A community is only as strong as its people. With the right men and women, a cold and faceless subdivision of ticky-tacky houses can become a neighbourhood. Small villages can provide social and cultural stimulation that can produce music, art, social gatherings and a fuller and happier life for its residents. Without the right people, these places remain dormitories, where people eat and sleep when not at work; where no-one knows their neighbour’s name; where newcomers are looked upon with suspicion and resentment.
People make a place one thing, or another. What matters is that a core number of residents are prepared to step out and organise, create, encourage and inspire. They produce the elements that go to give a place an identity, a character, a history. Strangers become friends, allies in activities and initiatives that make their neighbourhood, their village, their town, somewhere others want to live.
In this issue, we take note of two people who have worked all their lives to make North Grenville a better place: Debbie Wilson and Cahl Pominville. They follow in a great and long tradition of men and women who have had a positive impact on the place they call home, some in our own day, others in the generations that came before us.
Debbie Wilson is co-owner of Grahame’s Bakery, famous and appreciated for the wide range of delicious items that come out of their heritage oven. Debbie and brother Rick Grahame operate, not just a bakery, but a social centre, a place where their neighbours go to chat, as well as buy. Debbie has worked through the BIA, Community and Economic Development Advisory Committee, and now the Police Services Board, constantly aiming to support the people and businesses of North Grenville. She inherited her attitude from parents, Red and Rose, who set the example over many years.
Cahl Pominville has been around forever. In his quiet and friendly way, he has kept the wheels of the municipality turning. Before 1998, he did the same job for the Town of Kemptville, both as Clerk and as Councillor. He has officiated at marriages, provided important advice and information to countless residents, and even represented his association in a memorable trip to Japan. His contribution continues, even after his “retirement” this week.
Both Debbie and Cahl are following in the footsteps of so many others who, ever since this area was settled in the nineteenth century, have added their piece to the story that we are now all part of. We’ve had the Finnerty family: father and son served on Council, each holding the position of Warden of the United Counties forty years apart. There was Alf Campbell, who planted trees, cared for the land, taught the young to appreciate their place in the environment, and was a vital part in keeping the Ferguson Forest Centre going through good and bad times.
Going further back, the Ferguson family had a huge impact on their community. Dr. Charles served as M.P. here for thirty years, arranged the dredging of the South Branch to promote steamboat travel to Kemptville, and always had a room ready in his home for any passing tramp or needy person. His son, G. Howard, served as a local lawyer, village Councillor, Reeve, M.P.P., Premier of Ontario, and Canadian High Commissioner in London.
The more I examine the history of what is now called North Grenville, the more impressed I am by the pivotal role played by individuals like these in establishing our community. I am constantly reminding myself, and anyone who will listen, that we have inherited their work, the fruit of their labours, and it is now our turn to continue the work and to preserve, protect and build on the inheritance we enjoy. This community depends so much on volunteers, and they have never let us down. As we grow, as our population expands and the borders of our urban areas extends further, there is a real need to consciously maintain the traditional activities of friends and neighbours. Those who are moving here need to know where it is they have put down roots: a community with a long history, a shared story, a place that is worth getting to know.
Our thanks go out to Cahl and Debbie, and to all those who, past and present, have worked to give us this place we call home, to provide us with a community rich in creativity, talent, imagination and practical economic ability. Now and then, when we celebrate people like Debbie and Cahl, it is good to take time to consider our good fortune and the hard work and fun that have made it happen. Our turn is now.