Remembering Kee Dewdney

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Alexander Keewatin Dewdney on March 9, 2024. We all knew him simply as ‘Kee’ and he was one of a kind. Kee was a filmmaker, mathematician, computer scientist, author, and conservationist. Kee and his late wife Patricia donated the 100-acre Newport Forest to Thames Talbot Land Trust in 2007.

Please read below for a memorial piece prepared by Kee's friend Bruce Parker.

A memorial event will take place at Newport Forest on May 12th at 1pm. Please hold the date - further details will be provided at a later time. Do you have a favourite story about Kee? Please share it with us and we will collate all stories for the May event. Send your stories to [email protected].


Remembering Kee Dewdney
By Bruce Parker

It is with great sadness that I recently learned of the passing of Alexander Keewatin Dewdney. Of course, we all knew him simply as ‘Kee’ and he was one of a kind.

Much like his father Selwyn, who was an author, illustrator, artist, teacher, and cataloger of ancient pictographs, Kee forged his own many faceted trail as a filmmaker, mathematician, computer scientist, author, and conservationist.

Although I cannot prove it, I do imagine his interest in the natural environment and biology may have come from the many expeditions he shared with his father in the Boreal regions of Ontario’s north, searching for pictographs.

I met Kee back in the mid 1980s as I lived above his mother Irene’s apartment at the corner of Ridout and Craig streets. It didn’t take long for me to learn about the amazing work of Selwyn in cataloging the country’s rock art. It spurred my interest in pictographs and visitations to dozens of sites over the following years throughout the province. Selwyn passed away in 1979 so I never met him, but here was Kee, son of Selwyn, living just down the street on Askin Ave.

It is difficult not to mention Pat Dewdney when referring to Kee. Both Kee and his first wife Pat were well known in Old South and were partners in many projects. Many of you will remember how each spring they would offer up free saplings of native species. This practice continued for many years.

In 1988, Kee and Pat were the subject of an article by local author Herman Goodden in the November edition of ‘Ontario Living’. The article was appropriately titled “The Multidimensional World of Kee and Pat Dewdney.

Kee appeared to have a fondness for ‘Procyon lotor’, commonly known as ‘raccoon’. For a species most people would regard as a pest, he fashioned a wooden home for a few of them in one of his backyard trees, offering meals and studying their habits. In his book, ‘Hungry Hollow – The Story of a Natural Place’ (1998), it is this species which is the subject of the first chapter as well as gracing the cover of the book.

In 1997, Kee and Pat began Project 1802, a cooperative venture with Kettle Creek and Upper Thames River Conservation Authorities. The nature of the work, in his own words, was “to provide an accurate, comprehensive assessment of the life forms inhabiting the area, its physical geography, hydrology, water chemistry, large scale physical and biological processes, and history since pioneering times”. The 50-hectare tract of wetland was known as ‘ANowaghi Forest Ponds’. The results of the three year project were published in the year 2000.

The next project was the purchase of a 40-hectare tract of land in the region of Wardsville. Named ‘Newport Forest’, it became the second home of Pat and Kee. A 15-foot motor home was sunk into the firmament with interior space just available for a bed, a tiny kitchen, a table, and a shelf full of field guides. Kee estimated they would visit Newport about 60 times a year, with each trip harvesting some new knowledge of the forest. They began an all-taxa biological inventory, from one cell species to mammals, which eventually numbered nearly 3,000 species and became one of the most intensively sampled sites in the world (63.8 spp/ha). Newport Forest became a community venue where scientists, biologists, and friends would converge for various ‘bees’, such as the collection of fungi, identifying various wildlife, or discovering moths with a white bed sheet and black light in the middle of the night. Kee was always proud of the annual ‘trail lining’ bee as volunteers would collect the down and dead tree limbs to define and maintain the nearly 2 kilometer riverine trail snaking along the Thames River. I recall how pleased he would be to find a bowed limb to accentuate a curve in the trail.

He would often visit Newport Forest in the winter, eagerly documenting the footprints of the winter roving fauna and, on occasion, requiring his van to be towed back out to the county road. It was with such high hopes that Kee desperately wanted to prove that cougars were present in southwestern Ontario and, more specifically, in Newport Forest. He did produce examples of large paw prints and sketchy photos, but alas no true evidence of Puma concolor was ever found.

Kee had a love and wonderment for all life which creeped, flew, or slithered about Newport, but I especially remember that it was a certain species of arthropod that he took to heart. I cannot recall its name but do remember how impressed he was with this tiny bug. If you subscribed to his online reports which followed each of his visits, you would be made aware of the amazing phenology of his forested kingdom. He contemplated and documented everything he saw and shared it all with us.

The annual ‘Virginia Bluebells’ event would happen every Mother’s Day weekend with the hope that the bulk of the beautiful blue wildflower would be blooming. The day would be capped with refreshments in ‘the nook’, a shaded area beside the trailer. There would be beverages and Pat’s tasty ‘hermits’. Kee would regale the crowd with stories, recent scientific information, and a collection of bad jokes. Many will recall the story of ‘Wendy the weasel’ who took up residence in the trailer during the season and would overwinter, providing several litters of young.

Kee’s enthusiasm was infectious, at least it was for me. A few years ago he organized a ‘fungi blitz’ with the presence of noted mycologist, Dr. Greg Thorn. I was glad to participate. The problem was that the event was in May, not the best time for any fungi to be poking above the ground. September and early October are the best time for mushrooms. We did forge and forage ahead, myself in the company with Kee, eyes to the ground but only gathering remnants of last year’s polypores. Kee didn’t mind and neither did the rest of the group who, like ourselves, collected just a miserable handful of ancient fungi. There were drinks and much conversation at the end of it all.

Kee gifted Newport Forest to Thames Talbot Land Trust in 2007, but continued to document activity up until last autumn. My membership to TTLT began with that gift.

Years ago, Kee required cardiac surgery and was unable to drive for some time. I did offer to drive his van with Pat onboard to Newport shortly after he got back on his feet, but with the use of a walker. I do recall his delight when he played a cd of all blue grass music, loud and something akin to the soundtrack of “The Beverly Hillbillies” on repeat. His pleasure in enjoying this was matched by my earnestness to just get to Newport before my ears bled.

Close friend Winnie Wake best describes him as “irrepressible and full of enthusiasm”.

Kee Dewdney always made you feel welcome at Newport Forest, engaged you with a task, and shared your joy in its success. He also shared his discoveries with all and we are all the richer for his generosity.

I did learn so much in the company of Kee. His presence at Newport Forest and with us all will be profoundly missed.


Please join us on May 12th at 1 pm to celebrate Kee Dewdney's love of nature at Newport Forest. The event will include a walk on the trail to see the Virginia Bluebells.