Amy Bohigian was a busy woman in 2014

Year in review: The most interesting people of 2014

As part of the Star’s look back at the past year, let us reintroduce you to some of the fascinating folks we met.

1) Amy Bohigian: Nelson’s cultural ambassador for 2014 had a busy year.

Among other things, she worked on a series of two-minute films for the Knowledge Network about Nelson and the Kootenays; developed an installation at Touchstones called Wide Shot/Close Up, which features 30 local people speaking at once on a bank of TV sets; and emceed Womaginarium, a carnival-themed fundraiser for the Nelson and District Women’s Centre. When she was named ambassador, she wore a white sash her mother made for her.

“I’m going to wear this every single day of 2014,” she joked.

2) Evan Brynne: This self-proclaimed computer geek from Nelson now works at Twitter. His team’s projects include the tweet activity dashboard, which displays statistics on tweets.

“By and large it’s a whole bunch of logic puzzles,” said Brynne, 24. “You have these complex tools that interact with each other, and I need to find the most effective way to combine them.”

Growing up, he was always tinkering with computers, and credited teachers Cathy Spears and Brian Simpson for fostering his love of technology and encouraging him to pursue his dreams.

3) Haley and Trace Cooke: This sibling pair is off to Europe to join the best free skiers in the world.

Haley, 16, was recently named to the Canadian National team for the Freeride Junior World Championships in Andorra in February.

Trace, 19, will be nearby competing for the second year in the Swatch Freeride World Qualifiers in early January. He won the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association junior men ski for the 15 to 18 age group in 2013.

“Freeskiing isn’t competitive,” Haley said. “It’s more like a family.” In this case, literally.

4) Harvey and Bette Craig: These community volunteers extraordinaire have given 23 years of service to Nelson — Harvey in coaching and refereeing youth soccer and minor hockey, and in helping the Red Cross and Telus community ambassadors; Bette with local schools, the Rhythm Ropers, and Seniors Co-ordinating Society, to name but a few.

“The retired couple goes out of their way to give back to the people of Nelson in so many ways,” Marnie Lahr said. Why do they do it? “Because the community has been good to us,” Bette says.

5) Peter Defeo: Nelson’s 2014 Citizen of the Year is the city’s longest-serving auxiliary firefighter.

A Nelson native, Defeo joined the fire department in 1976, not because he hoped to make it his career, but because he wanted to gain skills and contribute to his community, something he continues to do.

He can often be seen in uniform collecting donations at annual boot drives, ticket raffles, and rooftop campouts.

Younger colleagues tease him that he’s been at it since horses pulled the fire wagon. “I tell them, ‘No, I started two weeks after the horses left.’”

6) Pat Dooley: She retired a few years ago as local schools superintendent, but you’d hardly know it, because she’s as busy as ever.

Already on the Selkirk College board, and chair of the Kootenay Lake Hospital Foundation, she joined the Interior Health board in 2014. She’s also a longtime Rotarian and will be the program chair for the district conference to be held in Nelson next May.

Dooley said growing up in Kaslo, her parents’ dedication to volunteerism left a strong impression. “No matter how busy they were [my parents] taught me that everyone should do something for their community.”

7) Aaron Ekman: This 1996 L.V. Rogers grad was elected secretary-treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour at its biannual convention in November.

He most recently worked in Prince George as regional co-ordinator for the BC Government Employees Union and was founding president of the North Central Labour Council, which represents over 12,000 members.

Ekman is eager to get started on the BC Fed’s goal to have the minimum wage increased to $15 an hour. “It’s an exciting time to be involved. I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.

8) Christopher Graham: He was Whitewater’s biggest ski bum last season.

The telemark skier put his pass to good use, going up to the resort every day it was open, logging 122 straight days on the slopes.

But it wasn’t a record for Graham, who two years earlier skied 132 consecutive days at Revelstoke Mountain.

Typically, he’d spend five hours a day skiing. “I try to keep skiing fun and non-competitive, but when I set a goal I need to reach it,” he said.

To reward his determination, Whitewater staff gave him a shuttle pass, locker, and jacket for the 2014/15 season.

9) Sheila Hart: This charter member of the Nelson Rotary Daybreak club is active at home and abroad. With the service club, she’s travelled to Peru and Nepal on medical missions, as a non-medical volunteer.

She tirelessly fundraised for Nelson’s outdoor skatepark, helps with Meals on Wheels, co-ordinates an annual bike tour raising money to fight multiple sclerosis, and belongs to the Kootenay Quilters Guild that raffles off quilts for the Kootenay Lake Hospital Foundation.

“I’ve been really blessed and I just love giving back,” she says.

10) Travis Hauck: The local cyclist took on the best in the world in 2014 — and showed he belonged.

At the BC Bike race in July, Hauck was second among Canadians in the seven day, seven stage cross country marathon that passed through North Vancouver, Powell River, Squamish, and Whistler. He finished 11th in the open men’s solo category despite catching a cold on day three.

Not bad considering he was competing against racers from 26 countries. “I was smooth and steady and going hard,” he said. Hauck’s total race time was 16 hours and 41 minutes.

11) Helen Jameson: For more than 45 years, this remarkable woman has been nurturing and rehabilitating vulnerable wildlife on her Blewett farm.

She’s hoping to retire in the next year or so, but hasn’t had much luck finding a replacement. Others are put off when they hear about her wage: zero.

“It’s a lot of work and you don’t get paid,” she says. “But if anybody feels in their heart they want to help out, they should.”

Save-On-Foods held a fundraiser to benefit her farm. This year the emphasis was on milk for a fawn and moose left on her doorstep.

12) Mike Joyce: The rugby coach at L.V. Rogers and Trafalgar volunteers many hours during the playing season and has taken teams to provincial championships and even Europe.

It’s no coincidence the LVR senior boys have won the Kootenay championship six years running.

“I love the sport,” Joyce says. “It is highly demanding physically. You know that at some point you are going to reach that limit where you’re going to hurt.”

Joyce, who also organizes fundraisers to keep costs down for players, will take a team to Argentina during spring break for a two-week tour.

13) Keegan Kemp: The Self Design High student is a local organizer for the Dogwood Initiative, an organization striving for legislative change to protect the environment.

He’s received social studies credits for his work, which included an initiative to oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

“You realize that no matter how much you think about stuff, and I spend a lot of time thinking about stuff, nothing’s going to happen until you actually do something,” he says. “We all have a duty.”

14) Mathilde Klassen: How many people celebrate their 90th birthday by going on a 57 km bike ride with their children and grandchildren? That’s what Klassen did as the oldest registrant for the Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo in Cranbrook last fall.

The avid Nelson cyclist rode across Canada when she was 69 and competed in cycling at the BC Seniors Games every year from 1990 to 2003. She does it for the sake of fitness and health.

“I love the freedom of it and being outside,” she says. “It’s an extra challenge. You have to work and do it by yourself.”

15) Thomas Loh: By day, he’s an architect. In his spare time, he explores creative dance.

Loh started JusDance in Nelson over a decade ago, which he describes as “always moving, and completely free form. We encourage you to turn, face and move in all directions.”

He also coordinates JusFlock and Contact Dance at the Moving Centre weekly, a welcoming space for people of all ages and abilities.

“For almost every dance he is one of the first people there and the last to leave,” said Jen Smith.

16) Johnny Magick: Pick a card, any card. The local illusionist recently returned to Nelson after living and performing in Las Vegas and Hollywood — which he found thrilling, but exhausting.

“I needed to go out and hit the entertainment capitals, see if I had what it took,” he says. “I was pretty stoked to fool some of the world’s best magicians.”

Magick has been hooked on magic since age six and has been performing since 14. Having rubbed shoulders with the magic elite, he’s settled into an easier routine. These days he’s working closer to home, with gigs at local bars.

17) Dan Miles: The principal of J.V. Humphries and Jewett schools in Kaslo and Meadow Creek received an Outstanding Principals Award from The Learning Partnership, a national charity that promotes publicly-funded education in Canada. His career in the district began in 1986.

He’s also been an administrator in Nelson, Salmo, Erickson, and Yahk.

“It feels like a pretty big deal to me and I am honoured,” he said. “One of my strengths is listening to and working with my colleagues. I also work hard to listen to the needs of the community.”

18) Dunavan Morris-Janzen: The Nelson high school student was recognized for his singing voice when he won the Grade 4 gold medal in the Royal Conservatory of Music’s province-wide competition.

He’s been studying with local instructor Mathilde Klassen for the last year, as well as taking classes with Noemi Kiss. And he’s a member of Corazon and Lalin, directed by Alison Girvan.

Still, his parents couldn’t believe it when he told them about his award: “I mean, they hear me in the shower and what not, and those two things don’t match up.”

19) Wayne Naka: The longtime local educator became president of the 55+ BC Games (formerly the BC Seniors Games), which drew nearly 4,000 participants to Langley in 2014. That number is only expected to grow as the population ages.

“We’re getting bigger but also getting better,” Naka said. “We’ve got way better athletes coming now in some of our real competitive sports.”

Naka was sports director for the 2011 games, held in West Kootenay, and then served as the organization’s vice-president, putting him in charge of 25 sports and working with their respective provincial bodies.

20) Rhys Nybo: Also known as DJ Volpix, for the past few years he’s been teaching himself to use the equipment and software necessary to become a digital mobile DJ, but he performed for the first time in April.

Eden Martin, who encouraged him to book the gig said: “When Rhys got on stage, he shined. He was in his element.” Nybo was nearly lost for words: “I felt a fire in my heart and a motivation. There are no words to describe that. I always wanted to be an entertainer. I feel stoked, exuberant.”

DJ Volpix has since played many more shows.

21) Ryan Oakley: He’s photographed more than 200 strangers, mostly on Baker Street, and this year turned his wildly popular Facebook site Humans of Nelson into a book. Yet Oakley, a highways engineer by day, says he’s actually “a bit of an introvert.”

Fortunately for us, he overcame his social awkwardness and, inspired by a similar project in New York, began approaching random people to take their picture. The book, launched in November, was thanks to a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $10,000 and the expertise of local author Anne DeGrace.

22) Gaelen Schnare: When eight-year-old Gaelen met an injured great horned owl named Don Quixote, he instantly decided he would start a fundraiser to help Salmo falconer Tammy Swan earn her rehabilitation certificate to rescue birds of prey.

Gaelen reached his $1,000 goal at the end of August, after two yard sales and a campaign outside the Kootenay Co-op with classmates from Wildflower school. Gaelen said he wanted to help because “there is no rehabilitation for birds of prey here.”

Swan was thrilled: “I can’t believe what Gaelen has done. It’s floored me.”

23) P’nina Shames: This Nelson mental health professional celebrated her retirement in 2014 after more than 32 years. She saw many changes in that time, including emphasis being placed on people with the most serious illnesses, something she supported.

Although her job was often challenging, it was also very satisfying when clients showed improvement. “When I could see someone making progress — taking therapeutic material and integrating it into how they lived their life and maybe turning a corner — that was really rewarding.”

24) Amanda Skidmore: The All Seasons Cafe chef won the Sibling Rivalry cooking competition in Sandpoint, Idaho against sister city chef Reese Warren. Skidmore created two dishes in one hour in front of a crowd.

Her entree was a cumin oat crusted pork shop, melted rainbow Swiss chard, and heirloom tomatoes, sautéed herbed russet potatoes, and an apple huckleberry chutney.

“Both Reese and Amanda did an amazing job and should be very proud,” said Dianna Ducs from Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism. “That competition was a blast,” Skidmore said. “I am so glad I got to be part of it.”

25) Frances Welwood: As a Welcome Wagon hostess for 28 years, she was one of the first to greet newcomers to Nelson. But with the program switching to a new business model, Welwood felt it was time to retire.

“I simply enjoyed doing it, meeting the people and spreading the word about Nelson and what a great place it is to live,” she said. “Some of the friends I see most often are people I welcomed.”

She’s one of three recently-retired hostesses (Lois Arnesen and Edna Whiteley are the others) with remarkably long service.

26) The Wiedrick family: Nelson’s Dr. Jim Wiedrick, wife Teresa, and their four children went on a month-long journey to Ghana as part of Samaritan Purse Canada’s world medical mission.

Wiedrick, a general practitioner and anesthetist, volunteered at a Baptist medical centre for three weeks to relieve long-term physicians at the hospital. He previously took part in a medical volunteer mission to Kenya in 2012.

“It’s a great experience. It’s an adventure, a way of giving back,” he said. “You can make a real impact.” As with their previous trip, Teresa blogged about their experiences.

27) Mary Woodward: This lifelong outdoorswoman told us her favourite piece of gear was an ice axe. “If I’m taking my ice axe, it’s going to be a good day,” she laughed. “I know it’s not going to be a Sunday stroll.”

The North Shore resident liked bagging peaks and climbing as high as possible. She belonged to the Kootenay Mountaineering Club for more than 30 years.

Woodward died in May, two days after her 80th birthday, and less than a month after being profiled in the Star.

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