Those recognized by the community are excellent role models

I attended the Community Recognition Awards at City Hall on Monday. Joan M. Foster and the Honourable Ray Stortini were the 2012 recipients of the annual award. You may have seen it if you watched the city council meeting on television.

The City of Sault Ste. Marie gives the awards to recognize “cultural contributions for activities considered to be particularly outstanding, innovative, or which have demonstrated long-term commitment to culture.”

Joan Foster received the award for contributions in the performing and literary arts and  Ray Stortini was recognized for contributions in the heritage arts.

As a retired Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice , and one of the first judges of Italian origin in Ontario, the Honourable Judge Ray Stortini may have needed little introduction to council. He was also the recipient of the Order of Ontario.

He was instrumental in the revision of the Elettra Marconi Ladies Club and Club Calabrese constitutions, and he organized the committee for revitalization of the James Street neighbourhood where he was raised, once known as “Little Italy.”

While I don’t know him personally, I may be able to learn more about him, as he published a book in 2006 chronicling his experiences growing up in the west end of the city of Sault Ste. Marie. He told me that it can be purchased at the soup kitchen.

Joan Foster, advocate of the arts, was honoured for her numerous volunteer activities, including being a board member for the Arts Council of Sault Ste. Marie and District for many years, and chairing many fundraising events and activities, including silent auctions and bonanza draws. She has also given countless hours to the Over the Rainbow Children’s Entertainment Series to bring affordable live entertainment to the children of the region, not to mention volunteering for the Sault Theatre Workshop, the Musical Comedy Guild, and Women in Crisis, to name a few.

Her submission was chosen for naming “Spirits Rising” — the structure on the boardwalk close to the Delta Hotel. She was also involved in the Sportsmen’s Show, and she co-moderated World Religion Day. As a member of the Chamber of Commerce Ambassador Corps she greeted countless visitors at important events in the city. She also had the idea for the Cup of Comfort fundraiser for the Sault Area Hospital, and she raised more than $14,000 for the cancer clinic.

As her efforts were lauded, she sat surrounded by her family, with all of her children who live in the Sault present, flanked by grandchildren as well. All I could think was that she’s so much more than her volunteer activities.

Some call her a role model for seniors, being an example of  the “importance of becoming active in the community and supporting our charities to better the quality of life for all citizens.” But she is also a role model for her cancer survivors, adventurers, artists, women, her family, and friends.

She’s beaten cancer on more than one occasion, has travelled widely, has written countless poems (including one about Costa Rica that garnered her a letter of thanks of the then-president of the country), and is a strong woman who speaks her mind. In her late 60s she rafted the Nahanni and Colorado Rivers, sea kayaked with friends and went rock and ice climbing with her sons.

What she was honoured for is such a small tip of the iceberg, yet when she got up to thank council, she didn’t fill in the blanks in her accomplishments. Instead she told a story of an artist she helped along the way, and how a thank-you card from him meant more to her than monetary rewards. She also acknowledged her family for their support.

I was happy to see her win the award as sometimes acknowledgement comes too late. She deserves the praise and thanks. She deserves to be recognized not only for the contribution she has made to the arts in this community so far, but for what she is still capable of doing, overcoming, and being for her family and the community.

I’m sure someone in Ray Stortini’s family would say similar things about him as well.

Both were such deserving recipients and it made me think of the John Quincy Adams quote: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

I felt humbled and inspired by these individuals’ achievements, and have no qualms in saying that both are excellent role models and leaders in the community.

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