When the Gibsons Heritage Society names the 2012 Golden Girl honouring a senior woman from the area later this month at Sea Cavalcade, she will be part of a fine company of stellar women.
Since the first award was announced to coincide with the annual local festival back in 1987, the names have read like a who’s who of the pioneers and stalwart volunteers of Gibsons.
Beginning with Nora Hill in 1987 and up to and including 2011 honouree Avril King, all of the women have in common innate modesty and a burning sense of what makes a community strong.
The longest serving Golden Girl, Marion Alsager, was the 1988 choice.
A long-time settler of area, Alsager arrived in 1949 and is still an outgoing force to be reckoned with. With a mind kept sharp by several decades of playing bridge, she remembers most of her fellow Golden Girls as women who worked hard to make their community a great place to live.
The one-time gossip columnist of Coast News (past owner Dorothy Cruise was also a Golden Girl) has recollections of Gibsons when it was just a sleepy little village.
“I remember pushing the baby buggy [with daughters Karen and Ginny] through the gravel roads of the village to the post office. Gibsons really changed once SuperValu opened up. Things began to happen then,” she said.
A long-time Hospital Auxiliary member, Alsager still meets up with her friends once a week for coffee and, of course, she still plays cards with the folks at Harmony Hall.
Marg Smith, who was 1994’s Golden Girl, is another woman who’s still a vital part of the fabric of Gibsons. It’s never surprising to see the fashionable Smith at any Gibsons event.
Many of the Golden Girls are well known for their involvement in the political fabric of the community.
The late Agnes Labonte never hesitated to let her opinion be registered on Gibsons’ concerns. On more than one occasion, she was the calm voice of reason when tempers flared during the amalgamation talks a few years ago.
Bernice Chamberlin, who just left us in the past year, was involved with her sister, Violet Winegarden, in starting the Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary, was a charter member of the SPCA and was an avid curler who raised money to build the curling rink.
And if Winegarden’s name rings several bells, it’s because, in addition to having a family name on one of Gibsons’ most beautiful parks, the 1999 Golden Girl is also the founder and chief angel of Happy Cat Haven. Her passion for the pussy cats has saved many feline lives on the Coast.
In 2000 the sister act of Jean Clarke and Pauline Webber were named co-Golden Girls. Clarke, who died last November, and her younger sibling were instrumental in making the Parent-Tot Drop-In program for families the stunning success it is today. For many years, both women played music and sang to several generations of Gibsonites. In addition Clarke was a voracious knitter and Hospital Auxiliary member.
Joan Quarry, 1998’s Golden Girl, served the community diligently over the years through the Gibsons Legion. And although she now struggles with health issues, her Branch 109 comrades won’t soon forget her name.
Edna Husby, 2005 Golden Girl, and her best friend for many years, Helen Weinhandl, honoured in 2001, are both long-time members of the Hospital Auxiliary. Between the two of them, they have more than 100 years of service. And they both still find time to volunteer with the Auxiliary and their church, St. Bart’s Anglican.
Husby had the great good fortune to know many of the Golden Girls personally.
She recalled Winifred Tyson (1992) as being a woman who lived for the Guides and Brownies of the community. The young girls were never without any of the badges or uniforms they needed, thanks to Tyson’s generosity.
Amy Blain (1991) helped with the Cubs and Scouts groups in the area. She started the Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store out of her house, Husby said.
Pearl Tretheway, sister-in-law to Bernice Chamberlin, was heavily involved with the local Women’s Institute and was well known for her prowess with produce. Over the years she earned many Fall Fair prizes.
Jean Wyngaert, 1996 Golden Girl, was another woman known for her knack for growing things. Well loved by all who knew her, Husby said, Wyngaert was a “sweetheart all her life.”
Wyngaert’s niece, Mary Cook, 2003 Golden Girl, is another pioneer who has added so much to the social fabric of Gibsons. The groups she’s volunteered for are amazing.
Cook was part of the Gibsons Landing Business Association in the early 1990s when a contentious revitalization of Lower Gibsons took place. She is a long-time member of the Hospital Auxiliary and seniors’ centre and for many years was a Toastmaster.
The oldest of the Golden Girls, Sue Wiggins, is a testament to volunteering. Although she’s slowed down somewhat now, the 2004 Golden Girl at one time counselled seniors, volunteered with the Legion Ladies’ Auxiliary, sewed, did needlework and gardened. Well in her 90s now, Wiggins is still a treat to meet.
One of the most recent Golden Girls, 2006’s Vivian Chamberlin, is a talented and prolific local artist. She has helped many budding and successful artists get their work known.
Yvonne Bain (2007) has been a peace advocate all her life. Until a couple years ago, she would still go into to Vancouver for any peace march. And while she’s not well now, many of her disciples can be seen every weekend at Davis Bay furthering her passion for lasting peace in the world.
Celia Fisher (2008) has long advocated for the folks of Elphinstone area. She served for many years on the Sunshine Coast Regional District board and was a loud voice for Coast-wide community recreation.
Phyllis Hurschman (2009) is very involved with the Gibsons Seniors at Harmony Hall and volunteers extensively with her church, Gibsons United.
Julie Skippon from 2010 turned the diagnosis of two of her sons with schizophrenia into an opportunity to advocate for mental illness on the Sunshine Coast. Only stepping down as president of the local chapter of the Schizophrenia Society this year, Skippon has put a compassionate face to this challenging disease.
Last year’s Golden Girl, Avril King, is another champion of health services on the Coast. A long-time member of the Hospital Auxiliary, King hasn’t let her own battle with cancer dim her volunteering.
Although we’ve only saluted their achievements for the past 25 years, it would be hard to imagine Gibsons without the lifetime of volunteering these women have given. They are a shining legacy.