2017 Se­niors of Dis­tinc­tion awards handed out to 5 New­found­lan­ders


Mak­ing the world a bet­ter place.

That broad state­ment gets broader when you dis­cuss the con­tri­bu­tions five in­di­vid­u­als have made to their re­spec­tive com­mu­ni­ties and all the peo­ple they have touched along the way.

In fact, the changes these in­di­vid­u­als made have a global ef­fect that reaches out­side the bor­ders of New­found­land and Labrador, and it was these ac­com­plish­ments they were hon­oured for Oct. 3 as the 2017 Se­niors of Dis­tinc­tion Awards win­ners at a cer­e­mony held at the Cap­i­tal Ho­tel in St. John’s. This year’s re­cip­i­ents are Mar­garet Bur­den of Port Hope Simp­son, Au­gus­tine (Gus) Etchegary of Por­tu­gal Cove-St. Philip’s, Der­mot (Derm) Flynn of Ap­ple­ton, Leonard (Len) Simms of St. John’s and Willis Why­att of St. Carol’s.

Be it through lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams and coach­ing teams such as Bur­den has done, play­ing a song to se­niors as Why­att con­tin­ues to do, delv­ing into the fish­ery for seven decades like Etchegary, or be­ing a politi­cian like Simms and Flynn – they have all made last­ing con­tri­bu­tions.

Flynn even gets a men­tion un­der the mar­quee on Broad­way as a char­ac­ter in “Come From Away” on a nightly ba­sis.

The awards pro­gram was de­signed to iden­tify and cel­e­brate the con­tri­bu­tions, achieve­ments and di­ver­sity of older per­sons through­out New­found­land and Labrador.

Min­is­ter of Chil­dren, Se­niors and So­cial De­vel­op­ment Lisa Demp­ster was on hand to make the pre­sen­ta­tions.

“There are so many ways you have given to build your com­mu­ni­ties and fam­i­lies,” Demp­ster said.

“It has shaped our province and the lives of those around you.”

Each re­cip­i­ent has a truck full of sto­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences, but the mes­sage comes back to what is at the heart of New­found­land cul­ture — giv­ing.

“You are not one per­son in this world. You al­ways have to help those less for­tu­nate,” Bur­den said.

“It is im­por­tant we do what­ever we can to help those less for­tu­nate and need our help,” she added.

Bur­den said she is not im­mune to fail­ures and rough patches in her life. But it was her per­se­ver­ance that al­lowed her to over­come it.

“I have fallen, but have al­ways got­ten back up. I have had a lot of bruises,” she said. Put in his papers

Flynn, who has spent time in a mul­ti­tude of com­mu­ni­ties in both New­found­land and Labrador, has been a mem­ber of the Ap­ple­ton town coun­cil for the past 24 years.

Tues­day marked his last day in of­fice, as a new mayor was sworn in at coun­cil Tues­day night.

“With the events we have seen un­fold in the last 24 hours and the re­cent storms peo­ple have suf­fered through re­cently down south, how gifted are we to live in a beau­ti­ful coun­try and province as this one?” he said.

He said he en­joyed his time as mayor of Ap­ple­ton and gave credit to the com­mu­nity of Wabush for al­low­ing him to get in­volved in so­cial is­sues and find a way to make a dif­fer­ence.

On a day when he was hon­oured twice, as mayor and as a se­nior awards win­ner, he was quick to de­flect the at­ten­tion.

“I sent a letter out to con­stituents that said I con­sider all se­niors to be se­niors of dis­tinc­tion … and I mean that,” he said.

Simms said he did some re­search about the peo­ple who have won the Se­niors of Dis­tinc­tion Awards in the past and called it hum­bling to be as­so­ci­ated with that list of peo­ple.

He also said he is proud to be as­so­ci­ated with the 2017 list of re­cip­i­ents.

“I spent a 20-year ca­reer in pol­i­tics and re­tired 20 years ago. I was never one to look for ac­co­lades … well, maybe when I was in of­fice … but I will cher­ish this one for­ever,” Simms said.

And like a story as old as time, mu­sic has al­ways found a way to touch peo­ple’s lives.

Why­att has per­formed his songs for peo­ple of this province for 32 years and wants to share his sto­ries with res­i­dents ev­ery­where. In fact, he just re­leased his first album in an at­tempt to do so.

“I have been per­form­ing for decades and I see how mu­sic moves peo­ple,” he said.

“There was a lady in a wheel­chair at a se­niors’ home that had to be wheeled in to see the per­for­mance. When I started to sing, she got up, wrapped her arms around me and stayed there un­til I fin­ished.”

On an­other oc­ca­sion, he said to one of his band mates in the Pumper Boys, “We’re not do­ing too bad.”

His band mate re­sponded by say­ing, “You are right, we got one old feller put to sleep.”

Pro­files of re­cip­i­ents of the 2017 Se­niors of Dis­tinc­tion Award win­ners

Mar­garet Bur­den

Port Hope Simp­son

Born in 1938 in Twill­ingate, Mar­garet Bur­den moved to Port Hope Simp­son to teach in the early 1950s. She mar­ried a fish­er­man and raised eight chil­dren. Dur­ing the win­ter Bur­den would teach and dur­ing the sum­mer she would fish with her hus­band. She was an ed­u­ca­tor, leader, vol­un­teer, coun­sel­lor, Sun­day school teacher, mu­nic­i­pal politi­cian and busi­ness­woman with tons of en­ergy and vi­sion. Bur­den owns and op­er­ates two busi­nesses and served as the town’s mayor for 20 years this Septem­ber. She has been a recre­ation co-or­di­na­tor for the com­mu­nity and the Labrador Win­ter Games for many years. She still never misses a dog team race. Young ath­letes she coached as teenagers are now in their 50s and still run, ski and snow­shoe. Bur­den was in­stru­men­tal in get­ting the Moul­der of Dreams Pot­tery Shop off the ground. She also started a com­mu­nity gar­den from the waste of the hy­dro plant. She has helped de­velop ath­letes, potters and gar­den­ers by en­cour­ag­ing in­di­vid­u­als to be their very best.

Willis Why­att

St. Carol’s

Willis Why­att was born in 1941 in St. Carol’s, where he has resided his en­tire life. When Why­att was 11 years old his fa­ther was un­able to work for a win­ter, so, as the old­est child, he left school to take on his fa­ther’s du­ties. That same year he be­gan his ca­reer in the fish­ery. As an adult, he and other com­mu­nity mem­bers spear­headed the build­ing of a new school and church, which were funded through the St. Carol’s Con­cert, a decades­long tra­di­tion on the Northern Penin­sula. To this day, Why­att sits on the board of the lo­cal par­ish coun­cil and is a mem­ber of the church band. Tra­di­tional mu­sic has been his life­long pas­sion, which he at­tributes to his grand­fa­ther. As a mem­ber of the group Folk of the Sea, he played for Queen El­iz­a­beth in Bon­av­ista. In his 50s, he joined an­other mu­si­cal group called The Pumper Boys and al­though the band re­tired in 2012, Why­att con­tin­ues to play. Now, in his early 70s, when most peo­ple are slow­ing down, Why­att re­leased his first album. His songs are played reg­u­larly on ra­dio sta­tions through­out the province.


Willis Why­att of St. Carol’s is pre­sented with a 2017 Se­niors of Dis­tinc­tion award by Lisa Demp­ster.

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