One Last Look

It shouldn’t take a natural disaster, like the one of such infathomable death and destruction across a wide swath of Asia and Africa earlier this week, to make us realize that life is pretty good here in our little neck of the woods.
Sure, there was plenty to gripe about in 2004—higher taxes, user fees, and sewer/water rates, “bag tags,” the continued closure of the U.S. border to most Canadian cattle, and a summer that didn’t arrive until October.
Then there was the heated debate over how Rainycrest should tackle its deficit woes—whether to go with a private company like Extendicare or set up a partnership with Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc.
We lost St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, which closed its doors in September after 120 years in the community. And we lost three neighbourhood schools (Alexander MacKenzie, Sixth Street, and Alberton Central), although the renovated J.W. Walker School opened to rave reviews this past fall—and should mean even better educational opportunities for our students.
There were many positive stories, too. For instance, construction is well underway on the $12.5-million Phase IV renovations at La Verendrye Hospital here, with the sterilization unit the first to open just this past month.
In business, we saw the opening of Wal-Mart in January, and the new Canadian Tire/Mark’s Work Wearhouse in October—offering local consumers new choices, though also presenting a challenge to downtown merchants.
The local mill, now owned by Abitibi-Consolidated, celebrated its 90th anniversary in Fort Frances in May. Also on the labour front, two of its unions (CEP Local #92 and #306) inked a new five-year contract in July, with two other unions (IBEW #1744 and IAM #771) soon to vote on a proposed deal.
Thanks to an outcry from parents and others, the Northwest Catholic District School Board saved its French Immersion program for at least another year.
And we cheered when one-year-old Alicia Delbridge survived a life-threatening heart ailment in Calgary in August, and when Carolyn Stamarski underwent a successful liver transplant in London, Ont. in October. And then there was the pilot who survived when his floatplane clipped a wire and crashed into Prospect Bay the week before Thanksgiving.
In the district, La Vallee Township and the Town of Rainy River both held widely successful centennial celebrations in 2004, while Rainy River First Nations took a step closer to settling its longstanding land claim.
It also was a year of some firsts, including the election of Liberal candidate Ken Boshcoff in June for the newly-created seat of Thunder Bay-Rainy River. The first nurses’ graduation was held here in May, with 19 receiving their diplomas from Northern College in Timmins through Contact North.
As we pause one last time to reflect on 2004, we realize no one can predict what events will unfold in a year. What we can control, though, is how we deal with what comes our way—fueled, fortunately, by our innate, unflagging optimism about the promise of the future.