Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Jan. 22 print edition of The Compass.
With a Diamond Jubilee Medal securely fastened to her jacket, retired educator and environmental advocate Patricia George fought back tears last week when addressing a special gathering at the Royal Canadian Legion in Bay Roberts.
It was a monumental milestone for the well-known Bay Roberts citizen, and it showed as she spoke from the heart about her passion for education and environmental stewardship.
"With this medal, a wave of humility washes over you," she explained.
It was one of the highlights of an inspirational evening on Jan. 15 as 10 prominent and leading citizens of Bay Roberts were honoured for their contributions to the community and the region by receiving the distinguished Diamond Jubilee Medal.
In addition to George, other recipients included the husband and wife team of Eric and Elizabeth (Betty) Jerrett, Fire Chief Clarence Russell, Edmund Dawson and Agnes Butler.
Two others - Eric Mercer and Wilbur Sparkes - received their medals at earlier ceremonies, but also shared the spotlight at last week's event, which was hosted by the Town of Bay Roberts and the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation. Earlier recipients Eric Dawe and Amber Samms were unable to attend.
Some 60,000 medals are being awarded in Canada to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen's ascension to the throne, and the fact that 10 of those have gone to Bay Roberts residents was not lost on Eric Jerrett, who was also named to the Order of Canada in 1998.
Having the medal presented to a husband and wife is also rare.
"It's great for the both of us to get the medal at the same time and share in the ceremony," said Eric.
The recipients chatted amicably prior to the ceremony, sharing stories and memories of an earlier time in the town's history. They were led into the hall by bagpiper Blake Cranford and an RCMP officer dressed in red serge.
One-by-one they rose to their feet as master of ceremonies Mike Flynn read out each one's list of contributions to the community and had their medal pinned by Avalon MP Scott Andrews. The only exception was Fire Chief Clarence Russell, who received his medal from Mayor Philip Wood.
"Bay Roberts is the place it is today ... because of the people that live in it. People like our Diamond Jubilee Medal recipients," said Wood.
Wood took extra care in presenting Russell with his medal. Calling up the members of the town council who were present - councillors Wade Oates, Gerald Greenland and Water Yetman - Wood thanked Russell for his service to the community.
"It is a great honour for all of us to present this to you," said the mayor.
Russell has served with the Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department for 22 years, the past 12 of them as chief. Under his direction, the Fireman's Memorial Garden and the regional training facility have become realities for Bay Roberts. The brigade has also greatly expanded its inventory of equipment and vehicles under his watch.
Eric Dawe is the town's oldest recipient at the age of 93. He was the town's first mayor, served as MHA for the district of Port de Grave and remains a prominent businessman in the community.
The youngest, Amber Samms, is 19-years-old reservist with the 37th Service Battalion, and was a dedicated member of the GAIA environmental group while at Ascension Collegiate.
Patricia George, meanwhile, is a retired educator and founded the student environmental group GAIA during her time at Ascension. George also plays an important role with the Joint Management Committee, which looks after the Shearstown Estuary.
Edmund Dawson was hailed as a tireless community volunteer who assists local school fundraising events by purchasing tickets to Mile One Centre events and donating them to the school. He is a founding member of the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation.
The husband-wife team of Eric and Elizabeth Jerrett are key proponents in the preservation of both local and provincial history. Elizabeth was a founding member of the Bay Roberts Heritage Society and has served as the director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Historical Society. In 1995 she was awarded with the citizen of the year award.
Eric was a founding member of the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation and has been instrumental in the design of the Veteran's Quay Marina and the creation of the Shoreline Heritage Walk. Along with being named a Order of Canada recipient, he was also named Bay Roberts' citizen of the year in 1996.
Port de Grave MHA Glenn Littlejohn spoke on behalf of the provincial government and had some kind words for the recipients.
"For some of these people, I consider them family," Littlejohn stated.