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About Paul Brunelle

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 Seed 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 know".

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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