June 24, 2009
Celebrating Newfoundland and Labrador’s
Seniors of Distinction
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
“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
“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.
- 30 -
Director of Communications
Department of Health and Community Services
2009 Seniors of Distinction
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
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.
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