For several generations, the Hébert family has had adventure in their DNA. It’s a trait that allows them to combine professional plans with personal goals, and it’s how the core family members found themselves at Everest Base Camp.
Norman E. Hébert Jr., President and CEO of Groupe Park Avenue Inc., followed in his father’s footsteps by taking over the family business. Norman Sr. was a visionary of his time, “a born entrepreneur, from a very modest background, who followed his dreams.” In 1959, Hébert Sr. bought the Park Avenue Chevrolet dealership. Five years later, he created the leasing branch, Location Park Avenue. Groupe Park Avenue has grown phenomenally over its 55 year history, and the third generation of Héberts are now at the helm.
A few years ago, for his 55th birthday, Hébert Jr. told his wife and children about an unusual idea he had, something on his bucket list: to scale Everest, and reach Base Camp, together. The idea was inspired by his friend, explorer Bernard Voyer, who helped them plan their trip, and even introduced them to his own Sherpa guide, Dorje, who had summited Everest six times. After completing the training appropriate for such a venture, the five family members (Norman, his wife, his son, his daughter, and her fiancé) arrived in Kathmandu in October, 2011, where they boarded a small plane for Tenzing-Hillaryairport (or Lukla), Nepal’s busiest, and the world’s most dangerous. “The Sherpa team that accompanied us included Dorje’s son, Nima, who came with us all the way to Base Camp, and was able to see what his father did for a living,” says Norman. It took 10 days for the group to complete the 20 kilometre round trip, as the Héberts had to spend two nights in the same location, acclimatizing to the altitude. Along the way, they relied on both allopathic medicine (blood thinners), and a local medicine: garlic soup twice a day. “We didn’t sleep in tents but in tea houses, which is what the rustic inns are called. The people were extremely warm and welcoming.”
Making it to Base Camp – an altitude of 5,400 metres – was the realization of Norman’s dream to contemplate the ‘roof of the world’. For this climbing enthusiast, who says he has read every book ever written about Everest, it was a thrilling and moving moment: “Up in the mountains, there is total silence.” The cherry on the sundae for Hébert was sharing his joy with his family. Asked if there is any similarity between his experience on Everest and running a business, he nods: “The first thing you need is a vision – an objective to focus on and work towards, a dream you can feed. But the company also has to be healthy, dynamic and properly equipped, just like we were for this climb!”
Before heading home, Norman and his family, in keeping with their company’s longstanding philanthropic tradition, went to the village of Bhaktapur to visit a boy whom they had sponsored through World Vision. They have also continued to maintain close contact with Nima, whom they expect to come to Montreal to study within two years.
Since his trip off the beaten path, Norman John Hébert has joined the family business, representing the third generation at Groupe Park Avenue. And a destination has already been picked for dad’s 60th birthday next year: northern India! Exotic adventure is clearly the trademark of this remarkable family.