Legends in Your Neighbourhood
A legend, by definition, is someone who is extremely well-known to excel at something notable, who’s influenced our culture, or changed the world in some way. In short: Someone BIG. Pete Seeger is big—if you factor in his legendary status over decades of music and activism. In preparation to celebrate his 90th birthday in 2009 with a huge concert at Madison Square Gardens, he famously said “Well, normally I’m against big things. I think the world is going to be saved by millions of small things. Too many things can go wrong when they get big.” Typical Pete.
We live in a culture that admires big. Big houses, big cars, big companies, big dreams, big money. It does not take long as an artist or a businessperson to realize that if you want to be a kind, generous, community-minded person it is going to talk longer—and you’ll have to work harder—to be ‘big.’ But why do we need to be big? Why isn’t being humble and thoughtful enough to make you a legend? When I look around our community, I see so many people working hard with no need for recognition—they are legends in my mind.
Mary Menduk, for example: Poet, supporter, philosopher, philanthropist, and builder. Without Mary the arts in Fernie would not be what they are today. Or dear Beulah Limber, who I first met sitting around a jam circle as she cradled her beloved banjo, but who also threw herself fearlessly at a canvas. She never missed a chance to give you a smile and never stopped learning.
And what about Louise and Jackie—heroes of the Arts Station? They’ve transformed that institution from an art clubhouse to a vibrant cultural hub that contributes to the greater community in uncountable ways.
During COVID, they’ve found ways to keep the doors open and programming happening. Though mostly unnoticed, and often under-appreciated, their work is nothing short of extraordinary.
My friend Laura Nelson: rockstar painter, closet fiddle player, and so much more. Founder of Polar Peak Books during the rise of the digital age, her kindness and thoughtfulness are matched only by her talent with the brush. Plus, the ongoing wonder of a small, local bookstore is carried on now by another stalwart legend: Patty Reedyk.
Tara Higgins, who had the audacity to open a gallery (and then expand it, and then expand it again) in the middle of a global pandemic. Hard-working, talented, and always willing to lend a hand to make something better or help a friend. Her attitude and skill was indispensable as I rushed to finish the mural as cold weather threatened. If you scratch the surface of the arts in Fernie you’ll probably find Tara there behind the scenes greasing the wheels and smoothing ruffled feathers.
If you’ve walked downtown and noticed the beautiful banners hanging from the lamp standards, you’ll know the tireless volunteer work of Donna Miller who has quietly propelled this project along year after year.
Where would the Museum be without the cheerful and dedicated contributions of Rebecca Hall, or the library without the energy of Tina Hayes? Where would the Fernie Pride Society be without Sara Funk or the Seniors Centre without Courtney Baker?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Krista Turcasso and Vanessa Croome, who came to the people of Fernie dreaming of a glossy magazine with local content—now in its 15th year. Do you have any idea how hard it is to do anything for 15 years, let alone the relentless cycle of writing, layout, ad sales, editing, pre-press, and publishing of a periodical? During this stretch these talented folks also balanced young families and side-hustle sports and art careers. It can’t be easy, but it’s amazing to witness their passion.
If you haven’t noticed already, all of these local legends are women. These are just a few that I know off the top of my head, but there are so many more that I haven’t met yet or haven’t seen in action. You know who you are. Working hard with humility, kindness, and passion; these women continue to mold and shape Fernie. Without their work we’d have a town, but we wouldn’t have a community. Fernie is made better by all of these legendary women who are saving our corner of the world one small thing at a time.
Photo by Vanessa Croome