Alice Johannsen, woman of the mountains

By Ingrid Birker, with help from Tania Aldred

Alice Johannsen

Alice Johannsen prepares for the exhibit "The Pacific in Peace and War", circa 1945. McGill University Archives, PR026515.

Alice Elizabeth Johannsen was born in 1911 in Havana, Cuba, but she was raised in the mountains of Norway and the Adirondacks of New York State. She also worked most of her life at two major cultural institutions sited under two small mountains in the Monteregian chain.  She was a geologist, naturalist and educator.  She was the daughter of well-known skier Herman-Smith “Jackrabbit” Johannsen, who introduced Nordic skiing to Canada. In 1984, when I first met her at her home on Mont Saint-Hilaire, she introduced herself as the “imam of the mountain” and immediately took us to see the glacier-scraped rocks she had picked up in Norway and the Laurentians. These mountain rocks were passed around and launched her vibrant three hour nature walk around the site. At the time she was already officially retired but was still active leading educational tours and providing nature interpretation. Her lifelong love of geology, nature, museum education and recreation was infectious and it started young. (more…)

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