The Hermit of Gully Lake has finally left the woods that were his home, refuge and security blanket for almost 60 years.
The RCMP confirmed Monday that human remains found late last month in remote woods in central Nova Scotia are those of Willard Kitchener MacDonald, an 87-year-old recluse who lived alone there since jumping a troop train during the Second World War.
The Mounties, in a news release, said a birth certificate and other items found on the remains confirmed Mr. MacDonald's identity.
The discovery is the final chapter in the long and reclusive life of perhaps the most isolated person in all of Atlantic Canada.
Mr. MacDonald, who was born in Somerville, Mass., in August 1916, lived alone in the woods since jumping the train bound for Halifax and ultimately a ship to Europe in 1945.
"Oh God, I never did like war," he said in 1991 when told by a visitor about Canada's involvement in the Gulf War with Iraq.
"I never did like to shoot people."
Canada declared amnesty on deserters in 1950, but Mr. MacDonald remained afraid and distrustful and chose to remain in the woods.
The old hermit had no radio, television or newspapers, and he came out of the bush only about once a month, trudging about 12 kilometres to buy supplies from a general store in Earlton.
He earned just enough for supplies by trapping animals and selling their pelts.
He spent most of his life in a tiny, two-metre shack he built himself. But a number of years ago, community concern for his welfare convinced the Department of Community Services to finance construction of a small cabin.
But after moving in for a brief period, Mr. MacDonald said the new cabin was simply too close to civilization for his liking.
"It's so busy, the road traffic noises," he said at the time. "It bothers the concentration. I still do a little composing of music, it kind of interferes."
Mr. MacDonald moved back into his tiny hovel, but when a forest fire destroyed it in 1993, he went back to the winterized cabin.
In late November, Mr. MacDonald disappeared for good when visitors went to get medical help against his wishes after he became ill.
Searchers waded for a time through thick snow in a futile effort to find the elderly man, who knew every centimetre of his wooded home and could easily avoid detection.
The Mounties said the hermit would have died from natural causes coupled with the effects of hypothermia. The identification process was slowed by a lack of medical or dental records.
The body was found on June 27 by more than 100 volunteers who used a training exercise session in the Gully Lake area as an opportunity to try to find Mr. MacDonald.
"The world is so ... out there," the hermit once told a visitor, leaving his own definition unfinished.