Choosing Ian Coristine

By: Simon Fuller

Volume 15, Ian's Issue, March 2020

The River, it is said, chooses some. She sure chose wisely when she chose Ian Coristine!!

For this generation and generations to come, time will validate that Ian’s contributions to “raising the bar” for the Thousand Islands has, and will, continue to surpass those of Fulford, Bourne, Boldt or Remington. In contrast to their wealth, influence, or artistry, it was the way in which Ian went about capturing the wonders of life in the Thousand Islands and the manner in which he got behind others whom he acknowledged as helping to “raise the bar” that are his hallmark. Ian’s sense for devil-may-care adventure, his charisma, humour, straight talk, passion for life, relentless pursuit for quality in his work and his eye for the inspirational are the ingredients that have left such an enduring legacy.

He may have been inspired by his bird’s eye view from his first flight over the Islands as a skilled pilot of his ultralight, or his abiding friendship with the renowned professor Paul Malo, who founded Thousand Islands Life Magazine, but it was Ian’s character that inspired those of us to “pay attention!!”

Ian is the greatest connector of people. He has managed to build an international community of caring and passionate individuals who have all had a hand, inspired by his, in “raising the bar” for this region.

Tall Ship's Landing © Photo by Ian Coristine/

Tall Ships Landing

Ian is, and will always be, an inspiration for me. From the very outset he got behind the vision of Tall Ships Landing. He flew above the turbulence of petty politics, communicated directly and always paid attention, in his words, “on how to make one of the world’s great places, even greater.”

I first met Ian in 2007, just before our company began to market Tall Ships Landing (TSL). John Montpetit, our marketing director, was attempting to secure the rights to use five of Ian’s photos for the TSL brochure. John had been given Ian’s name and reference as the iconic photographer for the Thousand Islands, by Lyne Henderson, whose firm was printing the brochure. John requested and received a budget of five thousand dollars for the five images.

When John returned to my office after having spoken with Ian, his head was shaking. "This guy is crazy! He refuses to only sell the rights to five photos. He says you will need fifty or more photos and he is refusing to take any payment. He will only give us the rights to the photos on one condition. You have to go and have a hot dog with him on his Island!"

Needless to say, as the deadline for print was upon us, I dropped what I was doing and drove down to meet this guy, who picked me up in his aluminum boat and stole me away to his Island for what would become one of the most watershed experiences of my life!

My motive for developing Tall Ships Landing was born out of my desire to combine my inherited love of architecture and building with my passion to want to make a positive social difference with what I had been given. Having fallen upon Brockville (after purchasing the Dominion Post Office and Customs House, on eBay, that was designed by my Great Grandfather), it quickly became obvious that it was the ideal location for the vision that became Tall Ships Landing. At the time, TSL included a five thousand square foot Maritime Discovery Centre in support of the mission of Bytown Brigantine, the charity that I had founded twenty-five-years earlier, to support my passion for experiential education through maritime experiences.

It did not take Ian long to open my eyes to the wonders of the Thousand Islands. Nor did it take long for Ian to grasp my passion for Tall Ships Landing, Bytown Brigantine and the vision for the Maritime Discovery Centre. I immediately asked him to join the MDC Steering Committee, which he did, and remained one of its driving forces all the way through. In time the MDC would grow six times and evolve into the Aquatarium. I left Ian’s Raleigh Island that day, in the pitch dark, but with a burning desire to work harder to “raise the bar”.

The vision of the Aquatarium is to build a greater appreciation for the wonders of the Thousand Islands and it does this every day, through its mission of inspiring curiosity, within its four themes of history, environment, culture, and nautical sciences. [Photo by Ian Coristine]

Most recently, in the face of life’s greatest challenge, he and his devoted wife, Lyne, thought so kindly as to donate Ian’s life’s artistic work to the Aquatarium, so that generations to come will continue to be captivated and inspired.

A wise person once said that a hundred years from now, it will not matter the size of your bank account, the car you drove, or the house you lived in, but what will matter is if you were able to make a positive difference in the life of a child. Ian’s artistry as a photographer is the catalyst that has set off a reaction through our eyes, and those of future generations, that has, and will, captivate and inspire us to unlock the wonders of this magical place in a way that enriches our lives and motivates us to be better stewards of our environment, history, culture, and river lifestyle. It is hard to imagine a greater gift and legacy to leave to our youth!  

My dear Ian, your example in life is the greatest gift to all of us. You have earned your Valhalla and then some! You have indeed set the bar higher, to a height that will inspire us for the rest of our days and generations to come.

Bravo Zulu!!

Our thanks to Thomas Harder and the Aquatarium for sharing this short video they put together for their board of directors.

To Ian’s wife Lyne, son Scotty, daughter Hayley, and their mother Mary, thank you for sharing your Ian with us. Our generation will not forget his friendship, generosity, passion, and devotion to “raising the bar” in the Thousand Islands and generations from now will appreciate his having done so.

By Simon Fuller

Simon Fuller is Principal of the Fuller Group of Companies, (a diversified group of construction, fabrication, development and real-estate companies, including creating Brockville's Tall Ships Landing); Simon is a founder and director of the Bytown Brigantine sail training foundation and and Vice Chair Tall Ships Canada.

Editor's Note:  We thank Simon Fuller for sharing his tribute to Ian. A tribute Ian was able to hear before he died on February 15. This editor was fortunate to have been invited to attend some of the early Aquatarium planning meetings. It was a privilege and honor to be at the table with Simon and Ian, both so passionate to bring this special attraction to Brockville for the young and old.  

Posted in: Volume 15, Ian's Issue, March 2020, Architecture, People

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