Aaron Banfield. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Aaron Banfield. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

2022 YEAR IN REVIEW: Nelson’s most interesting people

Here are the people we were impressed by

Every year we are delighted by the people we speak with.

Nelson is an eclectic city full of residents who have the capacity to surprise if you just give them the opportunity to do so. We interview so many of them each year, and inevitably several stay with us long after our talks have ended and the stories are written.

Here’s a very subjective list of the people we will remember most from our stories of 2022.

Aaron Banfield. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Aaron Banfield. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Aaron Banfield, a palliative care patient at Trail’s Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital is on life support with inoperable bowel cancer. In the summer he led the revitalization of a chapel in the hospital that had been in disuse, transforming it into a sacred space for all spiritual paths. He told the Nelson Star that he had stopped fighting cancer and started celebrating life instead, and is now living in “a state of great joy and aliveness, as well as peacefulness and acceptance.” Banfield began a Dec. 10 YouTube video with the words, “Hello everybody. Look who’s still around.” He tells viewers that his condition has deteriorated but “I am still very much me.”

Dr. Marian Berry. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Dr. Marian Berry. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Marian and Gideon Berry attended the COP27 UN climate summit in Egypt. Gideon, an electrical engineering student at UBC, went as a delegate with their mother Marian as an observer. Gideon was determined not to hide their gender diversity and felt challenged and sometimes fearful in Egypt. Both came away with new learning about the climate crisis, Marian’s mostly personal and Gideon’s political. Marian, a Nelson neurologist, went as an already experienced climate advocate within the medical community, and came back inspired to do more and to take on a vegan diet.

Blaine Cook. Photo: Tyler Harper

Blaine Cook. Photo: Tyler Harper

Blaine Cook might be the most famous person you didn’t know lived in Nelson. Cook was Twitter’s first engineer when it launched in 2006. Advocating for the social media app to be decentralized, which would have allowed for interaction with users on other platforms, led to Cook’s dismissal. Now, with Twitter falling apart and users migrating to decentralized networks like Mastodon, Cook’s original vision has been vindicated even as he looks to what the future might hold for social media.

Sapphire Guthrie. Photo: Submitted

Sapphire Guthrie. Photo: Submitted

Sapphire Guthrie, a 19-year-old Nelson singer-songwriter, was one of four performers at an April showcase of emerging artists at the Capitol Theatre, in which choir director Allison Girvan was her backup singer. In July she won the annual June Lythgoe scholarship given by the Amy Ferguson Institute. She was the assistant musical director at this year’s Capitol Theatre summer youth theatre production, and is a member of Girvan’s Lalin Ensemble and a former member of Corazón. Guthrie is completing her third year at the Selkirk College music program, the first year of which she completed while also completing Grade 12.

Dylan Griffith. Photo: Tyler Harper

Dylan Griffith. Photo: Tyler Harper

Dylan Griffith of Kootenay Insurrection for Safe Supply has introduced a radical plan to mitigate B.C.’s toxic drug crisis. To mark the International Overdose Awareness Day in August, Griffith distributed tested cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine to local substance users. Each box contained just 1/10th of a gram inside, but the samples were crucially free of potentially fatal additives such as fentanyl. As the province prepares decriminalize small amounts of drug possession, Griffith is changing the local conversation about what a safe supply of drugs should be.

Oleksandra and Serhii Hlushchenko. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Oleksandra and Serhii Hlushchenko. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Oleksandra and Serhii Hlushchenko arrived in Nelson in March after fleeing their home in Kyiv, Ukraine. They travelled for weeks across their country with their seven-year-old twins escaping bombs and rocket attacks. Serhii was a guitar teacher in Kyiv, where he and Oleksandra ran a music school. They spent their first few months in Nelson staying in the home of Tanya Finley and Brent Holowaychuk, recovering from culture shock and trauma while worrying about their family and friends at home. Now they have their rented their own home and both have jobs in Nelson.

Jessica Michalofsky. Photo: Arnold Lim

Jessica Michalofsky. Photo: Arnold Lim

Jessica Michalofsky is running an impossible race. In August her son Aubrey died of drug poisoning in Beasley, making him one of the more than 10,000 British Columbians to be killed by the toxic drug crisis. To advocate for an improved safe supply, Michalofsky began running a marathon a day outside the Ministry of Health’s office in Victoria. Her efforts earned a meeting with Dr. Bonnie Henry and then-Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson, but produced no change to policy. So Michalofsky has continued to do laps around the building, through injury and bad weather. If the crisis ever ends, it will be because of people like Michalofsky.

Frances Myers Lynch. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Frances Myers Lynch. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Frances Myers Lynch, a Grade 10 student at L.V. Rogers Secondary in Nelson, won the UBC Okanagan short story contest in the high school category with her story Bird Bones. The award came with a $200 prize. She was shocked at the win because she was competing with older students from across the southern Interior. She said she started writing as a young child and at the age of 12 decided to get serious about it. “I definitely put a lot of work into the detail of a story,” she said, “because I feel like that’s what makes up good stories, the complex details.”

Daryl Verville. Photo: Tyler Harper

Daryl Verville. Photo: Tyler Harper

Daryl Verville’s family history is Canada’s history. His father Douglas was just four years old when he was taken to a residential school where he was beaten and raped. That trauma was passed down to Daryl, who was terrified of his father’s abusive nature. It also derailed a promising career for Daryl as a classical pianist. In April, when Pope Francis apologized for the role the Roman Catholic Church played in residential schools, Verville shared his story with the Star. Residential schools destroyed generations of First Nation and Métis families, and what Verville has to say about it is worth remembering.

George Vnoucek. Photo: Tyler Harper

George Vnoucek. Photo: Tyler Harper

George Vnoucek knows what it means to face a Russian invasion. In 1968, Vnoucek was living in Prague when four Warsaw Pact countries invaded Czechoslovakia. Vnoucek, then just 21, fled the country and arrived in Canada. He ended up in Nelson, where he met his wife Betty and they raised two children. Now retired, Vnoucek looked on in horror as Russian troops entered Ukraine in February. The word freedom is used a little too easily these days. Vnoucek is a living reminder of what freedom can actually cost.

Rosie Wijenberg. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Rosie Wijenberg. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Rosie Wijenberg is a West Kootenay biologist who is passionate about old growth forest and very much at home in it. One of her jobs is to identify big trees for the UBC Big Tree Registry. When she finds a big tree that has been nominated for the list, sometimes by a member of the public, she measures its diameter at chest height, then reports it to the program. Inclusion on the list does not mean the tree is protected, but she says her work helps to keep big trees in the public eye.

Best of 2022