A graceful and gracious lady, who was fond of presenting the Duke of Edinburg with bottles of Newfoundland Screech, has received the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Desiree Dichmont accepted the medal and framed certificate during a brief ceremony at the Carbonear General Hospital on Wednesday, July 18.
Norman Macfie, provincial chairman and national vice-chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Branch was on hand to present the award to Miss Dichmont, as she is still affectionately known among her former students - or Diz, to her many friends.
Eric Butler, the society's vice-chair said, "we're here to honor a very special lady. She's an honorary life member (of the society) and she has been awarded a very special medal."
After making the presentation, Macfie told The Compass he received his Diamond Jubilee Medal in May, and he and Dichmont are among 37 members of the society from across Canada, who will receive the medals this year. He explained all members are nominated for the awards at the national level.
Macfie and Dichmont are among some 60,000 Canadians who will receive the medals this year for their contributions to their country.
He was impressed to report that Governor Johnston signed every single one of them with his own hand.
Dichmont, who founded the society's local branch in 1983, was nominated by the national president, Colin Reichle.
"Not only was Diz chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador branch, Royal Commonwealth Society, she was also the national chair of that group. This medal is awarded in recognition of her service to Canada over the years, primarily through the Commonwealth Society, but for other contributions to the country as well," Macfie added.
The inscription on the certificate reads: "By command of Her Majesty The Queen, the Diamond Jubilee Medal is presented to you in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's accession to the Throne.
"It's a very special honor to present you with this medal," he told Dichmont.
A globetrotter and staunch monarchist, Dichmont had the privilege of meeting the Queen on many occasions in many parts of the world. She recalled one particular occasion more than 20 years ago in New Zealand, where she was attending an international meeting of the society.
Pointing out that not many people say anything to the Queen when they meet her except good afternoon, Dichmont recalled saying to her majesty: "I want to thank you for being such a wonderful example of a human being. In turn, the Queen smiled and thanked me for the complement," Dichmont recalled.
It was on that same occasion, while introducing a Newfoundland delegation of society members to the royal couple, that she - acting as an unofficial ambassador from Newfoundland - presented the Duke of Edinburg with a bottle of Newfoundland Screech, which he graciously accepted. She said she also presented him with bottles of Screech on at least two other occasions.
How did Prince Phillip like the Screech?
"He was tickled pink. He has a wonderful sense of humour."
Describing the Queen as "a very gracious lady," Dichmont said, she's a wonderful woman. I feel honored to be receiving her Diamond Jubilee Medal."
Looking around at the crowd of about 40, made up of family, friends and members of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Dichmont said, "My word! I certainly didn't expect as many as this. It's amazing! It's lovely!"
Referring to her niece, Ann Ulrick, who was visiting from London, England, she said, "it's wonderful that Ann is able to be here this week."
New Newfoundland home
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Dichmont has spent 46 of her 86 years in Carbonear.
She first arrived here in January 1966 with her partner, Elva Locklin, who is currently a resident of a seniors' home in Placentia.
Locklin came to Carbonear to take up a position first as director of nursing at the old Carbonear Red Cross Memorial Hospital. She was later promoted to become administrator, a role she continued a decade later at the Carbonear General Hospital.
Dichmont taught in the area for 14 years, at the old James Moore Regional High and St. Paul's High in Harbour Grace.
A seasoned traveller and firm believer in the value of travel as an educational tool to help expose them to different cultures and broaden their horizons, she was very much involved with the area's youth, especially in raising funds to take them on field trips to places like St. Pierre et Miquelon, the French islands off the province's south coast.
Aside from their professional careers, Dichmont and Locklin also operated a travel agency and other enterprises from their home in Crocker's Cove overlooking Conception Bay.