2016’s most interesting people

Thirty fascinating people from 2016 as chosen by our reporters.

  • Jan. 2, 2017 1:00 p.m.
Marylee Banyard won five gold medals and one silver in women's swimming at the 55-plus BC games this year at the age of 81.

Marylee Banyard won five gold medals and one silver in women's swimming at the 55-plus BC games this year at the age of 81.

This is not a list of the year’s top newsmakers. Rather, they are people not usually in the public eye who really captured our attention because of something unusual they said or did. Our three reporters chose 10 people each and they are listed alphabetically.

Marylee Banyard (pictured above): Age continues to be just a number for Banyard. As an 81-year-old, the Nelson native dominated the pool at the 55-plus B.C. Games. Banyard won five gold medals and one silver in women’s swimming, which bested her 2015 performance of four golds. “You just concentrate more on the beauty of it and the way you do it,” she told the Star in October. “It’s a beautiful thing to do. It’s a very graceful thing. Swimming is very graceful.”

Nathan Beninger: The founder of local charity Pura Vida, which finances a home for Peruvian women, teamed up with both Power By You and the Civic Theatre this year. Ranging in age from 10 to 21, these women live in a condominium provided by Pura Vida in Cusco, Peru, that’s overseen by a nurse who ensures they’re fed, clothed and adequately supported in their studies.

Brent Bukowski: Commuters walking into the recently opened Burquitlam Sky Train station will be greeted by seven 20-sided orbs designed by the Kaslo artist. The installation, constructed from old bicycle and car parts, will dangle overhead while commuters head to their destination. Bukowski currently has two pieces on display in Nelson: the Railtown bridge railing and Kootenay Time, a collaboration with his partner Arin Fay that’s currently being leased for display outside the CPR station.

Bob Dean: (photo at left): The former Mount Sentinel math teacher and avid hiker celebrated his 90th birthday at the top of Pulpit Rock this year where he was serenaded by Hume Elementary students. Dean climbs Pulpit four or five times a week, despite his age, and picks up garbage along the way. “He’s a small-town hero. Everyone who hikes Pulpit regularly knows him and loves him,” said Diana Dickieson.

Quinn Barron: The Nelson thespian wasn’t only the star of the Capitol Theatre’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat this summer, he also appeared in L.V. Rogers’ Pygmalion and a number of other productions. The Grade 12 student has made headlines for urging his high school to address environmental concerns and he sings as part of the youth choir Corazón. Barron plans to pursue a post-secondary education in theatre.

Marty Benson: Extensive renovations to the Nelson pool were finally finished this year, in no small part thanks to Benson. The manager of the Nelson and District Community Complex helped oversee the project, constantly updated the public and kept the NDCC running even when the cardio room required unexpected repairs. Many people worked on the pool, but it was Benson who led the project to its successful launch.

Marilyn Burgoon: This Slocan Valley environmentalist stuck to her principles through a three-year battle to get the federal government to prosecute the company that dropped 33,000 litres of jet fuel in Lemon Creek in 2013 resulting in an evacuation. This year the government relented and decided to prosecute. Court proceedings will start early in the new year.

Avery Deboer-Smith (photo at left): Starting out the year as Nelson’s water ambassador and ending it as the program manager for the Friends of Kootenay Lake, this 26-year-old’s ambitious and committed knowledge of water issues, and her engaging way of interacting with the public led her to win the City of Nelson’s sustainability award for 2016.

Richard Desautel: U.S. hunter Richard Desautel was charged in 2010 with hunting without a licence and hunting big game while not being a resident, but pled not guilty in Nelson court based on his indigenous rights to hunt for food, social and ceremonial purposes. “I’ll take this fight as far as I can,” he told the Star.

Matti Erickson: There was hardly a race Erickson entered that he didn’t win. The 13-year-old Trafalgar student made a name for himself with multiple broken records and gold medals at numerous track and field events throughout the year. His best result was at the Nike Invitational in Portland, when he beat out over 400 other runners to finish first.

Sean Dooley (Photo at left): The Nelson Leafs general manager and assistant coach showed courage in going public with his history of depression and addiction. He also started Breakout, a program designed to help young hockey players learn about and address mental illness issues. Breakout has since been adopted by other junior B teams.

Frazey Ford: The Kootenay musician wowed audiences so much at the Kaslo Jazz Etc Festival this summer that executive director Paul Hinrichs brought her back for two sold-out shows at the Capitol Theatre. “Frazey has a ton of roots here. She’s from Castlegar, so this is a hometown show for her, and she attended Selkirk College. She was long overdue to come play a show in Nelson,” said Hinrichs.

Kaleigh Herald: The Nelson Potorium manager was on the forefront of this year’s bylaw conflict at city hall, and spoke passionately on behalf of the industry. “We currently serve over a thousand patients and we’ve only been open since May this year. We’re creating access and a form of harm reduction. If it weren’t for us being here, where would these people go?” she asked.

Pat Hodgson: The Nelson Squash Club was in a sorry state before Hodgson took over as its president. Under Hodgson’s leadership, the club has transformed following an extensive renovation. Hodgson also hired BC champion Sarfaraz Ahmed as its manager, and raised the club’s profile with a recent tournament that included 42 professional players.

Dryden Hunt: He dominated major junior hockey and earned himself an NHL contract as a result. Hunt was named the WHL’s Eastern Conference MVP after scoring 58 regular-season goals, the most of any player in all three Canadian major junior leagues. Hunt agreed to an entry-level deal with the Florida Panthers in February and is currently playing in the AHL.

Joel Kailia: This Nelson MD stuck his neck out a couple of times this year, first by pushing Interior Health to add more resources to methadone treatment in Nelson and then by publicly stating that the doctor’s notes supposedly required by marijuana dispensaries are meaningless.

Tsuneko Kokubo (photo at left with sculptor and collaborator Toru Fujibayashi): The life of this Slocan Valley artist and dancer is a testament to graceful and creative aging. This year she put on a performance and exhibit at Touchstones that delved into Japanese Canadian history and into her own experience as a childhood survivor of the Hiroshima bomb.

Julien Locke: The Nelson native, who competes for Rossland’s Black Jack team, was selected to the national cross-country ski team after a series of impressive results. Locke won bronze at the national championships, took the overall title in the NorAm Buff Sprint Series, competed at the under-23 World Cup in Romania and won bronze at the U.S. Ski Championships. Locke’s next step? Securing a ticket to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Jesse Lockhart: Both of his ears are still intact, but otherwise Nelson barber Jesse Lockhart is a dead-ringer for Vincent Van Gogh. The contest was created by Vancouver artist and author Douglas Coupland, who has also created a sculpture of Canadian icon Terry Fox. He’s planning an ongoing sculpture project that will feature a series of redheads, starting with Van Gogh.

Tom Lymbery (photo at left): He’s an East Shore history and culture veteran, and he published the second volume of Tom’s Grey Creek this year. In the words of Anne DeGrace, it’s a “free flow of recollection told with insight and humour accompanied by a treasure trove of photographs, maps, sketches, diaries and ephemera.”

Adib Malas: This 19-year-old Syrian-born, Saudi Arabia-raised Selkirk College student taught Arabic classes for locals who were getting ready to sponsor Syrian refugees. He was funny, articulate, and comfortable before an audience mostly old enough to be his grandparents. He had first encountered western culture only a year and a half ago.

Graeme Marshall: He’s has been running the ATLAS outdoor program at L.V. Rogers Secondary for years, but this year the Star attended a group debrief of one of their several-day outdoor trips and saw a thoughtful, subtle, mature discussion that any adult group making decisions about the world would do well to emulate.

Jim Noiles: The local doctor was celebrated during a sold-out Osprey Foundation community tribute to the beloved obstetrician on Wednesday evening. Noiles has delivered 3,000 babies over the course of his 35-year career.

Rona Park (photo at left): The founder of the Nelson Street Culture Collaborative guided that group with a steady hand this year. Her work culminated in the hiring of three street outreach workers and some course offerings in mental health first aid.

Naomi Perkins: Nelson soccer had one of its best years ever and Perkins was often at the centre of that success. Perkins scored 10 goals as the L.V. Rogers’ girls soccer team won its first provincial championship in 18 years. She was also named tournament MVP, and later played for the under-18 Nelson Selects team that won silver at provincials. There was no bigger soccer star in 2016 than Perkins.

Jesse Pineiro: Boxing was a fringe sport in Nelson when the year began. Now, thanks to Pineiro, the sweet science is thriving. The owner of the Nelson Boxing Club coached one athlete to a gold medal at a Golden Gloves event and organized two sold-out boxing cards. Pineiro then took over the former Summit Fitness location on Baker St., which has revitalized his club and the sport.

Brad Pommen: At the Nelson Tech Club’s weekly hackerspace, attended by 20 to 50 people, mostly youth and some of them children, Pommen circulates, finding tools, talking tech, advising on techniques, connecting people across generations. Pommen is also one of the drivers of a future innovation space in Nelson.

Rhoneil: The ethereal Nelson musician released her third album Nature // Cosmos this year and took it on tour to the Tiny Lights Festival, KAMP Festival, Oxygen Art Centre and other venues. “There was a lot of solitude and work, but now I’ve reached the point where I’m coming into performance and it was like the flower was blooming,