By Andrew Macdonald
Lahave boater Barry Rofihe, who was part of the 96-year run of Bridgewater’s leading haberdashery Rofihe’s Mens Wear, remembers the recently departed Terry Burns, as an all-around top athlete.
Whether it was hockey as a teenager, or golfing and sailing as an adult, Burns excelled in sports.
Burnzie as he was known by his legion of friends on the Nova Scotia South Shore and in the Bras d’Or Lake community of Dundee, died in his sleep last week, days before he would have turned 78.
Raised in Bridgewater and Chester, Burns was a famous Nova Scotia sailor, taking part as a crew member of Ocean Commotion in international sailing races such as Nova Scotia to Newport, Bermuda and the fabled Marblehead races originating from the Boston to Halifax.
As a teenager, I once viewed Ocean Commotion, a clever boat name. It was owned by late legendary road builder Art Deckman, who sailed out of LaHave River on the South Shore.
Deckman, from the 1960s to 1980s, owned Acadia Construction and was married to Buchanan cabinet minister Marie Deckman. They had a wintertime retreat in the famous sailing tradewinds of the British Virgin Islands.
Later on, Terry Burns made the Bras d’Or Lake his ocean playground and was first mate for decades aboard the Ontario 32 sloop Tir Ard Nighean, Scottish Gaelic for Highland Lassie.
Tir Ard Nighean with skilled Terry aboard took its fair share of sailing hardware in the Dundee Cup and the MacAskill Cup, both in the Bras d’Or Lake.
Tir Ard Nighean was my late dad’s third sailing boat, bought in 1982 from Al Mosher, a South Shore sailor, and former Bridgewater broadcaster, one time Tory MLA in Lunenburg, and now a realtor.
Mosher now sails a classic C& C 36 on the South Shore and is married to Michele Stevens, a cousin to Terry’s wife, Rosemary.
Rosemary and Michele are sailing royalty on the South Shore, part of the original Stevens family that made sails in Lunenburg.
Stevens Sails is now owned by North Sails, owned by Sandy MacMillan, and which operates lofts in Lunenburg and Halifax.
Barry Rofihe traded in his own Ontario 32 sailboat and now chops around Lahave River and the waters of Mahone Bay in a power boat.
I spoke this week to 81-year old Rofihe, who befriended Terry when both were lads in Bridgewater.
“He was a wonderful guy,” Rofihe tells The Macdonald Notebook.
“I knew him from hockey and sailing and half his childhood was spent in Bridgewater. He was three years younger than I am,” says Rofihe, whose grandfather immigrated to Bridgewater from Lebanon, to open Rofihe’s Mens Wear 96 years ago. The renowned haberdashery closed last year, and the building sold on Aug. 15, 2017, which was also Terry’s birthday.
“I called him ’T’. He sailed with Art Deckman. He sailed with me. He was a hell of a sailor and racer and knew how to make a boat go,” recalls Rofihe. “Terry raced Marblehead and raced Newport. Terry was a very capable guy.
“Terry was a golf pro. He was in the navy and a great hockey player. He won two Nova Scotia Triple A championships. He was an all-around athlete.
“He was an easy going guy. Burnzie was here there and beyond all the time.”
During a business trip in Ottawa five years ago, Burns suffered a heart attack that left him in a coma for 20 days and resulted in two open heart surgeries and seven stints put in his body.
He died in his sleep at his home in Dundee, Cape Breton.
In Part Two, the next article here, I delve into his redevelopment of South Shore and Cape Breton golf courses.
In what has got to be a lesson in how precious life is for us all, I spoke to Terry last Wednesday, and he died two days later. I connected with him when I went to get photos of Rod Bryden’s commanding summer residency on the shores of Dundee.
Bryden is the founder and former owner of the NHL team, the Ottawa Senators.
During our chat, Burns and I shared sad memories that the once robust Dundee Marina was closed by a gentleman who made vast riches out West, and who built a $1 million mansion at the former Bras d’Or Lake marina, near the Dundee Golf & Country Club & Resort.
As per Burns’ wishes, there is no funeral or wake, and his ashes are to be spread about his favourite oasis sites on God’s green earth.