HUNTSVILLE – Forty-four inspiring community members received some royal treatment.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal ceremony took place at the Algonquin Theatre in Huntsville on Saturday, Aug. 25. Recipients from Muskoka and Parry Sound made their way across the stage to receive their medals, symbols of their dedication to their communities.
Parry Sound-Muskoka’s MP Tony Clement and MPP Norm Miller hosted the ceremony in honour of the Queen Elizabeth II diamond jubilee year and in recognition of individuals who help make their communities great.
Clement spoke about the Queen’s 60 years on the throne and her dedication to community, service and society over that time.
Though the Queen has faced some trials and tribulations during her reign, said Clement, she has met each challenge with grace and a continual commitment to her duties and responsibilities.
He suggested those receiving the jubilee medals were similarly inspiring.
“It is very appropriate that we find a way to honour individuals in our community who exemplify the best in us as well,” said Clement. “Thank you, all of you, who serve our communities in little ways and large ways because that is what makes our community what it is today.”
Miller said those receiving medals that day were being honoured for serving their communities in a variety of ways.
“One thing they all have in common is they are all volunteers, one way or another,” said Miller. “And they have all worked to build our communities.”
He spoke about recipients who have served in the Armed Forces, protected the environment, fundraised for cancer research and local health care, preserved the history and heritage of the area, served in public office, promoted sports and recreation for health and vibrancy, helped fight social challenges and addiction, improved health care and long-term care, and volunteered with area fire departments.
“We are very fortunate to have these dedicated, caring people in our communities making Parry Sound-Muskoka a better place to work, live and enjoy,” said Miller. “Congratulations to all our recipients and thank you for all the great work you’ve done in the past. I’m sure you will continue to do it into the future. Let’s celebrate your work.”
The nine Huntsville residents honoured during the hour-long ceremony included Fran Coleman, John Cowan, Donna Lough Digby, Margaret Hern, Bob Hutcheson, Diane Litchfield, Hugh Mackenzie, Marjorie Payne and Venetia Woodruff.
MC Bruce Hickey read a brief description of each recipient at the ceremony.
Coleman, he said, has been a Huntsville and District of Muskoka councillor for a combined 18 years. She is a strong supporter of arts and culture, affordable housing, and ending violence against women. And she has championed improvements to community health care through her work as the chair of the Dean’s Bursary Solicitation Committee for the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and as a member of the local network group that supports medical students.
Cowan is a Huntsville High School teacher who has been instrumental in promoting sports tourism and recreational activity in Muskoka.
As an example, said Hickey, Cowan was a driving force in bringing the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations Nordic Ski Championships and its downtown ski races to Huntsville in 2012.
Lough Digby has been a supporter of the arts and education for more than four decades. Some of her volunteer activities and board memberships have included the National Theatre School in Montreal, the Harbourfront Corporation, the Canadian Stage Company, the St. Lawrence Centre, the National Youth Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Women’s Committee. She served on the management committee of the Algonquin Theatre and was active in fundraising and planning.
Hern spent more than 35 years with the Huntsville Hospital Auxiliary, 25 years with the Friends of Fairvern, nine years as a member of the Huntsville Library Board, eight years on the Huntsville hospital foundation board, and 12 years as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer.
Hutcheson has volunteered on numerous boards to help raise funds for a variety of causes, served as a Huntsville councillor, Boy Scouts of Canada Leader and Huntsville Ski Club president. He also played major roles in Olympic and World Cup Ski events, and served as vice-president of the Canadian Alpine Ski Association in the late 1980s. In 2004 he was awarded the Natural Heritage Stewardship Award by the Muskoka Heritage Foundation.
Litchfield’s more than 35 years of dedication to the community includes service to the hospital auxiliary, Meals on Wheels and numerous charitable board memberships. She was presented with a life membership to the Huntsville Hospital Auxiliary in 1990, was honoured as a provincial life member of the Hospital Auxiliaries Association of Ontario in 1997, and was presented an Ontario Volunteer Award in 2009.
Mackenzie balanced being a private sector entrepreneur with community involvement, said Hickey. His contributions as mayor of Huntsville included the Algonquin Theatre, town hall renovations, downtown waterfront rejuvenation, support for saving the heritage train station, and others. He served as a Rotarian and helped stage many successful fundraising musicals.
He served as chief of staff to former Ontario premier Frank Miller, and has chaired numerous committees and governing bodies, including chair of the District Municipality of Muskoka, chair of the Huntsville District Hospital board, chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines board, vice-chair of the Election Finances Commission of Ontario, and vice-chairman of the Ontario Family Health Network.
Payne acted as the superintendent and teacher of the All Saints’ Anglican Church Sunday school, and as a member of the church’s outreach committee, which assists families in need. She and her daughter Patty established the Starfish Family Project and for more than 15 years she has supervised the project. It gives food, clothing, furniture, and other necessities to families in need.
Woodruff donates her time and resources readily in hopes of making the general public along with the community a better place, said Hickey. She volunteered for the Royal Canadian Legion, Canadian Red Cross Society, Community Policing Huntsville and the Sunday school at the United church.
And George Daniels from Dwight also received his medal at the ceremony.
Daniels was on the Lake of Bays Association executive for over 20 years, and was president from 1988 to 1990. During this time, he was the co-founder of the Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation, and has been a champion of environmental stewardship. He is one of the principal fundraisers for the annual Regatta of Lake of Bays Anglican Parish.
He was in one of the teams that generated over $200,000 to obtain the new Lake of Bays fire boat. As a former bush pilot and a co-owner of Muskoka Air Trails, he still donates some of his flying time to fundraise for charities.