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I was saddened to learn recently of the death of Norm MacDonald. Sadder still that we weren’t notified here at the Advance (or on the funeral notice boards) until two days after his funeral.

Many will remember Norm from his businesses. He opened MacDonald’s Men’s Wear in the Creston Valley Mall in the 1980s, and a few years afterward purchased Busy Bee Dry Cleaners. Later, he relocated the men’s wear shop to Canyon Street, across from the Royal Bank.

Norm was already something of a local celebrity when I first met him. His beloved wife, Adeline, was among those killed in the Cranbrook plane crash of 1978, in which 42 of the 49 Pacific Western Airline passengers died on a fateful winter’s day.

The truth is, I think, that Norm never really recovered from his loss.

I feel the need to provide this short tribute to a friend because he was the subject of my very first “This is the Life” column back in 1989. I had come to know Norm well because I was the Advance advertising manager. He had taken to drinking and it grew worse when he moved the store to Canyon Street. It was not uncommon for me to stop into the shop in the morning and be offered a beer. I never took him up on the offer, but I didn’t judge him either. The occasional prod to acknowledge his problem fell on stubbornly deaf ears.

One day I stopped in after not seeing him for several weeks. He told me he had quit drinking. He went home after work one evening, fell down to his knees and pleaded with God to take away his urge for alcohol. He then got up and poured every drop in the house down the drain. A while later, when it became apparent that his commitment was intact, I asked if I could tell his story in a column I wanted to start. He agreed, but neither of us knew that it would put us both afoul of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I quoted his references to the 12-step program, which was not intended to be made public.

Nevertheless, Norm stayed with AA. To my knowledge, he never took another drink after that first plea heavenward for help. I am glad to have had Norm MacDonald as my friend for nearly three decades and I will miss his visits when he stopped in each week to pick up his paper.

On a completely different topic, I attended the annual Children’s Winter Celebration event last Thursday night, and was incredibly impressed by the large number of children and parents in attendance, and by the amazing job of organizing by staff and volunteers. My wife, Angela, runs one of the pre-school programs at the Creston Education Centre and I know first hand just how hard she and her colleagues work to give children and their parents a good start for elementary school.

While I was there, though, and witnessing just what a great asset the CEC is to our community, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with School District 8 (Kootenay Lake) and, especially, with our own Creston Valley board trustees.

The facility is being advertised for sale or lease so that the district can save some money. Fair enough, I suppose. But they studiously avoided any direct contact with Valley Community Services (which runs most of the pre-school programs), Town of Creston and local RDCK directors for months before finally agreeing to meet. At the meeting last month, none of our trustees chose to attend, for reasons stated by chair Lenora Trenamen in last week’s Advance. In fact, they have all been very quiet about the issue, and I don’t know why. These are the same people who promised to represent Creston Valley residents’ interests at the board table before the last election (with now-trustee Cody Beebe famously stating at a candidates’ forum that the superintendent of schools “needs his ass kicked” and adding he would like to be the one to do it).

None of those successful candidates—Beebe, Rebecca Huscroft or Heather Suttie—would accept my offer to provide quotes for the story or discuss the subject with me, and I wonder if others are as disappointed with their role in this issue as I am. The CEC is a fantastic asset and it would be criminal if we can’t keep it, with all existing programs—HomeLinks included–intact.

On a much happier note, we attended the Blossom Valley Singers’ concert, A Christmas Carol Gallery, on Sunday afternoon, and could not possibly have been happier with the experience.

From start to finish, this was a beautifully presented afternoon of Christmas music. It was a visual treat and my ears thrilled to all of the music, from the Community Band to the chorus to each of the smaller groups of singers and performers. When I thanked the tireless Dave Handy for his efforts to get the “sound shells” that directed voices and instrumental sounds into the audience, he demurred, insisting most of the responsibility for the terrific sound quality goes to Jason Smith, who looks after the sound and lighting for Prince Charles Auditorium, So to Jason, Dave, Anita Stushnoff, Monte Anderson and everyone involved both on and off the stage, I say thank you, thank you, thank you. And Merry Christmas to you all.



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