Year in review: The most interesting people of 2015

As profiled in the Nelson Star and presented alphabetically.

Nelson's Rebecca Bracewell performed as a solo artist with the Victoria Symphony this year at age 17.

We interviewed and profiled many people in 2015. Here are some of the ones we thought were most interesting, presented in alphabetical order.

by Tyler Harper, Bill Metcalfe and Will Johnston

Natasha Bergman (pictured with Amelia Martzke below): This Grade 12 L.V. Rogers student (pictured below with collaborator Amelia Martzke) and some of her friends set up a mentoring group for Grade 9 girls to help them navigate high school and teenage life. Their connection with the younger girls ranged from just hanging out and having fun with them to serious discussions about consent, sexual health (in collaboration with student nurses), and academics. For her efforts, Bergman was nominated for a Canadian Living magazine Me to We Award.

Rebecca Bracewell (pictured above): This 17-year-old Nelsonite is a classical accordionist, one of only a handful in the country and one of the best. Although it is almost unheard of for an accordionist to solo with a symphony orchestra, she did just that with the Victoria Symphony in August. At the world accordion championships in 2013, Bracewell was named the best accordionist under 18 in Canada.

Jimmy Bundschuh and Jenna Arpita: The Shambhala Music Festival couple welcomed their first son, Oliver, this year, and celebrated the occasion by opening a new night club as part of a larger restoration project on the historic Savoy Hotel. “Our intent is to create a mini-resort right on Baker St.,” said Bundschuh.

Montana Burgess (pictured above): This environmental activist has only lived in the Nelson area for two years, but has worked at an international level on climate change issues for seven. At home, she is a community organizer for the EcoSociety, and in the wider world she organizes for the International Climate Action Lobby, most recently acting as their logistics co-ordinator in Paris at the recent climate conference.

Brooke Campbell: Her dedication to a local dragon boat team is about to put her in an international spotlight. Campbell qualified in March for the Canadian team that will compete at the Club Crew World Championships in Australia next spring. She got her start with the Kootenay Rhythm Dragons in 2012 and will compete in three events at the world championships.

Don Currie: Age is just a number to Currie. The track and field star was 81 in August when he won three gold and two silver medals in six events at the 55+ BC Games. He’s already decided on his next feat: breaking the record for the 10-km road walk. “My basic advice for those people who are aging is to get out and move,” said Currie. “Walking is primary and it’s something that everybody can do one way or the other. The thing is to start from a minimum level and work towards a higher level, then do it consistently.”

Matteo Faraguna (pictured at left): Nelson Youth Soccer Association sent a young star on his way to a bigger stage in the summer. Farguna was 12 in August when he was selected to join the Thompson Okanagan Football Club and compete in the BC Soccer Premier League. He’s the first player NYSA has sent to the league since 2013.

Michael Grace and Dave Fraser (pictured below): After 20 years of pushing students to exceed their limits, these two Selkirk College woodworking instructors retired this year. Every May, visitors to the program’s annual year-end show marvel at the advanced and sophisticated student work these men have inspired. “Holding the bar high is a big part of it,” said Fraser. “Not accepting, if you make a mistake, ‘Oh well, next time.’ Instead, it’s ‘Oh well, make a new piece.’”

Lauren Herraman: Besides illustrating the cover of Sofiella Watt and the Huckleberry Bandit’s debut album this year, Herraman also participated in ArtWalk and had visual showcases at a number of businesses in town. She co-ordinated an exhibition with several local artists called the Infinite Animal Parade that was on display for three months. “I came to Nelson because I wanted to settle in and pursue my artistic career here,” she said. “My big dream is to publish my first children’s book.”

Hiromoto Ida: After a repeat performance of his solo show Detour at the Capitol Theatre, Ida, 53, went on to star in the homegrown opera Jorinda. “I had a dilemma because theatre culture is in town, Tokyo, but my mind goes off by myself in the mountains,” Ida said, describing why he emigrated from Japan. “This comes right from my soul,” he said of Detour.

DJ Hoola: Sometime in 1997, Mike Paine, a.k.a. DJ Hoola, approached Community Futures to see if they would bankroll his fledgling career. The prolific disco-house performer and long-time director of the Living Room Stage at Shambhala Music Festival has now been at it for 18 years, and continues to perform at the new Bloom Nightclub. “It’s cool that now we’ve got the Shambhala club right here in downtown Nelson,” he said.

Sonia Kohout: This centenarian has been cutting hair her entire life. She started as a little girl in Czechoslovakia, continued during her years in Paris, and ultimately set up shop longterm in the Kootenays. And she’s still pretty handy with a pair of scissors. “I remember she gave me a perm when she was 96,” said Ingrid Wyles, her friend at Nelson’s Mountain Lake seniors community.

Brian Kalbfleisch: Though Kalbfleisch is a working musician and artist, he still found time to organize and expand the Blue Night Culture Crawl to includes 120 artists at 24 venues around Nelson. “We’re getting rid of perceived barriers,” Kalbfleisch said. “The idea is that Blue Night is the flagship of a few days or even a week of art that can happen anywhere.”

Jesse Lee (pictured at left): This year Lee released his latest collaboration with spoken-word artist Shane Koyczan and took home the Kootenay Music Award for Artist of the Year. The multi-talented musician has no fewer than nine creative projects on the go and a variety of recurring gigs at venues around town. “I feel tons of gratitude that I’m able to play this much in Nelson,” he says. “This is such a supportive community.”

Amelia Martzke (pictured below with Natasha Bergman): In addition to collaborating with her friend Natasha Bergman on a mentoring project for young women at L.V. Rogers, Martzke won one of the city’s sustainability awards this year for a variety of innovative activities including setting up a student federal election, co-ordinating the annual Keep the Beat festival, leading the development of a compost system and garden at LVR, and spearheading the development of the school’s new student council.

Ivie Lock-Luttmer (pictured with Dylan Peil and Nicholas Paun, below): This Grade 7 Trafalgar student earned gold in the junior research division of the regional science fair for her work on dead zones. “I wanted to know why I’d never heard of them, and why it was a problem,” she said. “Basically they’re caused mostly by people dumping sewage and fertilizers into the water, because that causes plant growth like algae and when it dies it takes up oxygen to decompose.”

Sarah Mehain: The former Nelson Neptunes swimmer hit her stride in 2015. Mehain won bronze in 50 metre butterfly S7 at the IPC Swimming World Championships in July. The 20-year-old followed that up with a gold medal and three silvers at the Parapan Am Games in August. Mehain will chase a qualification for the 2016 Rio Paralympics when she heads to the Canadian Toronto Olympic and para trials in March.

Dunavan Morris-Janzen and Galen Boulanger: While in Grade 12 at LVR last spring, these two friends set up an innovative system that persuaded many older students to register to vote in the federal election. “You always hear adults say you gotta vote, and they tell you a reason and all that, and some teenagers might not even listen,” Boulanger says. “A teenager can talk to a teenager differently than an adult can.”

Zaynab Mohammed: She will write you a poem about anything you want, on the spot, on her manual typewriter, without hesitation. Last spring and summer she was Baker St.’s busking poet, seated at a table on the sidewalk beside a sign that reads “Poet on Commission. Inspire me.” Mohammed was also an organizer and frequent winner of the Nelson poetry slam and is a host of the Art Party event series.

Mike McGaw and Marjie Hills (pictured at left): “I believe in harm reduction. We recognize that homelessness exists, that poverty exists, and we try to reduce the harm around it,” said McGaw. He has worked at Stepping Stones homeless shelter in Nelson since it started 11 years ago. Hills has managed the shelter for the past three years. Describing an elderly man who found an apartment after being homeless for a long while and died a month later, McGaw said the tragedy had a poignant side: “The last month of his life he was not homeless.”

Angie McTague: This veteran L.V. Rogers teacher won a UBC engineering faculty award this year for her innovative and engaging ways of teaching Grade 11 and 12 physics, including educational trips to UBC engineering and the Silverwood theme park to calculate the acceleration of the rides. “She made me excited about learning and about science,” said former student Carli Hall, now a chemical engineering student at UBC.

Barry Nelson: Rosemont resident Barry Nelson hasn’t owned a car for the last 15 years, but he has no trouble getting around. The busy transportation and social justice advocate has been involved in so many local initiatives, including the Kootenay Carshare, that he was named Nelson’s 2014 Citizen of the Year by the Knights of Columbus.

Barb Olson: There aren’t many cruciverbalists in Canada, but Olson is one: a constructor of crossword puzzles. Her puzzles have appeared in The New York Times, Saturday Night Magazine, Quill & Quire and numerous other publications. Canadian content is central to her work. “If there is an opportunity to use a Canadian reference I’ll do it, but not at the expense of the quality of the puzzle,” she said.

Nicholas Paun (pictured below): This year Paun, a Grade 12 Mount Sentinel student, created Chemlogic: A Logic Programming Chemistry System. “ChemLogic is an innovation. It’s a study tool I developed for chemistry students that helps them balance chemical equations,” he said. Paun’s invention is now available as an Android app and earned him a silver medal and a $11,000 prize at the national science fair.

Dylan Peil (pictured at left with Nicholas Paun and Ivie Lock-Luttmer): This Grade 8 student at Trafalgar designed and prototyped a solar concentrator using a satellite dish covered with mirrors. “I’m interested in solar energy because of the fact we’re facing the crisis of global warming and it’s a big issue,” he said. “We need to stop burning so many fossil fuels.” He received $2,000 and a bronze medal in the junior division of the national science fair.

Jenna Raider: She’s the host of The LineUp, a live talk show that has had three episodes so far this year and featured interviews with many local artists and personalities. “My goal is to share what an amazing place it is we live in and to introduce the talent here to the biggest viewing audience possible. There are so many people doing so amazing things in this area, and I want The LineUp to be the rooftop where we shout those accomplishments,” Raider said.

Rhandi Sandford: During November’s Blue Night Culture Crawl, Sandford live-painted at Finley’s — but her work isn’t for everyone. “If I didn’t have so many friends I would feel a little self-conscious,” Sandford said. “I can’t count how many times I’ve been called a creep or a weirdo.” Playful, subversive, dirty and strange, Sandford’s work is comparable to that of legendary artist and Hunter S. Thompson collaborator Ralph Steadman. That’s a comparison she embraces.

Tosh and Tula Sherkat: The sibling rock climbers reached new heights this year. Tosh finished 14th at the Youth Bouldering Nationals prior to a strong performance at the BC Sport Climbing championships in April. Tosh’s younger sister Tula meanwhile finished second in the 11-and-under category at provincials.

Narelle Sookorukoff (left): This Nelson native won five awards at her graduating ceremony in architecture this year at UBC, then got a job right at Cover Architecture in Nelson. She’s interested in the design of sustainable buildings, and for her master’s thesis she redesigned one of the stadiums at the upcoming Brazil Olympics so it could be taken apart and re-used on projects in the slums.

Kurt Sorge (below left): The professional mountain biker earned some redemption in October. Sorge captured the Red Bull Rampage freeride competition in Virgin, Utah. His score of 96.50 was record breaking and earned him a $30,000 prize. The victory came after broken legs in 2013 and 2014 kept him on the sidelines.

Bessie Wapp: Nelson’s cultural ambassador for 2015, Wapp was recognized as a “prodigious talent and proud Nelsonite.” She has an extensive resume as a singer, actor, director, artist, and teacher. Among her many stage apperances this year, she starred in Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Jorinda. “On my bad days I can beat myself up for being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none,” she said. “But I love that I get to explore all these things. That’s the amazing thing about living in Nelson.”

Tom Wayman and Verna Relkoff: Winlaw author Wayman published his collection of short stories The Shadows We Mistake For Love this year. Along with Verna Relkoff, he was one of the masterminds behind UBC’s move to Baker St. that saw visiting writer Sonnet L’Abbé teach a course called Writing from the Ground Up.

Joern Wingender: He’s been working as the contractor and creative force behind the revitalization of the CPR station for several years, but in 2015 Wingender’s work came to fruition. An expert in building restoration and green building, Wingender led the effort to create a building whose construction methods and materials are traditional and progressive.