At the end of July, The Citizen started a new weekly feature, which appears Wednesdays on the History page, called Where Are They Now? It's a profile of local people who were making headlines years ago but have since disappeared from the limelight.
As the stories done so far by reporter Christine Hinzmann have shown, the lives of former newsmakers hasn't always been "and they rode off into the sunset, where they lived happily ever after."
The creation of the series was caused by one person, whose name arose over and over again, particularly when talking to longtime Citizen subscribers.
"Whatever happened to that little girl who invented the new kind of pavement?" they would ask. "Whatever happened to Gina Gallant?"
Hinzmann answered that question in the July 31st edition of The Citizen to kick off the ongoing series.
From 1999 through 2003, Gallant was featured regularly in the pages of the Citizen as a scientific prodigy. When she was 10, she invented crackers that didn't go mushy in soup, something she despised as a child. Two years later, she invented a bike helmet with lights that turned on when the helmet was put on the head of a child properly.
She's best remembered, however, for her invention when she was 13, when she came up with the idea of adding recycling plastic chips to aggregate and asphalt to make the road surface tougher and more pothole-resistant. Interest was so high in Gallant's PolyAggreRoad (PAR) that a section of road on Cranbrook Hill was paved with it.
Today, Gallant is 26, married and working in the accounting department at Proline Pipe Equipment Inc. in Edmonton.
And she still holds the patent for PAR, which she renews every year, hopeful for the day someone takes her idea to the next level.
Maureen Washington left Prince George in 2008 to further pursue an education and her musical career. The beloved local jazz diva has tackled numerous problems since leaving Prince George. Raising five children, trying to complete her degree in music and putting out two CDs was tough enough but she's also been helping to care for her ex-husband, who continues to suffer from cancer.
At least she's still singing, recording music and winning awards and praise.
Life has been harder, but no less rewarding, for Judy Wiebe, who was featured in Wednesday's Citizen.
Best known for her hilarious role as the Reverend Mother in the local production of the musical comedy Nunsense in 2005, Wiebe's singing and dancing days came to an abrupt end on Jan. 30, 2009, in a horrible car accident. She is still living with the aftershock of her injuries, which included a concussion that caused swelling in her brain, a broken neck, several broken ribs and collapsed lungs.
Forced to retire from her job in an orthodontist's office, as well as her amateur stage career, Wiebe now focuses her attention on her young grandchildren and eagerly awaits the birth of her next grandchild in October.
On the surface, it seems tragic that Gallant hasn't gone on to fame and fortune, while also solving the pothole plague, that Washington's personal life somehow held her back from even greater musical success or that Wiebe will never make us laugh again with her stage antics.
Yet it is inspiration, not tragedy, that makes their updated stories so compelling. Gallant may not be actively pursuing her dream to be an inventor but she hasn't forgotten it, either. Washington's devotion to her family is further proof that she's not just an incredible performer, she's an outstanding woman. Wiebe has discovered that devotion to family can heal all kinds of wounds and is there long after the applause ends and the stage lights go dark.
We started the Where Are They Now? series to answer a simple question. The stories, however, have taken on a life of their own and we hope our readers are enjoying them as much as we are.
If there's a newsmaker you know that we should feature in our Where Are They Now? series, e-mail chinzm...@pgcitizen.ca or call 250-960-2773.