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Health and Community Services
June 24, 2009

Celebrating Newfoundland and Labrador’s Seniors of Distinction

The lifelong contributions, achievements and diversity of Newfoundland and Labrador’s seniors were recognized today when the first annual Seniors of Distinction Awards were presented by the Honourable Ross Wiseman, Minister of Health and Community Services and Minister Responsible for Aging and Seniors.

Five recipients were chosen by a selection committee to receive the 2009 Seniors of Distinction Award. The recipients are G. Fred G. Bannister, Mount Pearl; Rita Mary Drake, Conception Bay South; Marie Norcott, Clarenville; Eric Norman (awarded posthumously), Gander; and Minnie Vallis, Meadows.

“This award presents a tremendous opportunity for our government to acknowledge the value, wisdom, experience and contribution of Newfoundland and Labrador’s seniors,” said Minister Wiseman. “The five individuals honoured today as Seniors of Distinction are truly remarkable people, who have made lifelong contributions in many areas of civic life, as well as giving unending support to family and friends.”

The Provincial Government announced the awards program on January 7, 2009, with nominations closing on April 2. To be eligible for the awards, a senior had to be nominated by an individual or group, be 50 years of age or older, and be a current or past resident of Newfoundland and Labrador. Seniors were considered for both voluntary and paid work. The Seniors of Distinction Awards will be awarded annually during Senior’s Month in June.

The selection committee consisted of Leo Bonnell, Chair, Provincial Advisory Committee on Aging and Seniors; Dr. Wendy Young, Canada Research Chair in Healthy Aging, Memorial University; and Jean Madill, President, College of the North Atlantic. Several criteria were considered in the nomination process including scope, and impact of contributions.

“The level of interest in the first year of this awards program has been phenomenal, with 123 seniors from 64 different communities being nominated by groups and individuals from across our province,” said Minister Wiseman. “Through their involvement, talents and time, each of these individuals has enriched the lives of others and made a significant difference in our communities and province.”

The Seniors of Distinction Awards is an initiative of the Provincial Healthy Aging Policy Framework. In 2007, the Provincial Government launched this policy framework, outlining six priority directions together with a series of goals and actions to create an age-friendly province. The intent of this initiative is to further support and recognize seniors for their diversity and valuable contributions.

Photos #1: The Seniors of Distinction Awards celebrate the contributions, achievements and diversity of Newfoundland and Labrador’s seniors. The 2009 award recipients were recognized by the Honourable Ross Wiseman, Minister of Health and Community Services and Minister Responsible for Aging and Seniors - (from left to right): Marie Norcott, Minnie Vallis, G. Fred G. Bannister, Minister Wiseman, Roxanne Norman (on behalf of the late Eric Norman) and Rita Mary Drake.
 

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Media contact:
Ronalda Walsh
Director of Communications
Department of Health and Community Services
709-729-1377, 685-1741
ronaldawalsh@gov.nl.ca

BACKGROUNDER
2009 Seniors of Distinction

Minnie Vallis
Born in Ramea in 1933, Minnie Vallis has lived most of her life in Meadows where she served as town councillor, deputy mayor and mayor. A mother of six, Mrs. Vallis worked as a teacher and later as a counsellor with victims of violence. She is a lifelong social reformer, successfully challenging social practices that discriminate against women, persons with disabilities and their caregivers. Over the years, Mrs. Vallis has volunteered with regional, provincial and national equality-seeking and disability rights’ organizations. She has courageously overcome many instances of personal hardship, yet continues as a devoted caregiver, a determined advocate and a relentless volunteer.

Eric Norman (awarded posthumously)
Eric Norman of Gander was an accomplished educator, school board administrator, writer, editor, and an advocate for persons with disabilities. Born in Dark Cove, Gambo, in 1937, Mr. Norman was a leader and innovator in curriculum development, and edited the work of the province’s finest writers. Having acquired a disability later in life, Mr. Norman was one of the leaders who, in 2002, filed an important complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency, which led to the landmark decision to recognize the right of individuals with disabilities to travel by air without having to pay for a second seat. Unfortunately, Mr. Norman did not live to see that victory. His accomplishments, however, live on in time.

Marie Norcott
Born in 1940, Marie Norcott has given freely of her time and talents as a volunteer for more than half a century. Since settling in Clarenville in 1963, she has enriched community life through volunteering in the church, fire department, schools, youth recreation leagues, and with the Dr. G.B. Cross Memorial Hospital Auxiliary. A cancer survivor, she helped establish the Clarenville Cancer Support Group and is a support person with Cancer Connection, a program which matches patients from across Canada with someone who has had the same type of cancer. Currently, Mrs. Norcott volunteers with Canadian Blood Services and Random Age-Friendly Communities. Mrs. Norcott is fondly referred to by many as ‘Clarenville’s Mother Teresa.’

Rita Mary Drake
Rita Mary Drake was born in England in 1921. She was a nurse during World War II, and moved to Newfoundland in 1946. In 1947, Mrs. Drake became head nurse in obstetrics at the Salvation Army Grace General Hospital. In the 1950s, Mrs. Drake and her husband moved to Conception Harbour, where she raised five children while volunteering her nursing skills freely to those in need. Mrs. Drake helped establish many initiatives in the Conception Harbour area, including Girl Guides, a ladies auxiliary, Sea Cadet Corp, and a softball complex. Mrs. Drake cared unfailingly for husband when he developed Alzheimer’s disease in the 1980s, and provided support to fellow residents in the Miller Centre. As part of a lifelong commitment of service to others, Mrs. Drake continues to visit residents in long-term care homes, making a lasting difference in the lives of others.

G. Fred G. Bannister
Born in 1918, G. Fred G. Bannister has lived in Mount Pearl since 1955. He has made lifelong contributions in many areas of civic life, including volunteerism, advocacy, government, education, military and industry. Mr. Bannister served in the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy for 15 years, and was a councillor with the City of Mount Pearl for 24 years. He served on the Mount Pearl Amalgamated School Board and was instrumental in the establishment of the Boy Scouts movement in Mount Pearl, Branch 36 of the Royal Canadian Legion, Parkdale Manor, the Mount Pearl Lions’ Club, and the Mount Pearl Seniors Independence Group. Mr. Bannister shows, by his example, just how much the senior community members have given, and how much they have to offer.

2009 06 24                                 3:15 p.m.


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