On a trip across Canada about 30 years ago, Paul Brunelle had little idea
that the two cacti he brought home - a prickly pear and a pincushion - would alter the course of the rest of
his life. When the prickly
pear bloomed, he
became "irretrievably hooked." He would soon establish a cactus collection that would have no
equal in the Atlantic region.
With some 327 species and over 1200 plants in his collection, Paul's work
and knowledge would eventually excite novice and avid horticulturists
alike. In 1998, he donated his entire collection of plants and his library to Dalhousie University where they will provide an invaluable
learning resource far into the future.
Paul was born in Toronto, where his father, Joseph E. Brunelle was a hobby
gardener devoted especially to vegetables. As the oldest son in a family
of 13, Paul often had to help with the gardening. A garden was the custom
for the Brunelles, and no matter where Paul would reside, he would always
find the time to have a little garden in one place or another.
Following his formal schooling in Ontario, Paul was employed as a
machinist and assistant machine designer in building a match manufacturing
business, and later as a production worker in a carbon paper factory. In
1939 he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force as an Aviation Armourer, and
served overseas for more than six years. After the war Paul returned to
Scoudouc N.B., where he started an experimental armament section for the
R.C.A.F. Later his family moved back to Toronto where Paul worked as a
machinist. Unsatisfied with civilian life, and lonesome for the smell of
salt water, he applied to join the new
air branch of the Royal Canadian Navy as an aviation tradesperson. He took up this position in 1948.
Paul retired in 1968 when he and his wife Gwen moved permanently to
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Paul continued to
work full time, and became the Secretary/Treasurer/Manager in charge of
organizing, developing and operating a full-time, full-service, community
credit union in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia.
In 1972, Paul purchased his first packet of cactus seeds from the Halifax
Company. Soon thereafter he joined the Cactus and Succulent Information
Exchange of Burnaby, British Columbia, an exchange with a worldwide
membership of over 800. Subsequently, he became the French translator
for that exchange.
As time went on, Paul became more interested and more involved. He was
soon obtaining seeds from all over the world. Paul
also began supplying seeds to growers; many went to Arizona, where
they received worldwide distribution. Paul joined the American and
British Cactus and Succulent Society, and is a member of the Dartmouth
Horticultural Society and many other succulent societies. An avid writer
and photographer, Paul has published numerous articles and won several
awards for his work with cacti.
Paul enjoys being active. Besides work in his
greenhouse, his photography and his writing, he enjoys wood and metal working, keeps an extensive library and has always been active
in the community. Treasurer of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space
Institute, and Commissioner of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia are
just two examples of his public contributions. Paul has recently donated several technical drawings, maps, publications and personal notes to the
Searwater Aviation Museum, where they are kept in the archives and are available for public display.
At 81 years of age (83 in 2001), Paul now looks back on his life and comments " I've had a wonderful life, but no
matter how wonderful life is, there's always something more you want to
We extend our sincere thanks to Paul Brunelle for his contributions to Dalhousie
University, his participation in this Web site and sharing with us his excitement about cacti, which is definitely contagious!
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