Anita Palmer

Anita Palmer… I would estimate that most people in Fernie and beyond know of this generous community member. Whether from her dedication to Fernie Minor Hockey or involvement with the Fernie Skating Club, through her role at the College of the Rockies or her time with the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. Anita has likely impacted us in some way, whether we know it or not!

Recently I started teaching at the College of the Rockies which gave me the opportunity to spend more time with Anita. I taught the Entrepreneurship course for the MAST program nearly 15 years ago, when Anita was the Program Administrator. Now, Anita is manager at the Fernie campus and it was a lot of fun to see her more regularly and learn about how she became the strong and inspiring woman she is today. 
Anita grew up in Grasmere, BC which is roughly a 30-minute drive from Fernie. 

“We were without running water and electricity! I didn’t get those things until I got married and moved to Hosmer,” she tells me, and I have so many questions!  

“We put up hay and rode horses like most people rode bikes. But we didn’t know anything different, and it was fantastic! People talk about living off grid now, it didn’t have a name back then. We would walk 4 miles home from school like it was nothing,” she adds. 

Anita and her three sisters attended school in Grasmere until Grade 6, Jaffray until Grade 10 and finished their senior years in Fernie. 

“We spent a lot of time on a bus, and nobody lived anywhere close to us. We were very independent, critical thinking at its best.”

Anita met her husband Mike while attending school in Fernie, after which they got married and started a family. 

“In 1991 I went back to school and took office administration at the College in Fernie… and before I left, I got hired to work there! It’s 32 years this year and I’m retiring at the end of August. I really still love my job, but we’re excited to do some travelling,” she says, adding that Mike is retiring as well from their company PJB Crane. 

Their travel plans include visiting a variety of landscapes within Canada, which makes sense to me after learning of her appreciation for our natural environment, which continues today on their acreage in Hosmer. 

I can’t imagine they’ll be gone too long, though with Anita’s connection and passion for her community which started like it does for many with parents who were also dedicated volunteers. When Anita and Mike had Bobby-Joe and Mark, volunteering made sense. 

“I was on the executive of whatever they were into, the entire time they were involved and it evolved from there. Fernie Figure Skating Club, Fernie Minor Hockey, Ghostriders Hockey, East Kootenay Minor Hockey…. and after they graduated, I joined the Chamber Board, 100 Women Who Care, Teck’s Communities of Interest and the Rotary Club,” she tells me. I can barely type fast enough!

She is in her third year as the President of the Rotary Club and is extremely excited about an event they are hosting that has been in the works for some time. 

“It’s called a Feast for a Cause and we’re hosting it to truly make a difference in the community. We have so many community partners with 14 restaurants confirmed and over $12,000 donated by local businesses for the Silent Auction,” she tells me. 

When I ask what they are raising funds for, it is a bit hush hush… fortunately it was formally announced! Feast For a Cause is, “rallying together to help raise the $1.8 million needed for a Tier 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.”

How great is that? Their goal is for the event to be annual, fundraising to support community initiatives. Anita tells me that she really enjoys her time with the Rotary Club, “as it brings people together who share a common goal to advance good will and peace. It is about service above self, commitment and supporting a healthy community.” 

Not surprisingly, Anita has been recognized over the years for her volunteer work and support of our community. Recently she was surprised by the Citizen of the Year award presented by the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. Previously, she received the College of the Rockies Extra Mile Award, was recognized by Hockey Canada for Outstanding Service to Minor Hockey, the President’s Award by Sports BC, George Makic Spiritus Award… as she’s listing these to me, she laughs and says, “I forgot about that one” and again, I cannot keep up so we know there are more in there! 

I enjoy this fun and uplifting conversation, and before leaving have to ask why she thinks it’s important to give back to your community. 

“I’m a giver by nature, but really believe that those of us who are fortunate to be able to contribute really should.”

Thank you, Anita. For everything but also for being such a great community role model. Congratulations on your upcoming retirement, and we hope you enjoy hitting the road!

1. When did you first arrive in the area and what brought you here?
I was born in Fernie in 1960 and grew up in Grasmere. 

2. Who do you remember first meeting?
It would have to be my husband, Mike Palmer. When we came to Fernie from Jaffray, I was in grade 11 and he 12. 

3. Do you remember your first general impression of Fernie?
It was a big city. I was a country hick!

4. What keeps you here?
I just love it, we love it. Our roots are here, and most of our family is here. 

5. Do you have a favourite pastime?
I have a few. Softball and riding horses - those are my two biggest. I am also certified as a personal coach for health and well-being. Something I might do when I retire to help those who cannot pay.

6. What time of the year do you love most and why?
The fall, the colours. 

7. Where do you see or hope to see Fernie in five years.
Thriving, still a tourist destination, with more affordable housing. 

8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals?
I start my day with a coffee, and I feed my horses every morning (and every night). 

9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you.
That I grew up without electricity and running water. We packed our water in cream cans from a well. Dad placed a stump so we could pump the water. When the house burnt, we got a new home and we continued to pack water from that well in cream cans. It was crazy. 

10. Quote to live by: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Photo by Vanessa Croome