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2023 YEAR IN REVIEW: Nelson’s most interesting people

These are the residents who dazzled us with their stories and work
Tim Jay. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Even after working as journalists in Nelson for years, we are still constantly surprised by the people we meet who are doing incredible things in the city.

Here’s our very subjective list of people who impressed and inspired us in 2023.

Dixie Champ (left) with Dede Shave. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Dixie Camp and Dede Shave spearheaded a tenant rights movement this year at Lakeview Village, a seniors residential building in Nelson. After they received a rent increase in late 2022 that they thought was illegal, they appealed the increase the Residential Tenancy Branch and won. They organized and informed their fellow tenants and provided leadership to tenants in similar situations in other parts of the province.

Ieuan Gilmore. Photo: Tyler Harper

Ieuan Gilmore never expected to return to South Korea. Gilmore, a 94-year-old veteran who patrolled the demilitarized zone shortly after the Korean War, was unexpectedly invited back to the country this year for events marking the 70th anniversary of the armistice. His memories of the war provide lessons that remain unfortunately still timely in 2023.

Tim Jay had a memorial plaque erected at the entrance to the Chinese section of Nelson’s cemetery this year. He explained that when the cemetery was laid out in 1898, the relegation of Chinese graves to a far-off corner represented a shunning — white people did not want to be buried near Chinese people. Now, he says, local Chinese people are proud of their section and help the city take care of it.

Aviva Keely (left) and Simone Varey. Photo: Tyler Harper

Aviva Keely and Simone Varey are providing a public service few appreciate. The pair own Positive Apparel thrift store, which for 13 years has diverted nearly 300,000 pounds of waste textiles out of local transfer stations. At their own cost, Keely and Varey fill a semi-trailer with old clothes every three weeks that are then delivered to a recycling centre in Vancouver. Their work highlights the need for a local textile recycling option.

Tenise Marie. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Tenise Marie, a local singer-songwriter born and raised in Argenta, took a trip to the Middle East this year to discover her ancestry in Assyria, an age-old culture and ethnicity that exists within Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. “I could not have imagined the profound sense of acceptance, belonging, and kinship I would experience there,” she told a Nelson audience at her performance entitled Argenta to Atra, which chronicled her journey in story and songs.

Riel Martinez. Photo: Tyler Harper

Riel Martinez overcame a personal tragedy in what was Nelson’s sports moment of the year. The teenage boxer was preparing for provincial championships when his older brother Elias unexpectedly died in October. The brothers were close, but instead of opting out of provincials Riel decided to carry on. Only eight days after Elias died, Riel won his first B.C. boxing title. “I wanted to fight for my brother,” he said. It was a unique and perfect tribute.

Zaynab Mohammed in performance. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Zaynab Mohammed is a poet and activist who wrote and performed a one-woman show entitled Are You Listening? produced in nine West Kootenay communities this year. The piece is a poetic narrative of several moves back and forth between Canada, her family’s native Lebanon and her life in both countries, including living under aerial bombing in a war in Lebanon. She says those bombs gave her a lived experience of “what my people had been going through for a long time.”

Mitchell Scott envisions a world on two wheels. Scott wrote the documentary The Engine Inside that was released this year and charts the various ways bicycles can improve society. The movie, which had been in the works since 2012, visits bike advocates in various locations such Egypt, Ghana, and Kamloops. Watching The Engine Inside will make you wonder why we still use cars at all.

Joanne Siderius with one of her wildlife trail cameras. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Joanne Siderius runs educational programs at the Kokanee Creek Nature Centre. She has created a series of more than 300 very popular online videos recorded on trail cameras posted in the park. The videos capture the activities of dozens of species of animals and birds, all in their daily routines and travels, day and night, in all seasons. “I need to let people know it’s still a wonderful world,” she says. “It’s a beautiful world. Especially children, they need to grow up in love with their neighbourhood and the animals that are their neighbours, and the plants.”

Abby Wilson. Photo: Tyler Harper

Abby Wilson is using artificial intelligence to change how artists create their work. Wilson was one of several people the Star spoke to earlier this year for a story on AI. She stood out for her use of the AI image creator Midjourney, which she is uploading her paintings to and receiving variations she can then use to improve her work. It’s tech that’s provided Wilson with an entirely new canvas with which to create from.