Eugene Lebwohl & Ruth Matthews: Beyond the Immediate Ripple of our Lives 

10 Jul 2020

More than 45 years ago US born Eugene Lebwohl, originally from the US, came to Cape Breton, backpacking and delighting in the beauty and ecological diversity found there. As with so many people, the place took a hold on him. “Nova Scotia, and especially Cape Breton, got into my bones and anchored in my consciousness,” said Eugene.

He was hooked, so when he and his wife Ruth Matthews started planning what they wanted to do during retirement, spending time in Cape Breton was at the top of their list. Ruth herself is originally from Ontario, so she liked the idea of having a rustic summer spot in Canada to call their second home. 

Eugene’s life and work have been closely connected with nature. He was originally a naturalist – teaching and conducting research on primates in Africa, as well as ethnobotanical studies on First Nation’s reservations. Later he spent 35 years in education, developing an alternative school for high school seniors. His model featured an experiential curriculum that included wilderness trips. Additionally, he has spent thirty years heading up an Environmental Foundation that provides mini–small grants for environmental education and environmentally–oriented youth service projects. 

Ruth worked in a university setting in adult education and also as an arts administrator. She has always been passionate about music and is both a classical pianist as well as a harpist. When in Cape Breton, she joins in the joyful music at ceilidhs and, in the winter in the US, plays chamber music and works as a therapeutic harpist in a hospice .

Both value nature deeply because they have drawn so much sustenance from it over the years. In Nova Scotia they see there is a real opportunity to protect and preserve natural treasures, an opportunity that no longer exists in other parts of the world. They both feel it is a privilege to play a part in saving this province’s unique ecological sites. They said, “If we could look 50 years into the future, we will wish someone had the foresight to protect not just a number of acres but this incredible diversity of habitat.”

Ruth and Eugene support many non–profits through their volunteer efforts and donations, and are committed to supporting the Nature Trust with a gift in their will. Eugene thoughtfully suggests, “This type of gift will create change that will last beyond the immediate ripple of our lives. It was the quality and dedication of the Nature Trust that made us choose to support.” However, to them, a planned gift is more about giving thanks than leaving a legacy. 

Ruth notes, “We will leave this life with a substantial gift to the Nature Trust that will, over time, protect that unique and still relatively unspoiled piece of the world that is Nova Scotia. It’s a way to say thank you to a place that has given us joy, offering to future generations what the generosity of past contributors have given us.“ 

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