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Marie Woolsey (right) and Helen Webber at North Knife Lake Lodge.

Marie Woolsey (right) and Helen Webber at North Knife Lake Lodge.

by Vanessa Desorcy, Marketing Manager

Blueberries & Polar Bears co-author Marie Woolsey grew up in Ontario, Canada eating simple meals with her parents and two sisters. Special occasions may have warranted a roast chicken, but for the most part dinners consisted of wieners with sauerkraut, or spaghetti with tomato-soup sauce.

Marie’s mom did all the cooking at home, so it was a big adjustment when she moved away and had to start preparing meals for herself. She was living in an apartment with two other girls who also had never cooked for themselves and recalls a particularly embarrassing episode when her boyfriend and his parents came over for dinner one night.

She served them spaghetti with store-bought sauce followed by Jell-O with canned fruit, and Marie recalls that “it was an awkward and uncomfortably quiet meal — one never to be repeated.” Thankfully, her next two roommates were more adept in the kitchen, and Marie was able to hone her own expertise considerably.

When Marie married her husband Gary, she received two cookbooks as wedding gifts. These would be her first introduction to following a recipe. Getting married was also a catalyst for Marie’s now-renowned baking skills, because after dinner each night Gary would ask her, “So, what’s for dessert?”

Gary was a priest-pilot and spent most of his time flying between 25 Indigenous communities in northern Ontario and Manitoba. In 1968, after a year of long-distance marriage, Gary and Marie decided to move together to an isolated community, Big Trout Lake, which was centrally located to the other towns and villages Gary visited regularly.

Being this far removed from a grocery store made Marie quickly realize that she would need to learn how to bake bread. She enlisted the help of an expert bread maker who told her to “treat it rough” when it came time to knead the dough. Marie fell in love with the art of making bread and has rarely bought a loaf since.

In 1976, Marie and Gary made the move to Churchill and Marie recalled that “Doug and Helen must have been curious about the new minister in town, because they started coming to church for the first time.” Marie and Gary’s son, Drew, became fast friends with Doug and Helen’s youngest, Shari, so the two couples spent a lot of time together and developed a strong bond.

Marie started working with Helen in 1989, and this dream team has been nearly inseparable ever since. They published the first of their four Blueberries & Polar Bears cookbooks in 1994 and have spent every summer at North Knife Lake Lodge cooking for fly-in fishing guests, as well as a few weeks each year in Churchill, providing support to our ecolodges.

Churchill Wild would not have the reputation for culinary excellence that it has today, without Marie’s experience, dedication and support.

Thank you Marie!

This story originally appeared in our Churchill Wild 25th Anniversary Book, Churchill Wild — 25 Years of Adventure on the Hudson Bay Coast, which is now available online at McNally Robinson Booksellers and at our head office. There are also a limited number of copies available at our lodges from July through November, during our polar bear walking safaris. For more information please call 1.866.UGO.WILD (846.9453) or email

Churchill Wild 25th Anniversary Book. Now available online at McNally Robinson Booksellers.

Churchill Wild 25th Anniversary Book. Now available online at McNally Robinson Booksellers.

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