In Celebration of Ian Coristine

By: Donna Walsh Inglehart

Volume 15, Ian's Issue, March 2020

A decade ago, I approached Ian to lease one of his photos for the cover of my novel, Grindstone. Being Ian, he didn’t hesitate: “Use anything you want! If you make millions, give me a little something.” I didn’t know, at the time, that when Ian was onto something River-related, he became turbo-charged, and with his considerable support, my novel was soon in bookstores on both sides of the River.

Over that summer, we began to discuss the possibility of working together on his memoir, which at that point, consisted of 400 pages of random anecdotes. Tech-smitten, Ian envisioned an iPad app that would display his photos to illustrate his story, and in 2012, the McLellan Group published One in a Thousand to international acclaim.

Although no longer available as an e-book, what follows is an excerpt of the closing paragraphs of One, which captures Ian’s deep love for the River and its people:

When I first flew over the Thousand Islands, I was drawn to them as if by a force I couldn’t resist. After years of searching for my wilderness shack on a private lake, I was thrilled that in Raleigh Island I’d found a better version. I’d thought it was all about the plane, the flying, but at the time, I did not recognize the narrowness of my vision… I now understand that I am part of something beyond myself and my family, an extended community that belongs to the River: the Iroquois, Algonquin, and Mississaugas, the Voyageurs, the Loyalists, and later, the waves of immigrants from Europe and beyond. Maria Prus, who found sanctuary on Raleigh, after surviving the Nazi prison camp, and the spirits of the settlers of Grenadier Island. I hope that my photos will, indeed, last a hundred years, not for my sake, but because they chronicle a moment in the long history of this remarkable place.
My first night on the island, I lay awake, surrounded by the River shimmering in the moonlight, and thought myself the luckiest man in the world. I traced the journey that had brought me there, the challenges and unexpected gifts, the strength and friends I’d discovered along the way. I’m deeply grateful for Mary’s support, knowing that I could not have achieved my dream without her. My children have discovered their own treasures on Raleigh, and I hope that in time they will come to cherish it in their own ways. It saddens me that my gentle mother, who would have loved Raleigh, was so diminished when we brought her to the island. She would have been happy to know that her grandchildren were growing up strong and vital, without the demons that had haunted our home. And that I have finally found peace.
As night slides into morning, I think about that teenager in the van, tearing through the night, hauling the formula car across the country to yet another distant race. I wish I could tell him that it would all work out, differently, but better than he’d hoped, that in time he would find his wilderness shack and that it would be far more than he’d ever imagined. But that would have changed the direction of the path, and in the end, I might have landed in a very different place.  Another chapter closes, and as dawn breaks, I drift into sleep. I’m home.
In One, Ian writes that this photo, Fair Jeanne, "epitomized what I loved best about the Thousand Islands, its history, beauty, and vitality. My final book of River photographs was now complete."

Six weeks before he died, Ian wrote to me about his diagnosis.  He asked me to consider revising the conclusion of One in a Thousand, a conversation we’d been having over the years. It troubled Ian that his memoir concludes before he reconnected with Lyne, who’d published three of his books and eventually became his wife. Ian wanted to describe the romance that began at the River and led them to Seguret and their Petit Gite de Charme. The photos of Lyne and Ian capture their halcyon years on Raleigh and in Provence, the conclusion Ian wanted for his life’s story.

Ian left us with the gift of his extraordinary photographs; now take a moment to read the contributions on his Tribute Wall.*  Some include photos of Ian’s youth, when he rode minibikes and bought his first racing car. Many are from his flying and River days, and from people who knew Ian only through his art. All are filled with affection and appreciation for this vital, generous man, who, even in his final weeks, described himself as the "luckiest man in the world."

By Donna Walsh Inglehart

Donna Walsh Inglehart spent many summers on Wellesley Island and used it, and others in the area, as the setting for Breaking the Ring, a young-adult novel she wrote for her daughters. Years later, she wrote Grindstone, a Civil War novel inspired by an island legend, based on documented accounts of both a Confederate spy ring in Toronto, and Irish immigrants who settled in the Thousand Islands.  Donna is currently writing the prequel to Grindstone.

Editor's Note: One in a Thousand is no longer available on the App Store, because it was created for an early-generation iPad. (Ian's vision always ran well ahead of his time.) Ian and Donna explored the possibility of updating One, in a newer iPad OS but found the cost to be prohibitive. It's very sad that this highly-praised work is now inaccessible. I am reminded, however, that my friend Ian never let an idea to promote the Thousand Islands go to waste!  If there's sufficient interest, it might be possible to print a limited-edition book. Contact info@thousandislandslife.com for more information.

In an April 2012 article for TI Life, Donna Inglehart describes her collaboration with Ian: "It's a privilege to have shared..."

Two articles by Kim Lunman, featuring the Great Lake Swimmers, the music behind One in a Thousand: (1) Sep 13, 2012 - The Great Lake Swimmers literally swam and dove into the St. Lawrence, ...  (2) Sep 12, 2009 - This spectacular setting on the St. Lawrence River is the backdrop for Toronto folk band Great Lake Swimmers...

Media tributes One in a Thousand earned upon publication.

Below are two of the 2012 promotional videos for One in a Thousand.


Although the 2012 eBook One in a Thousand is no longer available the promotional video is. The online book contained a gallery of more than 450 photographs, some never before published, 20 minutes of video, slideshows, an interactive map of the archipelago, and a soundtrack composed by Great Lake Swimmers, Once technology changed, the book was no longer viable.


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



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