Protestant Chapel.
In 1979 Jack Molson was awarded the Order of Canada for his dedication to historical preservation through the Canadian Heritage of Quebec. By then, he had long retired from his work in order to devote all of his time to the foundation. In spite of his remarkable vision of the future and all of his accomplishments, Jack was a modest man who shied away from personal publicity. His manner was unassuming, his personal life pared down to the essentials. One of the things he loved the most was a simple picnic on a St. Lawrence River beach with some boiled eggs and a cup of tea brewed in a billycan over a small fire. On more than one occasion he was known to have said to Doris, “This is a beautiful, unspoiled spot. It would be such a pity if someone decided to develop it. We should buy it.”
Predeceased by Doris in 1975, and his daughter Verity in 1995, Jack Molson passed away peacefully after a long illness in 1997. He was 95.