Roger Nicolet, former mayor, engineer and head of 1998 ice storm inquiry, dead at 88

Roger Nicolet was a man of many hats.
Roger Nicolet was a man of many hats. The Canadian Press

Roger Nicolet, former president of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec and known for heading inquiries in the province, died last Saturday night at the age of 88.

The news was confirmed to The Canadian Press by Guy Jauron, director-general of the regional county municipality (MRC) Memphrémagog, a political entity of which Nicolet served as prefect for 13 years.

His death was also confirmed by Lisette Maillé, the mayor of Austin, in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Nicolet was mayor of Austin for 33 years and lived there until his death.

Maillé says that first responders from Austin went to Nicolet’s home Saturday evening, but that their resuscitation operations were in vain.

The exact cause of his death is unknown.

READ MORE: Quebec’s devastating 1998 ice storm was this week, 21 years ago

As an engineer, Nicolet was involved in many high-profile projects, including the pyramid of the Louvre Museum in Paris, the Olympic Village, the Place Montreal Trust and Place Bonaventure in Montreal, the CN Tower in Toronto, the world trade centre in Beirut and the Tower of Tehran.

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He was project manager for the Place Ville-Marie complex in Montreal, as well as for the preliminary study of the crossing of the St. Lawrence by the Trans-Canada Highway and co-ordinator for the study and the start of the construction of the Louis-Hippolyte-Lafontaine bridge-tunnel in 1963.

In an interview with the newspaper La Tribune, former premier Lucien Bouchard said that he considered Nicolet to be a great engineer and man who was very devoted to his community. He also acted with intellectual honesty and integrity, he said.

In addition to his professional activities, Nicolet was chairman of the commission responsible for investigating the Saguenay floods in 1996. He was also in charge of the commission looking into the 1998 ice storm that paralyzed Quebec.

Nicolet was also a member of the commission on the political and constitutional future of Quebec, often referred to as the Bélanger-Campeau commission. In 2006, he was appointed to the inquiry into the collapse of the Concorde Bridge.

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Nicolet was also involved in politics. He served as mayor of Austin from 1976 in 2009 and prefect of the MRC of Memphremagog from 1981 to 1994.

Jauron said he worked alongside Nicolet for 20 years. He described Nicolet as a person of remarkable intelligence, devoted to his region, visionary and available to his collaborators.

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Nicolet was a great man who did a lot for the municipality and the region during his 33 years as mayor of Austin, according to Maillé. She points out that he was a very humble man and close to the citizens he served.

The engineer was born in Brussels, Belgium. Nicolet later studied at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, then at the École polytechnique de Montréal.

He received numerous honors during his life, including the Ordre national du Québec in 1998.