As most folks turn their eyes toward a (hopefully) brighter 2021, we here at the Chronicle want to take a look back at the year that was 2020.
In 2020 aliens invaded the streets of Ladysmith, COVID-19 changed everything, the community grappled with tragedies, and pushed ahead with new developments. Individuals, service clubs, businesses, and even a very popular cat were celebrated this year.
Before we say good riddance to 2020, let’s take a look back on some of the year’s biggest stories.
Three Ladysmith A&W employees: Muriel Jack, Kelly Frenchy, and Katherine Aleck were sent on all expenses paid vacations, courtesy of franchise owners Jason and Lori Kelland. The trio was honoured for their 10 years of service.
This is all part of the reward based system in place at Ladysmith A&W. Rewards are given at one, three, five, and 10 years of service. After one year, employees get an engraved pin. At three years, employees get a plaque on the wall. At five years, they get a $500 gift card of their choice, and another plaque. The 10 year is the all-inclusive trip. Employees also get gifts on their birthdays.
On what would have been their 11th anniversary, Trevor Blogg received the tragic news that his wife, Katie Blogg, had been killed in a hit-and-run collision on the highway just north of Ladysmith.
The driver responsible for the collision fled the scene by stealing a nearby vehicle. That vehicle was later recovered in Chemainus. After a five day manhunt, the suspect was aprehended by the RCMP on unrelated matters.
Following the tragedy, the Ladysmith community rallied around the Blogg family — raising over $100,000, and donating several items through Ladysmith City Hall.
“It’s a real testament to the beautiful person that Katie was. I’ve never experienced so much love and outpouring for anyone, ever,” Trevor Blogg said.
After a whirlwind 12-day marriage, and ensuing public fallout, Pamela Anderson broke her silence on her ill-fated union to Hollywood producer, Jon Peters, and rumours involving financial matters.
In an exclusive interview with the Chronicle, Anderson refuted claims that Peters paid $200,000 in debts for her. Peters also said to the Chronicle that he never paid that sum.
Anderson, who has been living in Ladysmith since July 1, 2019, said that she has invested $1 million in revitalizing her family home.
Since that time, Anderson has put her connections through construction work on her home toward philanthropy. In November, Anderson pleged to help RASTA Sancutary in Chemainus build a new barn for their rescued farm animals.
As Dionte Jelks walked along a beach with his wife Elizabeth, and sons Noe, Jeremy, and Kian, he got a call from his family in Chicago. His mother informed him that his brother, Darius Jelks and his cousin, Maurice Jelks had been shot and killed during protests in Chicago.
Darius and Maurice were shot in June when racial justice protests swept across the United States and several other countries around the world.
Here in Canada, Dionte Jelks works tirelessly to support youth as an educator in Ladysmith, and a football coach for the Victoria Spartans. He said his form of protest against systemic racism and injustice is by mentoring youth.
“Any student I encounter I tell them I’m always in their corner for the rest of their life. Use me as a vehicle to achieve your goals. I’m always going to be there. I’m there to assist you with funds, with motivational talks, anything you need. I always tell people that. That’s what I’m here for,” he said.
COVID-19 lockdowns constricted local businesses in mid-March. Business owners struggled with decisions of whether to remain open, and how they would meet ever-changing COVID-19 safety guidelines.
On March 26, the Chronicle published an article that asked local business owners how they were coping with the ‘new normal’.
Fire crews from every department in the Cowichan Valley Regional District, and several crews from the Nanaimo Regional District put in over 30 hours to douse an industrial fire at Schnitzer Steel scrapyard near the Nanaimo Airport.
A large plume of smoke was visible from several kilometres away. Efforts to fight the fire were hampered by the large amount of fuel feeding the fire.
The fire sparked concerns of water contamination in the Cassidy area due to the toxic chemicals released during the fire. Island Health later conducted groundwater testing around the site and determined there was no contamination.
Newly elected Area H director, Ben Maartman campaigned against Schnitzer Steel, and suggested he will look into taking action to limit their activities in the future. Schnitzer Steel’s operation is within CVRD Area H.
Ladysmith Secondary School student, Sampson McMullan has been awarded a $40,000 scholarship from the Cmolik Foundation.
The Cmolik Foundation was founded in 2008 to provide opportunities for youth who have experienced adversity in their lives. Eligible students must have experienced adversity, maintain an A average, and live in B.C. for at least seven years.
McMullan will attend Vancouver Island University, (VIU) for the bachelors of science and nursing program. He aspires to become a nurse practitioner.
Fresh off its role in the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie, Ladysmith is the star of a new Syfy series: Resident Alien.
Resident Alien is a twisted and comedic fish-out-of-water story that follows a crash-landed alien named Dr. Harry, played by Alan Tudyk, (Firefly) who, after taking on the identity of a small town Colorado doctor, slowly begins to wrestle with the moral dilemma of his secret mission of destruction on Earth. The show premiers in late January.
Filming for Resident Alien took place in January 2020, and was meant to continue in March 2020; however, the pandemic put filming on a hiatus. Film crews returned to the streets of Ladysmith in October.
On July 15, Ladysmith’s Jackie Bates underwent surgery for a double lung transplant. Her new lungs have given her a new lease on life.
“It’s weird – amazing really. Every day is a new feeling. Being able to take a breath and actually keep going, being able to actually fill my lungs, being able to hold my breath, it’s amazing. Yesterday I went for my longest walk, I went two hours without O2.”
Bates suffers from cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that can cause issues with organs, primarily the lungs. People with cystic fibrosis are prone to lung infections that decrease lung capacity over time. Before her transplant, Jackie used a wheelchair and oxygen tanks.
The community of Ladysmith donated several thousand dollars to help fund Bates’ recovery expenses, including community groups like the the Ladysmith Fish and Game Club which donated $2,000; the Ladysmith Kinsmen donated $3,000; and another hunting group that Bates is a part of donated $2,000.
Roxanne Harris was elected as the new Chief for Stz’uminus First Nation in the 2020 election, held on August 27.
Harris received 222 votes, edging out George Seymour who received 167 votes. Harris took over as Chief from John Elliott, who has served as Chief of Stz’uminus since 2009.
Her top priorities as Chief include the continued economic development of Stz’uminus, education, housing, water supply, language, and cultural revitalization.
“Our goal, ultimately, is to be a self sufficient nation,” Harris said. “A solid foundation has already been laid down by the previous Chief and council.”
The BC NDP stranglehold on the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding continued on election night, with Doug Routley earning his fifth term as MLA over challengers Chris Istace of the BC Green Party and Don (Duck) Paterson of the BC Liberals.
The NDP formed a majority government following a snap election held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Routley tallied 7,856 votes or 47.22 per cent from the 94 polls followed by Istace at 5,228 votes or 31.42 per cent and Paterson with 3,554 votes or 21.36 per cent. The total valid number of votes cast was 16,638.
Ladysmith’s Forrest Field is home turf for several community sports teams like Mid-Isle Soccer, and the Ladysmith Steelers, but it is also one of the many homes of Chewy, the ‘Turf Kitty’.
Chewy was born seven years ago, and grew up at a home not far from Forrest Field. Chewy was the only cat from his litter who was not adopted. His former owner still has his mother, Miley.
Ever since he was big enough to venture out on his own, Chewy has been an adventurous cat.
Rumours have swirled that Chewy was abandoned by his owners due to his condition. People have regularly accused his owners on social media of neglect, and abuse. The negative comments have taken their toll on both Chewy’s former owner, and his foster mom.
His former owner wants the community to know that Chewy is well taken care of, well loved, and that there is no need to worry about Chewy’s well being.