More moments for the archives

The Cowichan Valley was chalk full of people and organizations receiving local, provincial, national, and international honours and hitting impressive milestones. Here is a look at more of the proudest moments in 2012.
  • The Fraser Institute named Cowichan Bay's Bench Elementary School one of the fastest-improving schools in the province. Lake Cowichan Secondary School was singled out as one of B.C.'s fastest-improving secondary schools in the annual Fraser Institute school ranking report.
  • The Cowichan Valley's population grew by 4.4 %, according to Census 2011 data. Statistics Canada released data showing that Cowichan's population hit 80,332 — up from 76,929 in 2006.
  • The Kinsmen Club of Duncan received provincial recognition for its service to the community when it received the award for 2011-12 top service project in District 5, which extends throughout B.C. and the Yukon. Duncan Kinsmen's project — a $50,000 multi-use garage for the Clements Centre the club built from scratch on Ryall Road in Duncan — was started in September 2011 and completed in February 2012.
  • It was a milestone year for the annual Champion for Children Awards of Excellence, so it's fitting Cowichan's 2012 winners were particularly outstanding. "We had absolutely amazing champions this year," says Cindy Lise, executive director at Cowichan Success by 6, which co-presents the awards with Cowichan Aboriginal Success by 6. Winners included Individual Champion Kathryn Coopsie, Aboriginal Champion Howie George, Business Champion Fit Stop Fitness, and Group Champion the Cowichan Maternity Clinic. "What really stood out was Howie George," Lise said. "He really inspired the crowd and the guests that were there to make a difference in their community, and through his story, it just shows what you can do — it was very inspiring." George is known for spearheading the annual community Christmas dinner, which serves hundreds of in-need Cowichanians every year. The event also provides gifts for children and other household essentials that help families through the holidays.
  • Brentwood College continued its impressive track record of grooming Olympic athletes. "This is 10 Olympics in a row that Brentwood kids have been on the Olympic team,'' said current Head of Rowing Brian Carr. It all began at the Montreal Olympics of 1976 with Jim Henniger. "He sort of blazed the trail,'' said Carr. The amazing streak continues to this day with Scott Frandsen, Dave Calder and Malcolm Howard on the Canadian rowing team at London 2012. Howard, as captain of the men's eight rowing crew, claimed a silver medal behind the powerful Germans.
  • In June, Duncan accountant Woody Hayes earned a lifetime achievement award from his peers. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of B.C. saluted Hayes as a chartered accountant showing sustained distinction in his career, community service, and within the CA profession. Hayes qualified as a CA in '73, then worked for Westpres Publications as its controller and general manager overseeing weekly newspapers in Duncan, Powell River, Sechelt, Victoria, and Parksville. In 1975, Hayes was a founding partner of Hayes Stewart Little & Company.
  • Betty Anne Devitt almost single-handedly ran the Cowichan Valley Basket Society for more than 25 years. In recognition of her dedication, she was among the recipients of Caring Canadian Awards from Gov.-Gen. David Johnston in Victoria in July. "I think it was great they get some sort of recognition for the years,'' said husband Phil, who's been with her every step of the way.
  • Cowichan Bay fire hall's deputy-chief, and Department of National Defence's Esquimalt fireman, Cam Ferguson, lives and breathes firefighting. Appropriately, Ferguson was named Firefighter of the Year by Muscular Dystrophy Canada in October.
  • After months of uncertainty, Catalyst's parent firm announced it was out of creditor protection after a successful financial reorganization. CEO Kevin Clarke was happy with Catalyst's reduced debt, interest and annual expenses — and he cheered Crofton's unionized workers who inked a new labour deal, and North Cowichan council for helping his company weather recent financial storms. Crofton mill's recovery is good news in the short-term. But a foggy long-range forecast for parent firm Catalyst leaves some of Cowichan's financial folks cautious.
  • South Cowichan Lawn Tennis Club's Jeff Hunter was one of the newest inductees into the United States Tennis Association's Pacific Northwest Hall of Fame in Tigard, Oregon. Hunter, 87, attended a dinner ceremony in the city south of Portland in October and received a silver plate in acknowledgement of his long-time contributions to the sport. Many family members and friends were there to witness his induction. "That was quite an honour coming from the states,'' Hunter said. Hunter is well-known on both sides of the border for tennis tournaments that included numerous U.S. players over the years at South Cowichan where lasting friendships were also formed and fostered.
  • Ruth Chaster earned the city's 2012 Scroll of Honour, which isn't given lightly. It salutes folks who've helped Duncanites for at least 15 years. Chaster fills that bill by more than 50 years. "I was born here, so I've been around quite a while," she laughed after receiving the honour from Councillor Joe Thorne. "It's a good thing when we can honour someone like this, especially a veteran," said Cowichan Tribes elder Thorne, who's a veteran himself. Chaster is a life member of the Cowichan Legion. She joined Branch 53 in 1947 after wartime volunteer service. Her Legion work spans arranging picnics and the dart league while helming meat draws and bingo nights — with all proceeds headed to valley charities.


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