On the first day of Christmas, our true love gave to us … some of the most fantastic folks around — and the chance to tell their stories.
On Christmas Day, to recognize the many, many wonderful people who make New Westminster what it is, we’re happy to offer up this roundup featuring a dozen of the interesting folks we had a chance to meet and profile in 2022.
They’re a diverse group of people, from a diverse array of walks of life, with many different ways of contributing to the world. The one thing they have in common? They all made life in New Westminster just a little better in 2022.
With the warmest of holiday wishes, we present to you, in no particular order: The 12 Good Folks of Christmas in New Westminster.
Christina Coolidge: Christina, who is from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation on her father’s side and Cree and Scottish Métis from Treaty Six territory on her mother’s side of the family, is helping the City of New Westminster to move forward with its reconciliation efforts. Christina started work in 2022 as the city’s new Indigenous relations advisor, and she was featured in a story in September – shedding more light on the on-the-ground work she’ll be doing to help both city staff and the community at large deal with the twin issues of truth and reconciliation.
Shawn Farquhar: The affable, fast-talking Shawn makes life in New West more magical – quite literally. A two-time world champion of magic, Shawn serves up his world-class sleight of hand at the unique Hidden Wonders Speakeasy Magic Experience, tucked away in a secret location in downtown New Westminster. It’s a gem that draws people from all around the region into our city. And Shawn himself? Well, he’s an all-around good guy – just ask the folks he saved from a devastating apartment fire once upon a time in New Westminster. He spoke to reporter Julie MacLellan in June.
Elaine Su: She was named New Westminster’s Citizen of the Year in November, but this elementary school teacher-librarian was already well known to many folks in the city for her continued efforts to make New West a better place to live. This year, she hit our pages in September for her new “book-matching” project, in which she works to find children’s books for those who are underrepresented in traditional kid lit. Biracial? Non-binary? First-generation Chinese Canadian? Urban Indigenous? Whatever your identity, Elaine will find a story to represent it – and help local kids to enjoy stories that reflect the intersection of their identities and their experiences.
Rev. Blair Odney: This United Church minister came to our attention in January, when he launched the new Rainbow Chorus of New Westminster, for LGBTQ+ singers and their allies. Odney, who’s with the newly named Sanctuary on Sixth, is on a mission to build community for queer folks, many of whom have been marginalized by organized religion in the past. He and his singers have been sharing the love at community celebrations throughout the year, and Odney continues to speak up for the power of love in the face of intolerance and fear.
Anita Wright: This Queensborough resident has earned more than half a million followers in her persona as ‘Tik Tok Nana.’ The 75-year-old has made her name as a cake and “acrylic piping” artist, using the skills she acquired as a cake decorator to create unique piped artworks with thick acrylic paint. In October, Anita was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer, and she’s now using her Tik Tok channel to share her cancer journey. We know all of New West is sending their love and warmth her way.
Scott Loewen: We challenge you to find anyone more delightful to talk to than Scott, who made headlines when he dressed up like a pirate and set sail in a giant pumpkin in Buntzen Lake after Halloween. As he told reporter Theresa McManus: “There was a moment when I stopped in the water, and I didn't paddle. I just sat there and looked out at the lake and the mountains, and I thought ‘Yep, I'm floating in a giant pumpkin.’” How can you not love a guy like that?
Patricia Celan: She first hit the pages of the Record in 2010 when she was named Miss Hyack Princess at the annual Miss New Westminster pageant. She earned the right to compete in the Mrs. Universe contest in Seoul, South Korea in December, after winning the Mrs. Canada title in the summer of 2020. She uses her pageantry platform to raise awareness of domestic violence — a cause that’s very personal to her. She opened up to reporter Naveena Vijayan in an interview in October.
Dixon Ip: He has judged coffee roasting championships in Japan and Ukraine, latte art championships in Indonesia and China, and Turkish coffee championships in Greece, among others. He also happens to be a New Westminster resident, and he graciously gave reporter Naveena Vijayan a crash course in coffee tasting at the Craft Café this fall. He promised at the time that he has a project in the works, so stay tuned for more in 2023.
Juno Avila-Clark: New Westminster artist Juno Avila-Clark is a young non-binary artist who explored the intersection of trans art and climate justice through a residency with the Arts Council of New Westminster. Juno led a workshop at the Gallery at Queen’s Park in September, and they spoke to reporter Abhinaya Natesh about how the queer community of environmentalists can bring forward creative solutions for climate justice.
Sydney Turner: Sydney’s first gymnastics experiences were at parent-and-tot drop-in classes right here at the Arenex in New West. This year, she did the city proud when she vaulted into the spotlight as a member of Canada’s national women’s gymnastics team. The Canadian women won a first-ever world championship medal by claiming bronze at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Liverpool, England, behind only perennial powerhouses the U.S.A. and Great Britain. The 17-year-old Sydney is now eligible to compete at the Paris Olympics in 2024.
Leona Green: If you’ve lived in New Westminster for any length of time, you probably already know Leona, the co-owner of Greens & Beans Deli and doer of good deeds all year round. Among her community endeavours this year: raising more than $2,300 for B.C. dogs as part of the Betty White Challenge in January; teaming up with friends to sell flags in support of the Ukrainian military in March; setting up Foodie Flock “flash mobs” to support local eateries beginning in the summer; serving up Comfort Food for Comfort Items to collect socks, toques and gloves for those in need in December; and collecting hampers for local food support programs this holiday season. Plus, two words: homemade scones.
Mark Tuura and Dr. Emilie Stevens: Yes, you’re right, we sort of cheated and snuck in a 13th person by making this one a two-for-one offering. The two New Westminster residents were among 40 Canadians honoured by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon at Rideau Hall in September at the 50th anniversary Decorations for Bravery ceremony. Mark saved a man from drowning in the Fraser River; Emilie stopped a woman from jumping off the Granville Street Bridge. They both shared their stories with the Record in September.
To these 12, and to all the people who shared their stories with us and with our readers in 2022, our thanks. New Westminster is a better place with you in it, and we're grateful to be able to tell your stories. Here's to 2023!