Similar to many aspects of life, the 2020 Remarkable Residents program looks different than in years past as we could not film these important stories in person. However, this remote storytelling did not impede the telling of these inspiring messages of hope, resiliency, and the importance of giving back.
We decided not to hold a contest and ask for our followers’ votes this year; instead, we simply awarded the five winners with one-month of free rent. We are asking our Facebook followers to like, share, and comment on the videos so we can share your positive messages with our winners, who deserve all the love and accolades coming their way. Here are their stories:
Marie Harrington was born in Ambala, Punjab, India when it was under British rule. As a child, she attended boarding school atop the Himalaya Mountains. Her best friend there was named Creena. (This will be important later.) At 13, she overcame a battle with Rheumatic fever which deeply pained her joints, leaving her completely bedridden. Marie is now 95 and incredibly grateful for her long and healthy life thereafter.
By the time she was 15, World War II had started. She recalls the time everyone at her school was given gas masks. Shortly after, Marie left to go live with her distant family outside London, England. By then, air raids and warning sirens had become frequent. Later, Marie was accepted to train as a Radiographer at a London hospital to which she travelled two hours on the Underground. Her most memorable day was when she was asked to x-ray a guarded prisoner who was being held in a single-ward bed. “I think he must have been a German [soldier], shot down from the previous day’s bombing.”
After seven years, she was able to reunite with her immediate family. Following a move to Canada, she and her family settled in Sarnia, Ontario. It was there she found an Indian food shop where she was hoping to find a special childhood dessert, but instead, the owner ended up putting her in contact with someone special they both knew. It was Creena! Marie cannot believe that after all the years and distance she was reunited with her old school friend. They gladly remain friends to this day.
Lucy Giangregorio had to quit high school in order to help her parents run their business. It remained a lifelong dream of hers to receive her diploma. In time, she met her husband and they began a family. Her husband owned and ran an ironworks business. After he passed, she took over the responsibilities.
Lucy values her Italian heritage. She has long been involved in the Sons of Italy, an organization that works to preserve and promote these traditions. She served as president of the women’s lodge and later became secretary and treasurer. These roles allowed her the opportunity to travel across the country and see many sights.
Lucy volunteered weekly teaching children to read. She understood the importance of these skills in the children’s future. Lucy was honoured by the Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton for her contributions. At the age of 73, Lucy registered at an adult continuing education centre to earn her diploma and complete her grade 12 education.
Many children look forward to attending summer camps. For John Eden, the first day turned into a number of challenging months ahead. He was feeling sick but chalked it up to nerves beginning a new adventure. He saw a doctor the following day. It turned out that he had a temperature of 107 degrees and after seven days in a coma he was diagnosed with a rare bone infection in his hip.
He spent the next five months bedbound. This gave him time to contemplate what he wanted to do in life; he decided he wanted to join the Navy. His early military career provided him knowledge in aircraft maintenance and repair. Years later this allowed him to take part in a restoration project. After 14 years and approximately 28,000 hours of work, the “Fairy Swordfish” aircraft was in full airworthy condition. John received the Transport Canada Medallion of Excellence and the Maritime Air Commanders Commendation.
John also received the QEII Golden Jubilee medal and the Minister of Veteran Affairs Commendation for outstanding service. In 2012, he was honoured with the QEII Golden Jubilee medal for his contribution in promoting the interests of retired navy personnel. In addition, John enjoyed volunteering with children. He received the Mel Osborne Fellowship Award for his dedication to the non-profit organization, Kiwanis International.
Greta Blance worked as a teacher at an inclusive school, offering education to regular, gifted, and special education students. She and her fellow teachers demanded zero tolerance for bullying, a feat to which she was very proud.
A number of her students wrote sentiments as part of Greta’s entry to this contest, including, “[Greta] was one in a million for her insight, time, and the care she took with her students and colleagues.” Another said, “I am who I am because of [Greta], she put me on the path of being an artist. Now here I am, painting my visions and showing my work to the world.”
For years, Greta remained dedicated to a number of causes she felt connected to. Her daughter’s earliest memory of volunteering with her mother was when they would drop off baby food at the local shelter. “Mom knew that struggle was like.” Greta also advocated for women’s rights, being featured in the Globe & Mail for celebrating one of the Canadian Famous Five Women being featured on the fifty-dollar note.
Fern Olson enjoyed life on the farm with her family. She is a talented trumpet player, who was honoured by The Royal Canadian Legion for playing at Remembrance Day services for 25 years. She also plays the harmonica and enjoys dancing for entertainment.
Fern also loves to bake. When a new resident moves into Seasons, she welcomes each one of them with a basket of goodies, as well as on their birthday. She feels like, “she should be useful for something in her life, no matter how old she is.” It’s with that mindset that she has become an integral part of the community.
Fern was recognized by Alberta Health Services for volunteering for more than 20 years at the Olds Hospital. She is the second oldest volunteer in the Alberta Central Zone. As recently as 2019, Fern received the AHS Spirit of Excellence Award in the category of Outstanding Service. She also received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Olds Rotary Club.
Thank you once again to everyone who supported this program and congratulations to our 2020 Remarkable Residents. We are proud residents like you have chosen to call Seasons their home.
To watch the 2020 Winners’ videos, please visit Seasons Retirement Communities on Facebook.