by Brent Eades
The past 12 months in Mississippi Mills have been memorable, in ways both good and bad.
We’ve been through both wonderful moments and painful losses since last New Year’s Day. Here’s a look back at some of the major stories from 2016.
This happened at the very end of 2015, on December 29, but as of New Year’s Day the charred remains of Moose McGuire’s — formerly the popular JR’s Restaurant — were still being combed through by officials. It remains a vacant lot today, despite the owners’ hopes that they would soon be able to rebuild.
On January 16 our first Syrian newcomers arrived. Noor and Khodor Jarous and their two kids are being sponsored by the Holy Name of Mary Group and have since established a thriving catering business. They came here by way of a refugee camp in Lebanon after fleeing the brutal civil war around their home in Homs.
February 11 will go down as one of the worst days in our community’s long history. Bernard Cameron, a much-loved retired teacher and a respected Town Councillor, was shot and killed while trying to protect his daughter from her rifle-wielding ex-partner. She, thankfully, survived. The partner killed himself soon after. Bernard is still very much missed.
Only two days later, on February 13, Clayton’s John Rowsom was killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking with his wife along a quiet road in Jamaica, where they were vacationing. John was a well-known and popular volunteer with various community groups.
On February 22 we had some happier news as crews began setting up on Elgin Street for a couple of weeks of shooting for the UP TV movie ‘A Rooftop Christmas Tree.’ As readers will know, the movie was released in time for Christmas this year and featured some scenic views of Almonte.
On February 25 the National Basketball Association posted a video about Almonte’s connections with James Naismith and his invention of basketball, focussing on the community-driven rehabilitation of the basketball court at Augusta Street Park. To date the video has been watched almost 700,000 times.
On March 3 Dan Fallak gave us a sneak peek at his upcoming appearance on the popular CBC business show. Dan was pitching his ‘Amazeballs’ product to a panel of prominent investors, and as we learned a couple of weeks later his pitch was successful indeed.
On March 11 we learned that the National Research Council was delivering bottled water to some homes in Mississippi Mills after “slightly above normal” levels of so-called perfluoroalkylated substances, or PFAS, were found in one home’s water.
March 30 brought the pleasant news that the Expedia travel site had named Almonte as one of the “10 of the top small town destinations in Canada.” Our article received over 2,400 Facebook likes and shares.
Two weeks later, on April 15, Shopify gave a glowing account of Almonte’s success in creating “a self-supporting ecosystem of retailers, driving tourism and building the foundation for a self-sustaining future.”
On June 8 we reported on the arrival of yet another movie crew in town, shooting scenes at various locations around Almonte for the Sony Pictures thriller ‘Z’. We haven’t been able to find out more about the movie since then.
After a long and sometimes acrimonious public debate, Council on June 28 approved the creation of a Heritage Conservation District in the heart of Almonte, with only two councillors opposing the motion.
A five-year battle to stop the building of a large new hydroelectric project in the heart of Almonte came to an end when on July 5 Jeff Cavanaugh advised the Town that all approvals had been received and construction was to start almost immediately.
Local resident Leonard Lee, the renowned entrepreneur, Order of Canada member and founder of Lee Valley Tools, passed away at the age of 77 on July 6. In 2015 he and his sons opened the LG Lee & Sons store near the bottom of Mill Street.
On July 13 we had word that Erica and Drew Gilmour, the owners of Almonte’s Hummingbird Chocolate Makers, had been awarded top spot in the world’s most prestigious chocolate competition, for their Hispaniola 70% bar.
Crews rolled into town for the third film to be shot in Almonte in 2016, this one a Hallmark production titled ‘Seeds of Love.’ On August 2 we published this update on the production.
On September 17 we learned that Radwan Mustafa, who arrived here with his family in February after four years in a Jordanian refugee camp, is a supremely talented upholsterer and is setting himself up in the business here. This was our most popular story of the year and was ‘liked’ nearly 4,000 times on Facebook.
November 5 marked a live broadcast of the CBC’s In Town and Out radio show from Palms on Mill Street. Host Giacomo Panico did a great job of profiling life in our community, and Baker Bob made an impromptu appearance.
And to end the year on a perfect note, we learned today that local writer and storyteller Jan Andrews has been made a member of the Order of Canada.
So there you have it. Another year has passed in our community.
It hasn’t always been an easy year, marked as it has been at times by tragedy, and by occasional flare-ups of anger and dissent over local political issues.
But the main themes we’ve seen throughout 2016 are hopeful ones.
We’ve reported stories of kindness and generosity and great achievement. We’ve seen our community celebrated from afar for its beauty and creativity. And we also seem to be a very popular destination for movie makers!
To all our readers we wish a good and fulfilling 2017. We hope The Millstone will continue to be the place you turn to for the news that matters in our community.