Executive Council
December 14, 2016

The following is being distributed at the request of His Honour, the Honourable Frank F. Fagan, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador:

Nine People Invested into the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador

In a ceremony today at Government House, nine people were invested into the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador – the highest honour of the province. All nine have made significant contributions and their efforts have positively impacted the lives of their fellow residents.

“We can bestow no greater honour on Newfoundlanders and Labradorians These nine individuals have contributed greatly to society over a period of decades and their efforts deserve recognition. I congratulate them and wish them well as they continue to build upon their considerable legacies.”
- His Honour, Frank F. Fagan, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador

The nine people invested into the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador for 2016 are:

  • Dr. Noel Browne
  • Thomas J. Foran
  • William D. Mahoney, OMM, CD
  • Melba Rabinowitz
  • Philip Riteman, ONS
  • Cheryl Stagg
  • Kellie Walsh
  • Honourable Clyde K. Wells, QC
  • Vincent Withers, CM

They join the 82 other members of the Order who have been invested since 2004.

“Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are known around the world for their kindness and willingness to help others. The collective body of work for these nine people is impressive and has impacted virtually every aspect of society in the province. It was a pleasure to participate in today’s ceremony and have the opportunity to personally thank them for their tireless dedication to making Newfoundland and Labrador a better place.”
- The Honourable Dwight Ball, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador

Biographies of this year’s Order of Newfoundland and Labrador recipients can be found in the backgrounder below.

The deadline for nominations for 2017 recipients is February 28, 2017 and details can be found online at: www.exec.gov.nl.ca/onl/pdf/ONL-Poster.pdf

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Media contacts:

Michelle Cannizzaro
Director of Communications
Office of the Premier
David Brown
Private Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor
Government House
709-729-4045, 689-3792


Biographies of those invested into the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador

Dr. Noel Browne
Dr. Noel Browne came to St John's from Ireland in the late 1960s to start his medical career. For the past 40 years he has made a substantial contribution to family medicine in the St John's region. He has been one of the backbones of the institutional long-term care system, particularly at St. Luke's Home. In November 2013 he received a Life Membership in the Canadian College of Family Practice.

When Dr. Browne arrived in Newfoundland and Labrador, rugby was not being played. Within a year or so of his arrival, a sevens team that he organized went to play on the mainland. In 1974 he was a founding member of the Newfoundland Rugby Union which started with four clubs.

He was also the founder of the famed Swilers Club and chose their culturally appropriate name and emblematic colours of pink, white and green. Since its inception, the Swilers Club has been recognized for:

  • Producing virtually unbeatable club teams;
  • Providing the backbone of Newfoundland and Labrador teams that became more and more successful on a national stage, despite having one of the smallest playing numbers of the various provinces;
  • Developing community sports facilities using the fundraising and executive capacity of the Swilers Club; and
  • Developing players who not only represented Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada but remained committed to their club and their sport.

In recent years, rugby in Newfoundland and Labrador has never been stronger, epitomized by the Senior Rock team that won four national gold medals between 2005 and 2010, and a junior national gold in 2010.

Through all of these ventures, Dr. Browne was the President of the Swilers Club. He is a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame which recognized his personal achievements including being capped for Canada, being captain of a Newfoundland team that won a national senior silver medal in 1974 and serving as coach of a Newfoundland junior team that won a national silver medal in 1987.

Dr. Browne played a lead role in the development of the Swilers Rugby Complex and the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Complex, comprising two international-sized fields, a modern clubhouse recognized as one of the best in Canada, a High Performance room and a national quality gym. His efforts were a major factor in the club raising millions of dollars from the community and using these funds to leverage financial support from the City of St John's, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada. Today, the NL Sports Centre is considered a model for partnering with various sports as it provides facilities for all sports, particularly basketball and volleyball, and is the venue for development of High Performance athletes in the province.

Thomas J. Foran
Thomas J Foran is a generous individual, known for lending his time, talents and financial know-how to colleagues, clients, cultural institutions, entrepreneurs and community organizations.

A graduate of Memorial University, Mr. Foran spent 40 years in the investment industry, first with Merrill Lynch and then with BMO Nesbitt Burns as branch manager, where he built a remarkable business and enjoyed a distinguished career, provincially and nationally.

Mr. Foran has always demonstrated a fervent commitment to his beloved province. He is a selfless promoter of Newfoundland and Labrador. Through his steady, unassuming pride and his national platform, he has been a strong ambassador for the province and has been concerned with preserving its heritage, while remaining focused on its future success.

A lifelong volunteer, he has served in a variety of capacities with many community and charitable organizations. Mr. Foran has encouraged and supported the talents of local artists, writers and performers. He has been involved with the annual Winterset Award and Festival and was instrumental in securing BMO as a long-term sponsor. He has also been a champion of the local entrepreneurial business community as an Angel Investor, board member, advisor and mentor. He has assisted many start-up businesses, providing his knowledge, energy and personal financial assistance.

In 2003 Mr. Foran was invited to become a member of the first board of The Rooms Corporation, and was subsequently asked to serve as vice chair. With a keen interest in governance and an extensive background in financial planning and management, he has served as Treasurer, Chair of the Finance Committee, Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, Chair of the Executive Committee and since 2010, Chair of the Board.

All donors wish to know that the organizations that they support are guided by strong board oversight and Mr. Foran’s deep involvement in the work of The Rooms has made that fact abundantly clear in our community.

Since its opening in June 2005, The Rooms fundraising campaigns have successfully raised in excess of $20 million for the completion of new exhibits, outreach and programming activities.

The Rooms was successful in raising over $11 million in private sector funding for its Where Once They Stood We Stand capital campaign to support its First World War commemorative projects. On July1, 2016, The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery, created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont Hamel was officially opened by HRH Princess Anne. The response to this exhibit has been overwhelming with visitors in the tens of thousands. Mr. Foran served as co-chair of the campaign.

Mr. Foran and his wife Susan have also been generous financial donors to The Rooms. They have assisted in the building of the Irish Exhibit and have helped fund educational facilities. The signal that such generosity sends to the community and to potential donors is clear and has helped set the stage for the remarkable support that The Rooms continues to receive from corporations and individuals alike in the community.

Mr. Foran recently retired from BMO Nesbitt Burns as Managing Director and Vice President. He continues to serve as Chair of the Board, Rooms Corporation.

William D. Mahoney, OMM, CD
William (Bill) D. Mahoney is a lifelong resident of Newfoundland and Labrador whose gateway into community leadership opened in 1968 when he joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. The cadet program taught him how to be a responsible and caring citizen and encouraged him to be an active member of his community. After graduating from the program, he enrolled as a youth leader and officer, holding various appointments over a period of 12 years and serving his last three years as the Commanding Officer.

Mr. Mahoney’s years as a cadet also served as an introduction to his career in the military, where he served, with distinction, as an Air Force Reservist for more than 25 years.

He has shown his commitment to philanthropy through service on such boards as the John Howard Society and the Rotary Club of St. John’s and has made a substantial contribution to community-building through his involvement with the Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (CFNL). Since its formation, CFNL has provided more than $500,000 in financial support to grassroots community programs, particularly in rural areas.

Mr. Mahoney has served since 1998 with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Historical Society, and, as chair of the society from 2004 to 2010, he led a project to commission, design, and develop a legacy sculpture to celebrate and honour the illustrious history of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC). This sculpture now stands in Constabulary Court on New Gower Street in downtown St. John's.

He has a special passion for Canadian Forces causes and mobilized a committee to organize the province's first Maple Leaf Tribute Dinner, which was held in St. John's in June 2013. After he personally recruited many sponsors for the dinner, the event ultimately raised over $800,000 in support of organizations that provide support and services for military personnel and their families across our province. The dinner was the largest, single-day fundraiser in the history of the province.

Mr. Mahoney has also promoted economic development in the St. John's area through his involvement with the St. John's International Airport Authority, the St. John's Downtown Development Commission and the St. John's Board of Trade.

His community and volunteer work has not been exclusively at the board level; it has also included frontline volunteer action. He has a private pilot licence and his own aircraft and has used his aviation skills in the service of the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association for more than 25 years, assisting in aerial searches when called upon by national and provincial search and rescue operations. He has represented the province on the National Executive of the Canadian Airports Council and the National Executive of the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires as well as the Canadian Forces Liaison Council.

Melba Rabinowitz
Melba Rabinowitz and her family made Newfoundland and Labrador their home in 1975, relocating from New Orleans, Louisiana. They were seeking, perhaps not a warmer climate, but a more peaceful, rural environment in which to raise their children.

Throughout her career, Ms. Rabinowitz made it her mission to advocate for improved early childhood and family services for vulnerable families and children, introducing innovative ideas and service approaches founded upon the best available research.

Her initial work experience as Coordinator of the Early Childhood Certificate Program with Memorial University Extension Services and as Chair of the fledgling Early Childhood Development Association aided her understanding of the challenges that existed. Working with this province's small, but dedicated early childhood community, Ms. Rabinowitz sought to build upon local knowledge. This included organizing an early childhood conference in Stephenville, the first to be held outside of St. John's, highlighting the service needs provincially. Subsequently in 1979, with provincial funding she spearheaded the first, province-wide, formal training for child care staff.

As Program Director of the Daybreak Parent Child Center from 1979 to 2002, Ms. Rabinowitz was able to shape her vision for these services. Although committed to the importance of quality child care services, she believed this was an insufficient response to working with vulnerable families. Children would not be helped if their families were not also helped.

With project funding supplementing day care subsidies, Daybreak managed to introduce a comprehensive range of programs. The foundation was an early childhood program modeled on the internationally-recognized High Scope curriculum developed to address the needs of disadvantaged children. It introduced a complementary family-centred program, this province's first. The program included parenting and child development education, nutrition guidance, including a community kitchen, toy lending library and organized outings and evening socials. An adult literacy program was offered that included a component for fathers.

Another first, based on a Seattle model, was an Early Parent Support Program training parents to provide peer support, parenting groups for parents of infants and toddlers. A “Healthy Baby Club” was initiated to provide prenatal support and food supplements for vulnerable women to ensure their babies achieved healthy birth weights. Other initiatives included a program to support maternal/infant bonding and another focused on preschool intervention for children with autism. Under Ms. Rabinowitz 's leadership, Daybreak became a centre of excellence providing comprehensive services for vulnerable children and their families, addressing the root causes of poverty, social isolation and exclusion, mental health distress and family dysfunction.

In 1993, the Vanier Institute of the Family named Daybreak among the outstanding examples of child abuse prevention programs in Canada. In the same year, Health Canada cited the “Healthy Baby Club” as one of Canada’s most innovative and effective prenatal programs. In 1996 the National Crime Prevention Council cited the Daybreak Program as an example of “good practices” for preventing crime by investing in families.

For her commitment and advocacy on behalf of these services, Ms. Rabinowitz received the 2001 YWCA Women of Distinction Award, the 2002 Community Developer Award from Eastern Health, and a 2004 Lifetime Membership in the Association of Early Childhood Educators. In retirement, she continues to serve as a founding member and Chair of GEMMA - A Society for the Promotion of Infant Mental Health. As for establishing roots in this province, Ms. Rabinowitz and her husband Dr. Mike Rabinowitz have gone on to establish a thriving organic farm in Portugal Cove and to work on organizational support for organic farming and food security.

Philip Riteman, ONS
Philip Riteman was born in Shershev in the Brest-Litvosk region of Poland. Forced from their town by the Germans in 1941, Mr. Riteman and his family, along with thousands of other Jews were deported into Pruzhany ghetto.

They were transported to Auschwitz in the winter of 1942 where Mr. Riteman’s parents, brothers and sisters were put to death in the gas chambers. Mr. Riteman and one remaining brother were selected for slave labour. From Auschwitz-Birkenau, he was sent to Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg, Dachau and finally Landsberg. Liberated by the American Seventh Army in 1945, after crossing the Tyrolean Alps on the death march, Mr. Riteman was the only member of his family to survive.

Mr. Riteman sought to leave Europe and start a new life in North America. Only Newfoundland, an independent country at that time, was quick to respond in his favour. In 1946 he began his new life as a door-to-door peddler in the outport communities. Visiting Montreal, Mr. Riteman met and subsequently married Dorothy Smilestein, who joined him in St. John’s. Their two sons are both graduates of Memorial University. In Newfoundland, he owned a wholesale dry-goods business. By the time he left for Halifax in 1979, he had established a successful import trading company.

For many years, Mr. Riteman did not speak about the Holocaust. In 1989, he gave testimony as a survivor for the first time at a school in Saint Stephen, New Brunswick. He spoke to silence Holocaust deniers like Malcolm Ross who claimed that the extermination of 6,000,000 Jews by the Germans had either never occurred or was greatly exaggerated. He spoke for those who could not speak.

For more than 20 years, Mr. Riteman has continued to bear witness as a survivor. At schools, churches, universities, legion halls, and business enterprises throughout Canada and the United States, he has shared painful memories and a commitment to a more just society. For his contribution, he has been awarded honorary doctorates by Memorial University and St. Thomas University as well as the Order of Nova Scotia.

In 1996, Mr. Riteman was interviewed for Stephen Spielberg's Shoah Project and received a letter of thanks and congratulations on his continuing efforts to preserve the memory of the Holocaust. In 2002, the State of New Hampshire presented him with a Certificate of Recognition and Thanks for his ongoing role in educating younger generations on the Holocaust.

Mr. Riteman has been featured in a number of documentaries and his story is available in print in Millions of Souls: The Philip Riteman Story.

Cheryl Stagg
Cheryl Stagg (nee Rees) was born in St. John's and raised with her five siblings in the then mining community of Bell Island. She studied at Memorial University in the faculties of Science and Education and pursued a career in teaching before relocating temporarily to New Brunswick while her husband Fred attended law school. She currently resides in the community of Port au Port East.

For more than 40 years, Ms. Stagg has given unselfishly to numerous not-for-profit organizations, volunteer boards, community projects, and social and economic initiatives on a local, regional, provincial and a national level.

Already with an established career and growing family, she enthusiastically accepted positions on governing boards of Canadian National Railway and five of its subsidiary companies throughout Canada, including Canac International and the CN Tower. In addition, she served two terms on the Board of Marine Atlantic.

On a provincial level she has been a board member with the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, the Association of Cultural Industries, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation. She is currently a second-term member of the Board of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation.

Ms. Stagg has also been a tireless presence when it comes to development in the Bay St. George region, most notably as founding general manager for the Stephenville Theatre Festival which, in 2016, celebrated 38 years as the longest running professional summer theatre festival in the province.

In 1970 she, along with her husband and two other investors, founded the Georgian as the weekly newspaper in Bay St. George, at one time serving a two-year term as its volunteer full-time editor.

Ms. Stagg's local development efforts also resulted in her becoming the founding President of both the Jack & Jill Nursery School and the Festival Coast Tourism Association; and for 10 years as a businesswoman she operated a local art gallery providing the first retail outlet for the visual artists of the region.

In the 1980s and 1990s, she served locally with the boards of Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital, Stephenville Airport Corporation, and the Chamber of Commerce.

In May 2012, Ms. Stagg was appointed Chair of College of the North Atlantic's (CNA) Board of Governors and has recently seen the college reach its goal of becoming a degree-granting institution. As College Chair she also serves as a member of the Joint Oversight Management Board for CNA's international campus in Doha, Qatar which has operated for 14 years as Canada's largest single-location employer of Canadians overseas.

On a more personal level, between 1999 and 2010 she provided almost daily assistance and advocacy services to two families with children impacted by severe traumatic brain injuries.

In the field of sport, she has twice represented the province nationally on a team competing in senior ladies curling.

Ms. Stagg is a past recipient of the Doug Wheeler Tourism Award, the Saga Communications Marketing Award, the 125th anniversary of Confederation Medal, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Kellie Walsh
Kellie Walsh is the founder and Artistic Director of the internationally award-winning Lady Cove Women's Choir, the Artistic Director of the internationally celebrated youth chorus, Shallaway Youth Choir, and co-founder and now Artistic Director Emeritus of Newman Sound Men's Choir.

Her work has brought her across Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, the United States, South America, Europe and Asia. As acclaimed as the choirs she conducts, Ms. Walsh’s true passion is more profoundly understood by the use of choral music as a medium to unite people and cultures, transcending geography and social, political and economic circumstances.

From deep and proud roots in Newfoundland and Labrador, she has become renowned in Canada and internationally for embracing the medium of choral singing as an opportunity to explore leadership potential, identity building and social/civic engagement.

Ms. Walsh obtained her Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Music Education from Memorial University in 1994, and was awarded a Master of Music (Conducting) from Memorial University in 2004. She is a highly sought after guest conductor. Most recently she was guest conductor for the National Canada Day Celebrations on Parliament Hill as well as guest choral specialist to the Stratford Festival.

She is an active guest speaker, member, collaborator and innovator in Choral Canada,Chorus America, the Association of American Choral directors, and the International Federation of Choral Music.

In 2014, Lady Cove Women's Choir won two gold medals at the largest choral competition on the globe, the World Choral Games in Latvia. The choir was a winner of the CBC Radio National Competition in both 2006 and 2008. In 2008 the choir won first place in the prestigious Béla Bartók Contemporary Choir Competition in Hungary and in 2011 was one of 25 choirs in the world to be invited to the ninth World Symposium on Choral Music in Argentina.

Under her leadership, Shallaway Youth Choir has grown to almost 350 children from St. John’s and surrounding areas. In 2015 Shallaway won first place and overall highest marks at the renowned Llangollen Festival. That same year the choir was invited to be one of 25 choirs chosen globally to perform at the 10th World Symposium on Choral Music in Korea.

Ms. Walsh’s most recent efforts will see the genesis of a new choir in our province comprising youth from the northern coastal communities of Labrador. As a result of multiple years of travelling to Labrador, she decided to pursue an opportunity that would see these children perform in Ottawa on July 1, 2017, as part of the 150th anniversary of Canada.

She believes the arts can play an explicit role in helping to shape communities social, physical, and economic futures. Ms. Walsh, the choristers, and all of the volunteers with her organizations have won the hearts of audiences locally and globally and mobilized support from governments, communities and private sector donors, and have had a transformative impact on people locally, nationally and globally.

Honourable Clyde K. Wells, QC
Clyde Kirby Wells, QC, has made an outstanding contribution to Newfoundland and Labrador. From an early age he was determined to study law. With this in mind he entered Memorial University and graduated in 1959 with a B.A., majoring in political science. He then entered Dalhousie Law School and graduated with a LL.B. in 1962.

Following graduation from Dalhousie, he joined the Canadian Army and practised law in the Judge Advocate General's office. In 1964 he returned to the province and entered legal practice quickly establishing a distinguished career as a civil and criminal litigator.

While practising in Newfoundland, Mr. Wells also acted on legal cases of national significance including constitutional questions in the Supreme Court of Canada. They included the 1982 patriation of the constitution: the Upper Churchill Water Rights Reversion Act and jurisdictional matters respecting offshore oil resources.

Mr. Wells also had a keen interest in politics. In 1966, two years after entering practice in the province, he was appointed Minister of Labour in the Cabinet of Premier Joseph Smallwood and elected as a MHA in the 1966 general election. In 1968, he resigned from the Cabinet due to his concerns regarding the government’s involvement in the financing of the proposed Come-by-Chance oil refinery. However, he remained as an independent MHA until 1971, when he resigned and returned to legal practice.

In 1987, Mr. Wells was chosen leader of the Liberal Party. In 1989, the Liberals under his leadership won the provincial general election and he became the province's fifth premier.

He immediately found himself embroiled in an intense debate with the then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney concerning the Meech Lake Accord. The Accord was a series of proposed amendments to the Constitution of Canada which was agreed upon in 1987 by the Prime Minister and the provincial premiers.

Mr. Wells, a strong advocate for senate reform and provincial equality, vigorously opposed the Accord, and in particular, the provisions that he believed would grant Quebec special status within Confederation. He was fearful the Accord would make senate reform and any future constitutional amendments almost impossible.

His voice resonated through the debate and ultimately the Accord failed. Because of the Meech Lake Accord discussions, he was recognized as a major figure on the national political scene.

When he assumed the premiership, he was also faced with the province's troubled economy, the government’s repeated annual deficits and an ever increasing debt. Fortunately, he had the courage to make the necessary, but unpopular, budgetary decisions necessary to get the province's financial problems under control.

His effort to improve the province’s financial position was complicated by the 1992 collapse of the northern cod fishery which required the Federal Government to declare a moratorium.

Another important but controversial issue which Mr. Wells addressed, was the denominational school system. This system was enshrined in the Newfoundland Terms of Union with Canada. Given growing concern with this system, he initiated steps which eventually led, in 1998, with Federal Government approval, to the introduction of a non-denominational school system.

Mr. Wells retired as premier in January 1996 and returned to the practice of law. In 1998, he was appointed to the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court and in 1999 was appointed as Chief Justice. In January 2009, he chose to step down and remained as a supernumerary judge until his retirement from the bench in 2012.

He resumed the practice of law in 2013, as counsel with the Atlantic Provinces firm of Cox & Palmer, and in January 2014, he was appointed as Chair of the Board of Directors of the firm.

Mr. Wells has wisely maintained a life outside of work, including sailing, skiing, hiking and golfing. He is a caring and wonderful husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.

During a life which began in rural Newfoundland in the 1930s, Mr. Wells has emerged, both nationally and at home, as a prominent lawyer, politician and jurist. He is an extraordinary Newfoundlander and Labradorian.

Vincent Withers, C.M., LL.D
Vince Withers is a senior business leader in Newfoundland and Labrador who has given exemplary service to the community in the areas of education, economic and business development, civic involvement, sports and athletics.

Mr. Withers is one of Newfoundland's most outspoken business leaders who retired as president and CEO of NewTel Enterprises in February 1998 following a distinguished 40-year career with the NewTel Companies.

He is a leading and vocal supporter of the public post-secondary education system and was instrumental in the transitioning of the trade school system into the current public college system. He has served as Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the College of the North Atlantic and the Avalon Community College.

In his business life, Mr. Withers has served on numerous corporate boards, and some of his business activities include founding Chairperson of the Employer’s Council, and the founding Chairperson of the Ireland Business Partnerships.

Mr. Withers has been a leader throughout his life using his business experience and demonstrating the compassion at the heart of a humanitarian. He has received many accolades for his dedication to the community through sport, education, and health care including: an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Memorial University (1998), the Governor General’s 125th Anniversary Medal (1992), the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal (2003), the Canadian Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year (2012) and the Patron of the Arts (1993). He is a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.

In consideration of his long record of service to the community, Mr. Withers was accepted into the Order of Canada in 1998.

In 2006, Mr. Withers founded and is Chairperson of the Eating Disorder Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador finally bringing stakeholders together on this issue. The Eating Disorder Foundation is an advocacy group dedicated to research, providing family support services and information on eating disorders.

Shortly after the foundation was established, he played a key role in the opening of the Renata Elizabeth Withers Outpatient Intensive Care Treatment Centre for HOPE, named after his daughter who passed away from an eating disorder. Mr. Withers spends countless hours listening to clients and families to help improve their access to services.

From 2010 to 2014, Mr. Withers served as Chairperson of the Provincial Ministerial Advisory Council for Mental Health and Addictions. The council advises the Minister of Health and Community Services on key mental health and addictions matters, in order to enhance services and improve the lives of those living with mental health and addictions issues in our province.

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