Suzanne Pasternak

by Amy Bodman

The South Shore Joint Initiative would like to pay tribute to our great friend and supporter, Suzanne Pasternak, who passed away on September 3.

Suzanne was a prolific musician, filmmaker, writer, and photographer who moved to Prince Edward County in 1983. She spent over 33 years collecting and documenting oral histories on the maritime history of Eastern Ontario, much of which focused on Prince Edward County’s South Shore. This work led her to create historically based folk operas, musicals, plays, 3 books, 2 documentaries and 2 albums. In the early 1990’s Suzanne, who was living on the South Shore at the time, began documenting her neighbours who were involved in Prince Edward County’s commercial fishery - audio recording, videotaping, and photographing them at work and at leisure. She was very aware that she was documenting a unique and important aspect of Lake Ontario’s history, one that had been largely overlooked. Out of this endeavor came two versions of her beautiful film “A Vanishing Legacy: The Last of the Lake Ontario Commercial Fishermen.”

Suzanne playing one of her pieces on guitar (Photo: Ramesh Pooran)

Suzanne Pasternak Biography Portrait

In 2021 SSJI embarked on a project with Suzanne to consolidate the archive of her work on the Commercial Fishery and to create an illustrated oral history book entitled “A Lifetime Upon These Waters: An Illustrated Oral History of Prince Edwad County’s Vibrant Commercial Fishery”. The project is ongoing and the book will be published by Steve Campbell at County Magazine soon. In February of this year, Suzanne collaborated with SSJI to present version 1 of her documentary “Vanishing Legacy” as part of Prince Edward County’s Flashback February, 2023. In the webinar she performs one of her songs, introduces the film and thoughtfully discusses it afterwards. It can be seen on SSJI’s YouTube Channel at:

Suzanne steered the Commercial Fishery project with clear-sighted vision, an infectious zest for life and deep wisdom. All of us involved consider it a great honour to have been able to work with her on it. A true artist and documentarian, Suzanne was fueled by her love for the work, for Prince Edward County,
for the people we interviewed, for those who collaborated with her throughout her life, and most of all, for her great friends and family.