Friday, February 10, 2012

My history brought to life

As president of the Peace River & District Chamber of Commerce, I get to chair our board meetings and our general membership meetings. The GM meetings are a lot of fun as we bring in guest speakers and it is open to the broad membership to attend. Depending on the month, we get anywhere from 30-60 people in attendance. This week we were lucky enough to hear from a member of the Eugene, Oregon Rotary Club, who is in Peace River with a contingent from his club to adjudicate the awarding of a will bequest to a community building project in our town. You can read the fascinating history of this project here.

The presentation connected me to my past in ways I could have never imagined. As such, I decided to end the meeting by telling a little about my past and continue to be so proud of it that I've decided to repost it here.

The first part is about my miraculous maternal grandfather, Arnold Washburn Holmes. There is more history about this man than can fit in one blog post, but I will highlight the most fascinating parts of his life as far as my recollection goes. He was an active Rotarian and spent 6 summers studying for his Masters of Education at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon, thus the recollection of my past when this stately Rotarian from the same city was presenting to our group. Grandpa Holmes spent many years as principal of Eastglen High School in Edmonton. He was also president of the Edmonton Food Bank for numerous years, and was instrumental in partnering the Food Bank with the annual Heritage Festival that attracts 100s of 1000s of visitors to Hawrelak Park every year for a celebration of food and culture. As well, if you take a trip to Hawrelak and are blessed enough to attend an outdoor concert under the cover of the beautiful auditorium there, you will find a plaque outside the gates memorializing those involved in the preparation and construction of this community gathering place. On that plaque is the name of my grandfather, a constant source of pride for me as I trek there every year, a culinary Mecca of sorts for my religious devotion to good food.

Grandpa was a consummate story teller and he availed me with many tales of his past. I'm not sure which are true and which were stretched truths, but they were always fantastic. But his community service and lasting impact on the city of Edmonton is as true as the sun rises in the east.

The second part of my past tells of my maternal great grandfather, the father-in-law of my grandfather mentioned above. This amazing man was named Eric Stephen Huestis, and his story is just as fascinating. I don't know all that happened in his life, but what I know is so amazing that every time I tell the story, no one believes me! If you want proof, go here. Great-grandpa was Deputy Minister of Forestry for Alberta many moons ago. He was part of a group that was tasked with taking Walt Disney himself around Alberta's forests for the purposes of filming and film research. In exchange for this hospitality, great-grandpa asked Mr. Disney if he would collaborate on a project to design a unique forestry mascot for Alberta, not wanting to adopt Smokey the Bear. Thus was born Bertie Beaver, our provincial forestry mascot ever since. On top of that, great grandpa did so much for the province that a mountain in the Alberta Rockies is named after him, Mount Huestis. And if you ever drive through Whitecourt in Northern Alberta, you may come across the E.S. Huestis Demonstration Forest, another project created in his memory.

Listening to that Rotarian from Oregon talk about the unique gift with which the town of Peace River has been blessed brought back memories long past. My heart flooded with pride for all those who have gone before me, whose blood flows within me. And this is to only mention two, and mentions not of my incredible paternal grandparents who risked everything and traveled to a strange land called Canada from their home in the Netherlands many moons past to create a beautiful home and life for all their children. Nor of the amazing women, my grandmother Marilyn and my great-grandmother Ivy, after whom my baby girl is named, who were the guiding forces and supportive partners of the men named above. And, of course, the legacy and impact of my parents, their children, is still being written.

And no matter where I go, no matter what I do, and no matter what I call myself, the legacy of all of them, their blood and their history, will course through my veins and make me who I am. I've never been more proud of my past.


Mom said...

You are so eloquent. Your post brought tears to my eyes. Big surprise!

Anonymous said...

You were actually listening!!! I have tears of pride for them and especially you Tino.....