I’m allowing my thoughts to meander a bit before I address a special group of people in Pictou County.
First stop in my remindful excursion is Pictou Landing. That’s because it used to be my favourite place in the whole world during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. That’s where I spent the first 30 summers of my life, loving the water, sunbathing and swimming at the Lighthouse beach, and being involved in on-water activities like boating and water skiing.
I considered myself pretty lucky being at the family cottage at what is popularly known as Rustico. Our property was on the point of land where Moody Cove joins Pictou Harbour. From our veranda the lighthouse at the mouth of the harbour was always in our sights.
The cottagers, as we were called by year-round residents, had sail boats and motor boats to slip over to Pictou, or navigate the East River as far up as New Glasgow.
When I think back that half century, I don’t recall any canoeing or kayaking being a part of our summer pleasures.
My next stop began in Dartmouth in 1969, when The Chronicle Herald transferred me to the big city. My wife Jane and I settled in Dartmouth, where she had grown up. Just a few weeks later, the first Canada Summer Games was held in Metro and I was introduced to paddling and rowing on world-famous Lake Banook. I was soon enjoying and loving the national and world events held there.
The final stop in my memories was another 20-plus years later. Jane and I were among a half dozen couples who had become close friends, spending many events, birthdays and anniversaries together, not unlike folks in any community.
Then, one day we learned one of the women, a long-time nursing companion of Jane’s, was told she had breast cancer. To make a long story short, she fought the good fight and became a survivor.
Despite middle age, she was soon paddling on Lake Banook, a sport she had never experienced. She became a member of a dragon boat team with other cancer survivors and, before we realized it, she was competing locally, provincially, even internationally.
That’s when I discovered dragon boat racing.
Ever since, I’ve admired the women who, like our friend, tackled the dreaded disease, became survivors, got into the activity, and became talented athletes.
They prove to us, year after year, that you don’t have to be able to score goals into a net or smash baseballs out of a stadium to become admired.
The more I’ve read about dragon boat racers, the more I read words like enthusiasm, commitment, intensity, skill. Reading a magazine a while back, I smiled when an article called these competitors “fun-loving paddlers.” How true that is.
Nova Scotians, especially Pictonians, know all about dragon boaters.
The front page stories in back-to-back issues of The Advocate — stories by editor Jackie Jardine and reporter Sarah Butland — shone spotlights on the 20th anniversary of the local Women Alike Abreast A River team.
The onset and growth of the sport on the East River over the last two decades has been a magnificent development. It’s not just a local accomplishment. Drag boat racing has been described as the fastest-growing international team water sport anywhere.
In Jackie’s story, “Celebrating 20 years on the river,” she explained how the local group began in 1998, how the first local dragon boat was in the water the next year.
Two aims of the local club stand out. One is that the entire effort is designed to help women with breast cancer “understand that they can lead full, active lives despite the physical limitations imposed by the disease.” The other objective is to raise awareness about breast cancer.
The achievements of the dozens of local cancer survivors have not gone unnoticed. On Oct. 19, these special people will be inducted into the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame.
Normally I wouldn’t run long lists of names in a column. In this case, however, I make an exception. Each team member — 82 of them — deserves recognition.
The 27 active members: Anne Baxter, Darlene Benoit, Cindy Bolter, Faye Visser Booth, Carole Braver, Michelle Buck, Cindy Butler, Gerry Cameron, Sylvia Campbell, Carol Clark, Megan Coffin, Barbara Davis, Jill Griffin, Shirley Murray, Bev McGuigan, Colleen Nelson Stroke, Wendy Panagopoulas, Jessie Parkinson, Debbie Perrin, Wanda Poulin, Joel Sellers (coach), Marla Sim (coach), Cindy Skinner, Debby Spaulding, Evelyn Sutherland, Pat Westlake, Linda Wilkenson.
The 36 retired members: Marilyn Carruthers, Cathy Cotter, Karen Crowley, Joanne Cumminger, Kathy Eddy, Jean Fraser, Susan Hartley, Margo Hawes, Marianna Hope, Molly Jackson, Marjorie Jeans, Cheryl MacKay Langille, Gale Langille, Carolyn MacDonald, Diane MacDonald, Vera MacIntosh, Linda MacKay, Judy MacKean, Marlene MacLellan, Kim MacPherson, Isabel MacVicar, Shirley Manos, Linda Moran, Colleen Murray, Phyllis June Parker, Janice Porter, Meredith Roosineck, Deanne Smith, Roseanne Sovour, Gail Stewart, Mel Swarbrick, Brenda Tucker, Phyllis Weaver, Christine Williams, Chris Wilson, Karen Worthen.
The 19 in memoriam: Shirley Callahan, Cindy Campbell, Joyce Cooke, Nancy Fraser, Sue Horder, Margaret Hickey, Helen MacCulloch, Doris MacKinnon, Pearl MacMillan, Ann Malcolm, Audrey Pratt, Jane Richardson, Doris Rink, Connie Rogers, Agnes Saunders, Mabel Sinnis, Nancy Steele, Emma Lee Stewart, Ruth Watson.
I recognize some of the names. For many Pictonians, I’m sure it’s a similar case. Cancer strikes anyone anywhere.
The 82 people are being given double honours by the hall of fame. They are being inducted simultaneously into both the team and humanitarian categories.
Sean Murray, president and CEO of Advocate Printing and Publishing, said of the team: “They are a shining example of community and they are athletes.”