Medal celebrates outstanding citizens
Ten outstanding citizens received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal at an event in St. Paul last Wednesday, and while the men noted they were honoured by the recognition, many of them humbly deflected praise, saying there were more worthy recipients than them out there.
Westlock-St. Paul MP Brian Storseth was at the helm of the night’s presentation, held at St. Paul’s Legion hall, and he noted, “These are not people that sought the headlines, but simply strive in their own way to make our community, province and country a better place.”
The Diamond Jubilee Medal, awarded in 2012, celebrates the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne and is being awarded to Canadians “who have made significant contributions to their communities and nation or who have made achievements abroad that bring credit to Canada,” according to the Government of Canada’s website.
“In short, this is a very big deal,” said Storseth. Ten individuals from Storseth’s riding were presented with the award during the night’s event, including: Darryl Poirier, Luc Gascon, Danny Smyl, Denis Levasseur and Eugene Labant, five St. Paul-area men who organized a local response to the out-of-control Slave Lake fire in May of 2011; RCMP Cpl. Stephen Prior, who dedicates countless hours to the call of duty; Mike Lotoski, a Korean War veteran and consummate member of the St. Paul Legion; and Mike Parenteau, who has volunteered and raised money for projects abroad in places like Haiti and Guatemala. James Neathway, from Redwater, and Vic Sadlowski, from Bonnyville, were also honoured for their volunteer efforts.
A few who won the award were quick to deflect praise. Parenteau said he found it a “little embarrassing” to be singled out to receive the medal. “I didn’t think I deserved it. So many people do a lot that don’t get recognized, so it’s a real honour.”
Lotoski also noted there were a “lot more people who should have won this award before me.” His wife, Elsie, joked of his contributions in serving his country during the Korean War, “And all you did is sleep.” She added, however, that in her book, her husband is very deserving of such recognition.
Prior was also one to show appreciation for his spouse. Although Prior works out of the St. Paul RCMP detachment, he serves all over northeastern Alberta, from Boyle to Wainwright, Lac La Biche to Two Hills, with the canine unit. “There’s only one of me for northeastern Alberta,” he said, adding he’s on call 24 – 7, on top of working his regular shifts. There are times where he will finish his shift, go home, only to get called in again.
“There’s many nights where I’m out working all night . . . when most people are sleeping, I’m running through the bush after people (suspected of serious crimes),” he said, noting he often drives 75,000 to 90,000 kilometres in a year. Since he has a young family, and is married with a 13-month-old son, he notes, “It’s a lot of give and take and an understanding wife.”
But he said he doesn’t seek out fame or attention for what he does. At the same time, he said he was appreciative of the medal’s honour. “It makes you realize people are taking into account the kind of sacrifice you give, the amount of time you spend with these things.”
During the night’s event, Storseth encouraged those gathered to nominate individuals worthy of receiving the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal, and to do so, they could start by visiting the website www.canadiancrown.gc.ca or by stopping by his constituency office.
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