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Labrador West Pioneers: Gerry Russel

Gerry Russell
Gerry Russel - Gary Shaw

The Rabbit Man from Bonavista Bay

LABRADOR WEST, N.L. — Like so many of the young people who ventured to Labrador West in the early years, it was for the opportunity for work in the mining sector that was clearly the draw to the Big Land.

Gerry Russell’s arrival was no different than many who came. He landed in Labrador West, from Winterbrook in Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland. He spent his first year in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and then on to Labrador West for a job at I.O.C.

Russel and his wife are zooming in on their 50th year, clearly not a short stay. They spent all of those years here solidly entrenched in Labrador West.

They raised their two children, now adults, who are making their own way in the world.


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Gerry has been retired from I.O.C. since 2004. He continues, in retirement, to do some work in his trade as a truck driver and equipment operator, but he lives his passion for the outdoors more than ever.

Gerry is a hunter and fisherman through and through. He purchased his first snowmobile in 1969, a 12-hp Elan Skidoo for $575, and the rest has been history.

He had been on many caribou hunts back in the good old days and is an avid brook trout fisherman. A regular part of each year has been his trips to Goose Bay for a go at the smelts and sea trout. More than once I have found a bag hanging on my doorknob with a dandy big meal of fresh smelts, thank to Gerry.

Gerry is constantly out the door; a man on a mission no matter what the season. He is always busy. Whether it’s cutting a load of wood or tending to his yard and flowers, his home has always looked like it’s a photo shot from Better Homes and Gardens magazine. His garden is always set with a fine bed of potatoes, which are tended with care. Each fall brings another harvest of fresh, home grown potatoes.

He always finds time for a trip back home each year to Winterbrook, to enjoy his family roots. Gerry is not unlike many of us who still go back home, to wherever we came from, each year. The funny part of this is as we prepare to leave the places of family roots, our home, we tell the folks out there that we are heading back to our home, Labrador West.

Without any doubt, Gerry is best known in Labrador West as the “Rabbit Man.”

As fall approaches there are two things you can be sure of: snow is on the way and Gerry has his pack full of rabbit snares. Gerry has a network of alder beds he has been snaring for years. There are few places when you go out of town in any direction that you won’t bump into Gerry making his way out of the woods, pack and rabbits in tow. No matter the weather, good or nasty, Gerry will be clearly in his element with a big smile on his face.

There are not a lot of folks in our community who haven’t had a meal of rabbits, thanks to Gerry.

Labrador as it has turned out, has been a perfect fit for Gerry and Gerry, a perfect fit for Labrador.

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