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Donald Sutherland's Quebec connections: A home in the Eastern Townships and a love for the Expos

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Although born in New Brunswick, the late Canadian actor Donald Sutherland fostered a deep affection for Quebec and Montreal, a love reflected in his unwavering support for the Expos.

Sutherland, who died Thursday at age 88, had a home in the Eastern Townships and regularly spent time there.

His neighbour Terry Haig said Sutherland was a proud Canadian and Quebecer who never became an American citizen or embraced the Hollywood lifestyle.

"He lived all over the world in different places, but this is where he felt most at home, in the Townships, in Quebec. He loved Quebec and he's married to a French Canadian, so he better have loved it," said Haig, referring to Sutherland's wife, actress Francine Racette.

Haig lived as his neighbour for over 30 years in the town of Georgeville, about 140 kilometres southeast of Montreal.

"The last time I saw him was when he was honoured with the stamp last fall out in Georgeville, and I remember him saying it was the biggest honour he ever received. He was such a Canadian," he said. "He was so proud of being Canadian."

Haig was consistently struck by Sutherland's insatiable curiosity and profound intellect, a testament to the actor's lasting influence.

"He once told me his hero was Giacometti, the great Swiss sculptor, who stripped everything down and had nothing except that sort of wiry stuff that he did. And that's how Donald, I think, approached his parts. He stripped everything away to find the humanity and the truth of the characters he did," said Haig, who is also an actor. "He was a brilliant guy from start to finish. He was smart as a whip."

Terry Haig and Donald Sutherland were neighbours in the Eastern Townships for 30 years. (Terry Haig)Haig said that Sutherland was also generous with acting advice.

"Even as, like, the low-rent actor that I've been over the years, he was always generous and always willing to help me out with something," he said. "I had a problem with an audition or something, he would always say, 'Well, why don't you try it this way?' And sure enough, I'd be brilliant."

Because Haig was once an Expos announcer, they also shared a love of baseball. Calling him "the most alive man I've ever met," Haig said he would miss his friend.

"I'm going to miss his laugh. I'm going to miss his generosity of spirit -- or going to ballgames," he said. 

Montreal cartoonist Terry Mosher, known as Aislin, also shared a love of baseball with Sutherland.

He sat next to Sutherland at an Expos game and said Sutherland was perhaps the most famous Expos fan the city has ever had.

In his latest book about the Expos, he included a photo of Sutherland in the dugout and added the words, 'Put me in coach.'

In his book about the Expos, cartoonist Terry Mosher (Aislin) included a photo of Donald Sutherland in the dugout and added the words, 'Put me in coach.' (Aislin / Terry Mosher)With all of his fame, Mosher said he found Sutherland somewhat shy and private.

"I didn't know him that well. He's a very private guy… very shy," said Mosher. "When it came to baseball, he wasn't shy. He had his opinion. A very knowledgeable fan."

Cartoonist Terry Mosher and Donald Sutherland at a Montreal Expos game. (Terry Mosher)Mosher has drawn a cartoon for the Saturday Gazette paying tribute to the late actor and his love for the team.

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