For the friends and families of the following individuals, next week will be their first Christmas without this amazing individual in their lives. We hope your sorrow and loss is also mixed with pride for how gracious this person was in life.
Prince George benefited greatly in the lifetime of these people and the city and its residents continue to reap the rewards of their contributions, as well as the example they set for all.
My deepest apologies if I've missed anyone but here is my 2019 tribute list, in no particular order:
Mary Gouchie - a Lheidli T'enneh elder and matriarch, Gouchie passed away on Jan. 24 at age 97. Flags were lowered across the city at half-mast in her honour. A mother of 10 with 21 grandchildren, 33 great granchildren and a host of great-great grandchildren, Gouchie's legacy to Prince George and area will be her words and music. She worked tirelessly to preserve the Lheidli dialect of the Dakelh (Carrier) language, as well as songs and traditions for her family and her people. Along with Olympic gold medalist Catriona Le May Doan, Gouchie carried the torch into Canada Games Plaza to open the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
Bjorger Pettersen - a member of the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame, Pettersen passed away last Dec. 29 at his home in Okotoks, Alta. He was Canada's first full-time cross-country ski coach. Along with his extensive contributions to local skiing, he worked in Inuvik in the mid-1960s, transforming a group of Indigenous kids from the Mackenzie Delta region into Olympic-calibre athletes. Two of his skiers, twin sisters Sharon and Shirley Firth of the Gwich'in First Nation, were on the national women's cross-country team for 17 years, competing in four consecutive Winter Olympics.
Armand Denicola - A decorated Second World War veteran, he passed in March at age 96. Denicola earned many medals of honour and was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honour from France for his part in the liberation of France.
Robert Frederick - a Lheidli T'enneh elder, he passed in May at age 69. A Lejac residential school survivor, he devoted his adult life to restoring cultural traditions, focussing on teaching others the art of building traditional cottonwood dugout canoes. A fibreglass replica of one of his creations is permanently installed at City Hall.
Gary Samis - "The Commish" passed suddenly on May 13 but the longtime sports organizer left an incredible legacy in the local sports community for his work with the Prince George Cougars, the 2015 Canada Winter Games and many others.
Roz Thorn - Born and raised in Prince George, she passed away in October at age 70. She spent 48 years with the Prince George Construction Association and was recoginzed in 2008 with the B.C. Construction Association's Distinguished Service Award.
Kathi Travers - there was "no malarkey" whenever this lady was around, right up until her sudden passing in October. A longtime Citizen columnist and CFIS-FM radio show host, she was best known for the New England twang in her voice, her many connections and friendships in the community and her unending devotion to animals and their welfare.
We lost three other noteworthy individuals this year: Jack Ross, Vern Norbraten and Dianne Stepski.
For all of these great people and the many others I neglected to mention, thank you for everything you did for this city.