Gilles Plante

Obituary of Gilles Georges Sylvain Plante

November 18, 1956 – March 2, 2024
On a sun-shimmery March day, in the magical home he built overlooking the River John in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Gilles Georges Sylvain Plante passed peacefully away, as he had requested.
Gilles was a remarkable, kind, wise, witty, and courageous man. 
He was also, in his quiet, understated and humble way, an adventurous spirit. He rose to challenges in work and in life with both practicality and compassion.
Born in Arthabasca, Quebec, to Marie-Jean (née Richier) and Leopold Plante, he was the seventh child of nine in a large, loving family. His early childhood was spent in the city of Victoriaville, until the family later moved to the Quebec City neighbourhood of Duberger.
Gilles’ mother liked to recall that even when he was small, her seventh child listened more than he talked. He was even-tempered, soft-spoken, independent, and when he chose to (as he often did), he could make himself almost disappear in any crowd. When he found himself bored or uninspired by regular fare in school, Gilles would turn to encyclopedias and read them back to front, front to back, to satisfy his curious soul. His passions, skills, and talents were many. He loved to be outside with his hammer and tool kit, building something beautiful under the patient mentorship of his carpenter father, or tending to his pigeons, or paddling a home-made raft down the (polluted) river that ran behind the family home. And that boyhood go-cart he made? That was just preparation for a series of cars Gilles would later tinker with, modify, rebuild, and drive with pride, none more so than his beloved Triumph TR6.  
Gilles was handy, quick-witted, and curious about the world. These gifts, along with his ability to make himself almost invisible when he wanted to, served him well in his career as a photojournalist, faced with the many demands and time constraints of high-power media scrums. He was grace and patience under pressure; a consummate professional, as anyone who ever worked with him would attest.
Gilles was just 18 years old when CBC/Radio Canada hired him in 1974 as a summer replacement. That hooked him, and he finished his college diploma in electronics, specializing in audiovisuals. At Radio Canada, Gilles steadily worked his way up through the ranks, from television control room, to sound technician to cameraman, to electronic news gathering editor and producer. Eventually, he moved to Halifax to improve his English, hoping that might lead to an overseas posting. In the Halifax office, he worked with Radio Canada icon James Bambier, and other journalists covering Atlantic Canada for the flagship French national news program, Le Téléjournal.  
It was also in Halifax that Gilles met and married the love of his life, Sheree Fitch. He happily abandoned his earlier ambitions for an overseas posting, choosing instead to stay in Halifax to become a devoted husband and father to his chosen sons. 
Gilles’ career did later take him to the United States, where he became Technical Director of U.S. Operations for the CBC’s Washington and New York bureaus – including English and French, radio and television. After that posting, Gilles decided it was time to retire. He was just 53, but eager to pursue another life-long dream: to have a barn, a hobby farm, a tractor, and to build his own house. He did all this and much more, after he and Sheree bought an old farm in River John, and made it their home.
Gilles rallied behind his wife and many from the village of River John when they spent nearly two years developing a plan to keep the small community school open, and proposing a “hub model” for the school board to the Nova Scotia government. Alas, their hard work was in vain, and the government closed the River John school. Devastated by the decision, Gilles and Sheree started imagining what they could do for the community that had just lost its school. “If only we could open something, like a little book shop,” mused Sheree. This was all Gilles needed to hear. He suggested they turn the old granary beside the barn into a bookshop. And so it was that Mabel Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery was born, created with Gilles’ sweat (and maybe even a little blood) and Sheree’s happy tears. Between its opening in 2017, and 2020 when COVID hit, about 18,000 people from across Canada and beyond visited Mabel Murple’s, perusing and purchasing books, meeting horses, sheep, donkeys, hens, and picnicking under the fairy tree. All that time, Gilles handled renovations and repairs on the shoppe, tended to the animals, and kept the property shipshape. 
It was also in 2017 that Gilles was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. His mother had died of Alzheimer’s and he knew its progression well. He said from the start he cherished his independence and quality of life, and he wanted to live fully, but only as long as he could recognize the people he loved. He wanted to die with dignity, and he chose Medical assistance in dying (MAID). Although he was a man who was most comfortable behind the camera and behind the scenes, after his diagnosis Gilles was determined to be very public, talking and educating people about the disease. He spoke often and openly, even in the media, about his intention to live as long as he could with joy, and about why he chose MAID. He taught all of us so much.  
He is survived by wife Sheree Fitch, chosen son Jordan McCormack, grandson Jaxson, (mother Alana Desorcy), grandson Cohen Leblanc (mother Brittany Leblanc), granddaughters Emma and Ivy McCormack (mother Stefanie McCormack), siblings Pierre Plante (Manon Moreau), Monique Plante (Remi Brouard), France Plante, (Michel Prince), Michel Plante (Gisele Rocheleau), Lise Plante (Jean Marc Tanquauy), Gitane Plante (Jean-Rock Fontaine), Danielle Plante (Claude Besette), and Luc Plante (Sylvie Gingras), many nieces and nephews, two best friends, Regis Lebaume and Daniel Lavoie, and his sister-in-law Leanne Fitch (Sara McElman). He was predeceased by chosen son Dustin McCormack, his parents, brother-in-law Shawn Fitch, and parents-in-laws Kenneth and Doe Fitch.
The family have so many to thank, and no words to express the gratitude we have for all our friends and everyone who reached out to us. Dr. Kenneth Rockwood, pharmacist Tammy Langille and Dr. Gordon Gubitz, the MAID network of Nova Scotia, and family Dr. Dijbe Varma, were all with us professionally and lovingly on what was a profound and sacred journey. 
Gilles wanted to give back to the village of River John, the community that had his and his family’s backs for the duration of his illness, and where he lived out his dream of being a “gentleman farmer.” Donations can be made in his memory to the River John Volunteer Fire Department by e-transfer to, or cheques made out to The River John Action Society. 
A good life, and a good death for a good man.  Gilles, you are missed, and you are loved by anyone fortunate enough to have known you. A tribute to Gilles is planned for a future date.

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