Children, Seniors and Social Development
June 30, 2017

Minister Gambin-Walsh Announces 2017 Seniors of Distinction Award Recipients

Today, the Honourable Sherry Gambin-Walsh, Minster of Children, Seniors and Social Development, announced the 2017 Seniors of Distinction Award recipients. The Seniors of Distinction Awards program was designed to identify and celebrate the contributions, achievements and diversity of older persons throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

This year's recipients are Margaret Burden of Port Hope Simpson, Augustine (Gus) Etchegary of Portugal Cove-St. Philips, Dermot (Derm) Flynn of Appleton, Leonard (Len) Simms of St. John's and Willis Whyatt of St. Carol's. A formal awards ceremony to honour these deserving individuals will take place on October 3.

Further information on each of this year's awards recipients is available in the backgrounder below.

First awarded in 2009, the Seniors of Distinction Awards are intended to increase recognition of seniors in our province, and increase visibility of seniors in our society.

“Recognizing seniors for their contributions and achievements within the community is just a small way to show our appreciation. Seniors play such an important role in shaping the lives of others, through their knowledge, experience and generosity. Congratulations to this year’s Seniors of Distinction award recipients. We look forward to celebrating with you and your families in the fall.”
Honourable Sherry Gambin-Walsh
Minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development

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Media contact
Krista Dalton
Children, Seniors and Social Development
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Recipients of the 2017 Seniors of Distinction Award

Margaret Burden – Port Hope Simpson
Born in 1938 in Twillingate, Margaret Burden moved to Port Hope Simpson to teach in the early 1950s. She married a fisherman and raised eight children. During the winter Ms. Burden would teach and during the summer she would fish with her husband. She was an educator, leader, volunteer, counsellor, Sunday school teacher, municipal politician and business woman with tons of energy and vision. Ms. Burden owns and operates two businesses and served as the town's mayor for 20 years this September. She has been a recreation coordinator for the community and the Labrador Winter Games for many years. She still never misses a dog team race. Young athletes she coached as teenagers are now in their fifties and still run, ski and snowshoe. Ms. Burden was instrumental in getting the Moulder of Dreams Pottery Shop off the ground. She also started a community garden from the waste of the hydro plant. Ms. Burden has helped develop athletes, potters and gardeners by encouraging individuals to be their very best.

Augustine (Gus) Etchegary – Portugal Cove-St. Philips
Born in 1924, St. Lawrence-native Augustine (Gus) Etchegary has witnessed and shared in a wealth of experiences including the havoc of the 1929 tsunami and the efforts to rescue crew members from the USS Truxtun, which ran aground near St. Lawrence. Joining Fishery Products Ltd. in 1947, Mr. Etchegary had a distinguished 41-year career, retiring in 1988 as executive vice-president. A long-time fisheries advocate, Mr. Etchegary is a former Canadian commissioner to the International Commission of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries and the North Atlantic Fishery Organization. He participated in a number of fishery negotiations and was also responsible for the formation of the Save Our Fisheries Association in 1971. After retiring, Mr. Etchegary volunteered for a number of community activities including adviser to the Coalition of Churches which highlighted the problems facing rural NL communities following the 1992 cod moratorium. Mr. Etchegary's was also the first Newfoundlander to be inducted into the Canadian Soccer Association Hall of Fame in 2007. In 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by Memorial University and, in 2013, published his first novel Empty Nets, which recounts his historic attachment and passion for the fishing industry, his love and respect for a way of life unique to NL communities, and his conviction for nature's capacity to renew itself if given a chance.

Dermot (Derm) Flynn – Appleton
Dermot (Derm) Flynn was born in Placentia Bay in 1947. Mr. Flynn has had a very distinguished career on the Island and in Labrador. He spent 32 years in municipal government – eight years as mayor and deputy mayor of Wabush and 24 years as mayor and deputy mayor of Appleton, a position he currently holds. Mr. Flynn moved to Appleton in 1991 and has been keen to find new ideas to benefit his town. The Appleton Winter Festival celebrated its 25th year in February 2017 and he has been a committee volunteer since its inception. Under Mr. Flynn's leadership Appleton has improved the ecosystem of the Gander River with the successful construction and implementation of an Abydoz Wetland Treatment Facility in 2006-07 which has won numerous awards for its treatment levels, innovative design and its green method of treatment. Mr. Flynn has been very involved with the Provincial Tidy Towns program garnering Appleton wins in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2016. He is a life member of the Association of Kinsmen Clubs of Canada, was inducted into Softball Newfoundland and Labrador Hall of Fame and, in 2012, was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal. Because of the efforts of the people of Appleton, Mr. Flynn is being portrayed in the Broadway musical "Come From Away".

Leonard (Len) Simms – St. John's
Leonard (Len) Simms was born in 1943 in Howley and raised in Corner Brook, but became a long-time resident of Grand Falls-Windsor before moving to St. John's. His list of accolades and accomplishments includes President of the Kinsmen Club of Grand Falls-Windsor, Deputy Governor of Kinsmen NL, Governor of Kinsmen, Atlantic Provinces and Mr. Simms was the first Newfoundland Kinsmen to be to be elected National President of the Kinsmen Clubs of Canada in 1978-79. Mr. Simms has been involved with a number of charitable organizations including the Lions Max Simms Memorial Camp since 1981, Chair of Children's Wish Foundation Advisory Board and member of Stella's Circle Governance Board. Mr. Simms is a well-known political figure, having served as MHA for Grand Falls-Windsor, Speaker of the House, Member of Cabinet, Leader of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador and Leader of the Opposition. Most recently, Mr. Simms served as CEO of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation and, as an affordable housing advocate, received the National Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation Award at the 2013 Canadian Housing Congress for outstanding contribution to advancing affordable housing solutions.

Willis Whyatt – St. Carol's
Willis Whyatt was born in 1941 in St. Carol's, where he has resided his entire life. When Mr. Whyatt was 11 years old his father was unable to work for a winter so, as the oldest child, Mr. Whyatt left school to take on his father's duties. That same year he began his career in the fishery. As an adult, he and other community members spearheaded the building of a new school and church which was funded through the St. Carol's Concert, a decades long tradition on the Northern Peninsula. To this day, Mr. Whyatt sits on the board of the local parish council and is a member of the church band. Traditional music has been his lifelong passion, which he attributes to his grandfather. As a member of the group, Folk of the Sea, he played for Queen Elizabeth in Bonavista. In his 50s, Mr. Whyatt joined another musical group called The Pumper Boys and although the band retired in 2012, Mr. Whyatt continues to play. In his early 70s, when most people are slowing down, Mr. Whyatt released his first album. His songs are played regularly on radio stations throughout the province.

2017 06 30                              1:25 p.m.