Would you look at that, we blinked and now 2021 is over. Good riddance I say! Well, sort of. There’s a lot we’d like to pretend never happened during this last year of the pandemic but given this is a positive column I suppose we should have a look back at the year that was and remember some of the stories I wrote about the awesome folks in our community. Shall we begin?
At the end of January I wrote about barber Josh Neufeld, who at the time was working for Victory Barber & Brand. (He’s since opened his own shop, Vancouver Island Barber Co., at 60 Queens Rd. in Duncan.)
A mom brought her autistic school-aged son in for a haircut after cruel bullies shaved/cut off parts of the child’s hair.
Neufeld was happy to fix the boy’s hair and what’s more, he did it for free.
“I was just doing two things I love, helping someone out and cutting hair,” the barber explained.
In February I wrote about Christine Baines, who’d been out fishing when she came across a pool left behind when the water levels dropped.
Something in the pool caught her eye. It was a stranded steelhead.
Baines phoned her friend David Gunn of RiverQuest Charters. Clad in their hip-waders, with nets in their hands, the pair caught the fish and released it back into the river.
“Some people came and watched and the kids were in the background and they were just chirping happily about the fish and it was just really nice,” Baines said. “A lot of people are just happy about it and I like that.”
In April I wrote about a dynamic duo working to make the world a tidier place.
Two lovely ladies named Cheryl and Patty Bennett wandered the Jaynes and Tzouhalem-area neighbourhoods in North Cowichan, to pick up trash. It wasn’t a once-in-a-while thing either. The sisters-in-law did it daily.
I tried to find the Bennetts’ phone numbers. I sent them a couple notes on Facebook. I never heard back. Maybe it’s because they didn’t want the extra attention. I like to think that maybe it’s just that they were enjoying their time outdoors so much they haven’t had a chance to see my messages. Either way, kudos to them.
In June I wrote about a group of neighbours that got together every single night to salute health care workers. They didn’t even really talk much before that, but now they’re tight-knit.
“They gather to exchange stories of daily happenings and then at 7 p.m. they ring bells and bang pots and pans in thanks for the ongoing work of those dedicated health workers who continue to serve us through the ongoing pandemic,” explained Lynn Thompson, whose wife is part of the group. “They have not missed a day through cold, rain, snow and darkness of winter and oppressive heat of summer. It is a testament to their dedication and appreciation for the work of others.”
And who could forget the story I wrote mid-July about firefighters who worked to extinguish a house fire on Maple Bay Road.
The blaze, although dubbed a “routine” house fire, was anything but, as the structure was surrounded by trees and located at the bottom of a very dry, grassy hill below the Kingsview-area neighbourhood in The Properties. The men and women fighting the fire worked at their own peril to ensure the empty house burned safely in place, and that no fire spread to put others into harm’s way.
Neighbours cheered their efforts. Cheering in the streets didn’t seem like enough for Brennan Morgan, the co-owner of Panago Pizza. When the Duncan Fire Department placed an order for 12 large pizzas and five cheesy breads, Morgan knew just what he wanted to do.
“When the firefighters placed the order, we immediately comped it for them,” Morgan said.
It was October when Cowichan Search and Rescue was called out to rescue a dog named Toby from a Mount Tzouhalem cliff.
“I am still in awe at the way the team came and the lead assessed the situation, asked me a few questions, reassured me that ‘don’t worry we will get him’,” Toby’s owner, Daniel Shu, said. “Everyone went about the script it seems like from their training, yelling commands as they went about the safety checks and rope set up and everything.”
And in the end, Toby was reunited atop the mountain with his family no worse for wear.
And finally, at the end of November I wrote about Fran Benton and her scarves.
“I make scarves every year and sell them at Christmas Chaos,” she explained. “It’s the only venue I have. I usually make a few hundred scarves.”
When she learned vendors didn’t need to be vaccinated, she pulled out.
“I am not young and I could not take the chance of getting sick,” she said.
What that meant was roughly 500 great scarves wouldn’t be sold, so instead, Benton headed to the hospital and gave them away to the healthcare workers. She said after the day had come and gone that it was “spectacular”.
Spectacular indeed. This region is full of good people doing good things, if only we seek to find them.
Happy New Year!