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Longtime Saint-Anicet resident emerges from retirement and battling cancer to embrace new business endeavour

Retirement sounds wonderful, relaxing – a time for adventure. Yet for many, retirement is less exciting and lacks the mental challenges and structure that work life offered. Ken Hamilton, a longtime Saint-Anicet resident, is one of those people. “After four years intensely battling cancer, I recently got news that my tumours are under control. I was bored and thought it would be fun to do something in business again,” he says. “I’ve started something new that I hope will help people close to home here in the Chateauguay Valley, as well as in other parts of the province.”

A family history in Saint-Anicet

It was Ken’s grandfather, Wilfred Hamilton, who started renting a home in Saint-Anicet in 1928 with his wife and four children. Their children loved it so much, three of them ended up renting cottages in the area as adults. By the 1950s it was Ken’s turn – his parents, Gerald and Eileen Hamilton, rented a cottage there every summer, from about June 24 to Labour Day weekend.

When the opportunity to buy the summer cottage came about in the 1960s, Ken’s mother jumped at the chance. By 1975, Ken and his new bride, Irene, were looking for a first house. Not able to afford the high city prices in Montreal at the time, they chose to take over the property and turned the cottage into a four-season home. Their three daughters, Cynthia, Sandra, and Lyanne, were born and raised there.

While Irene was very involved in the girls’ schools, Ken was active on various boards. He was a school commissioner for the Catholic school board in Huntingdon, president of the Economic Development Corporation for the Haut-Saint-Laurent, and president of the Suroît Alzheimer’s Society.

Getting back in the game

Ken started working at Hamilton Agencies, which his uncle Harold had created, in 1970 when he was fresh out of university. Three years later, he bought the business from his uncle who was looking to move on. For 45 years Ken commuted to Montreal, growing the business into a well-respected food service equipment distributor and representative for Eastern Canada.

Ken’s beloved wife Irene passed away from cancer in 2018, leaving him alone in the house on Pointe-Doyon as his three grown daughters had long since moved out. Five years ago, figuring it was time to retire, he sold the family business to his second daughter, Sandra, who had already been running it for several years. Unfortunately, he was then kept busy managing his cancer and going for a myriad of doctors’ appointments and chemotherapy treatments in Montreal. As anyone familiar with cancer can attest, battling the disease is a full-time job.

 

PHOTO Courtesy of Ken Hamilton

 

“A year ago, I accompanied Sandra to a trade show despite feeling poor due to the chemotherapy. I wanted to see my old friends, whom I’d known for 45 years,” Ken explains. “There, I discovered this American company that had patented a new way of getting rid of flies, mosquitos, and fruit flies without pesticides, insecticides, sprays, or zaps – completely safe around people, animals, and food. At first, I thought of it only from the restaurant supply side, as that had always been the nature of the Hamilton Agencies business. Indeed, Sandra started distributing this brand here in Eastern Canada and promoting it to clients.

Better news came early this year: Ken’s immune therapy treatments have been working and his cancerous tumours are under control. Feeling more energetic again, the lifelong businessman had the itch to get back in the game and start a new business focus.

“That same insect-control company is very successful in the agricultural sector in the United States. Knowing so many farmers here in the Chateauguay Valley are struggling to deal with flies and other insects, I decided to branch out and distribute the company’s larger-format products to the farming and food-processing sectors.” Ken is now leading Hamilton Agencies’ foray into the agricultural sector throughout Eastern Canada.

“We don’t have similar technology here in Canada and I see this product works exceptionally well. I’m excited to help my lifelong friends and neighbours – and farmers I don’t yet have the pleasure of knowing – deal with an annoying problem that affects their revenues and operations.”

At 75, after four years battling cancer and with renewed energy, Ken’s back on the road, showing people in the area an innovative product, learning more details about agriculture and farming, and starting to have a great time again.

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