On Saturday evening, the Legion hall was buzzing with excitement as the banquet to honour some exemplary citizens got underway. Present were many past Citizens of the Year, Legion members, Rotary members and supporters of the honourees. Emcee Dan Nicholson began the evening promptly at 6 p.m. with his opening remarks welcoming the attendees followed by the national anthem, sung by all.
A turkey and ham buffet complete with all the trimmings was prepared by the Legion Auxiliary, after which the presentations began. Incoming Rotary President Harry Ellens gave his congratulations and turned the microphone over to Dorothy Drebet, who was there representing the Honorable David Wilks, MP who was unable to attend. She presented each of the honourees with a certificate on his behalf. Dr. Laurie Page spoke next, representing Katrine Conroy, MLA of West Kootenay who could not attend due to provincial legislature being in session in Victoria.
Page stated, “Nakusp is extremely fortunate to have such exemplary individuals. Thank you and congratulations to Rotary for 40 years of hosting Citizens of the Year. If we didn’t have our volunteers, we wouldn’t be where we are. We are a community run on volunteers.”
Chris Faint, who nominated Kathy Smith, presented the Rotary Citizen of the Year 2014 plaque to Kathy and her husband Len, citing a long list of contributions that they have made to the community including the rec commission, the rod and gun club, NACFOR, Music in the Park, PALS, the cross country ski club, and the bird count.
Kathy Smith made her acceptance speech first, “I got the call about the award and thought, ‘you must have the wrong number.’ I want to thank my husband who is also my partner and a great support. He allows me the freedom to become as involved as I do.”
At the end of her speech, she was sure to remind everyone that the PALS plant sale is scheduled for next week, May 9, in the parking lot of Valley Foods. “We’ll be there starting at 9 a.m.” to which everybody laughed, because she was promoting one of her volunteer causes even during her own moment in the spotlight.
To Kathy Smith, the honour was a humbling experience. She sat down with the Arrow Lakes News prior to the ceremonies and said, “I don’t feel worthy of such an award when there are so many people that do so much. It has been said that it’s the same eight people dedicating their time but that’s not true. It’s a real honour to be selected, and then to be chosen.”
Len Smith said in his acceptance speech, “Kathy is a mover and a shaker. It’s a real honour to be nominated alongside her. She is incredibly organized, enthusiastic, and honest. I appreciate the honour tonight because I represent the worker bees. You have a group of gifted people at the top, but you always need the people there setting up tables and cleaning the floor. I am one of those. If she (Kathy) is there doing something, I am there too.”
Legion President Harvey Truax then presented Ken Williams with the Lifetime Achievement award, as nominated by nine different parties. He was honoured for his contributions over many years to the Arrow Lakes Historical Society, the museum, the golf course, the Legion, and most recently driving the Minto medical bus for people who need to travel to Kelowna for medical appointments.
“When I was told I would be receiving this award, I thought, ‘you haven’t been here long enough or done enough.’ But when I think about it I guess I have been here for 40 years now. I am most proud of my work with the hospital board. I was the chair for nine or ten years,” Williams said.
Grade 12 student Taylor Aeichele, received the Youth Award — the first since 2008.
“I’ve spent a lot of my time giving back, and it’s a really nice feeling to be appreciated by the community.” Nominated by Beth McLeod, Aeichele was recognized for her contributions to minor soccer, student council, the grad 2015 committee, student contributor to the SD10 committee of the whole, the Nancy Greene ski league and the Nakusp Elementary School ski program, where she is a bit of an icon to the younger children. One of Aeichele’s biggest fans, Kate Watt, age 6 attended the award ceremony with her father to show her appreciation.
An open mic allowed members of the community to share stories and kudos to the honourees, after which a moment of silence was held to recognize past honourees who are no longer living.
Rotary Citizen of the Year Awards have been held annually since 1974 in Nakusp, and several recipients were present on Saturday. Incoming President Harry Ellens said, “You don’t see them backing down. They are still out there, doing what is asked of them.”
Such is the mark of a person worthy of such an honour.