This week at Government House, nine people were invested into the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador – the highest honour of the province. “We can bestow no greater honour on Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” says Frank F. Fagan, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador. “These nine individuals have contributed greatly to society over a period of decades and their efforts deserve recognition.“
Dr. Noel Browne is an Irish doctor who brought more than medical knowledge to the island upon his arrival in 1960. Browne is credited with bringing the sport of rugby to our rugged island. He co-founded the Newfoundland Rugby Union, and founded Swilers Club. His list of contributions to local recreational culture is as big as a football field.
Thomas J Foran is known for lending his time, talents, and financial know-how to colleagues, clients, cultural institutions, entrepreneurs, and community organizations. It has been said The Rooms wouldn’t have become what it became without him. Now its chair, Foran was the first person asked to be a board member at The Rooms, and he has made substantial contributions to its operation ever since. He is also the man who got BMO to commit such a generous purse to the Winterset Award.
William (Bill) D. Mahoney has served with distinction as an Air Force Reservist for more than 25 years, and has made a long list of contributions to his community, such as being personally responsible for the sculpture on New Gower Street that honours the history of the RNC here, and for organizing the largest, single-day fundraiser in the history of the province (The Maple Leaf Tribute Dinner, which provides support and services for military personnel and their families across our province).
Melba Rabinowitz moved here from New Orleans in 1975, and made her new home a better place by advocating for improved early childhood and family services for vulnerable families and children, and went on to become Coordinator of the Early Childhood Certificate Program with Memorial University, and Chair of the fledgling Early Childhood Development Association. In 1979, with provincial funding, she spearheaded the first, province-wide, formal training for child care staff, and was instrumental in introducing the province’s first complementary family-centred program, which included parenting and child development education, nutrition guidance, including a community kitchen, toy lending library and organized outings and evening socials, and an adult literacy program. A true pioneer, her career will be profiled in and of itself in a future issue of The Overcast.
Poland-born Philip Riteman was transported to Auschwitz in the winter of 1942, where his family perished in gas chambers. Riteman was spared only so he could be used for slave labour. He moved to Newfoundland for a fresh start, and eventually came to own a wholesale dry-goods business. In 1989, he broke his silence about his past to quash the claims of holocaust deniers like Malcolm Ross. Ross claimed The Holocaust hadn’t happened, or if it did, it was being greatly exaggerated. Riteman famously “spoke for those who could not speak,” and has been doing so ever since. In 1996, Riteman was interviewed for Stephen Spielberg’s Shoah Project.
Bell Island’s Cheryl Stagg has given more than 40 years of service to numerous not-for-profit organizations, volunteer boards, community projects, arts organizations, and social and economic initiatives on a local, regional, provincial and a national level. She is well known for being the founding manager for the Stephenville Theatre Festival, and for founding The Georgian, a weekly newspaper in Bay St. George in 1970, as well as operating a local art gallery that provided the first retail outlet for the visual artists of the region. She is the current 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. Well-rounded, she’s also represented the province nationally in curling.
Kellie Walsh is the founder and Artistic Director of the award-winning Lady Cove Women’s Choir, the Artistic Director of the internationally celebrated youth chorus, Shallaway Youth Choir, and co-founder and Artistic Director Emeritus of Newman Sound Men’s Choir. Her work has brought her across Canada, the United States, South America, Europe and Asia. Most recently she was guest conductor for the National Canada Day Celebrations on Parliament Hill. 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. 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.
Clyde Kirby Wells is a former premier of Newfoundland and lawyer, who acted on cases of national significance. 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. Cue to 1987, and Wells was chosen leader of the Liberal Party, who came into power with him at the helms in 1989 as NL’s 5th premier. Immediately, he and prime minister Brian Mulroney were fighting over the Meech Lake Accord, because Wells believed it would grant Quebec special status within Confederation, and make senate reform and any future constitutional amendments almost impossible. The Accord failed, elevating Wells as a major figure on the national political scene.
Vince Withers is known as one of Newfoundland’s most outspoken business leaders and has received many accolades for his dedication to the community through sport, education, and healthcare 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). 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. 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. From 2010 to 2014, Mr. Withers served as Chairperson of the Provincial Ministerial Advisory Council for Mental Health and Addictions.