Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf

Rich in History. High in Achievement.

Belleville is home to Sir James Whitney School, one of North America’s oldest schools for the Deaf, opening its doors on October 20, 1870. This past October, SJW held a celebration to commemorate its 140th anniversary. One of my all time favourite grade school memories was touring this amazing school with my grade six class from St. Michael’s Academy almost 30 years ago. Recently, I was privileged to visit it once more.

“The school was founded through the persistent efforts of John Barrett McGann, an Irish immigrant and educator,” says Gary Wheeler, a representative with the Ministry of Education. McGann was a pioneer of deaf education. The school is named after the former premier of Ontario, James Whitney, who was known for his advances in education. 

Crossing onto the grounds and up the long circular drive, you can feel the rich history this school and the vast grounds hold. This history includes a self-sustaining community that at one time incorporated a farm, orchards, and a hospital into its plan. Although no longer in use, the building housing Gibson Hospital (1894) still stands on the grounds today. The original school was lost to a fire and rebuilt in 1920 in the Tudor-Gothic Revival style, with brick walls outlined by smooth stone quoins giving the building an exterior of amazing strength. The leafy vine that clasps and climbs the bricks softens the school and gives it that prestigious ivy look.

The interior reception is complete with traditional and elegant wainscoting; marble floors can be found throughout the school as well as deep crown moldings. New technology is craftily integrated into this old building. Flat screens are everywhere you look broadcasting at all times upcoming school events, important student news and they double as a security resource should it be needed for warnings or emergency alerts. This balance of old and new is in line with the schools model of being grounded in rich history while at the same time being progressive and advanced.

“SJW uses a bilingual – bicultural approach to educating students who are Deaf. This approach promotes American Sign Language (ASL) as the first language of instruction and English as the second language”, says Gary. This bilingual method is vividly apparent as walking through the halls, students and faculty alike are signing and speaking at the same time. The cafeteria is like any other, full of happy chatter, laughter but with the added sign language. While the education component is of utmost import, the school also runs an impressive extra curricular program including everything from hip hop dance classes, Student Parliament and snowboarding, to name a few.

The school bears a military aspect to it. Jim Harrington, Acting Principal, notes that during the Second World War from 1939 to 1944, the school was taken over as a training facility for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Staff and students were relocated out into the community boarding with local families and the school set up temporary classrooms in buildings around the city. War memorabilia lines the hall heading to the archives.

The archives are full of stories. In 1972, the well-known Canadian author, Farley Mowat, hand delivered to SJW School a present, a crossbreed of Labrador and Newfoundland water dog, and she was deaf. Her name was Alice Mowat Whitney and she was a loved school mascot.

The school archives also holds the many sports awards won over the years. At times, the student enrollment at the school would reach close to 400, enabling them to put together teams in numerous athletic sports and competing at the Provincial level in COSSA volleyball, rugby, track, hockey and more.

Many notable alumni hold their place in the archives including Samuel Thomas Greene. Greene was born in the United States in 1843, and graduated from the National Deaf Mute College (now known as Gallaudet University) in Washington DC. He moved to Belleville to teach at SJW, and is noted as the first deaf teacher ever to teach in Ontario. He is also one of the founding members of the Ontario Association of the Deaf (1886). Greene died in 1890 at the early age of 47 as a result of injuries sustained in an ice boating accident on the Bay of Quinte. A life sized oil portrait of Greene hangs in the landing heading to the second floor in the main building.

Another notable is remembered by a life-sized oil painting by John Wycliffe Lowes on that same landing, a portrait of Robert Mathison. Superintendent of SJW for 27 years from 1879 to 1906, Mathison was devoted to the school and to the education of the Deaf.

A display case under these portraits holds linoprints, printing stamps and copies of the school newspaper. A Printing Department was established in Wood Hall, and it published the schools very own newspaper, The Canadian Mute, whose first issue was produced in February 1892.

The Boy Scouts lease out a portion of one of the buildings on the property and house an immense collection of Scout memorabilia. This ‘Scout Museum’ is where I found out about the honoured Queen Scout, Clifton Carbin. Clifton is quite a notable SJW alumnus. He went on to get his Doctor of Laws degree from Gallaudet University, has a long career involvement with many schools for the Deaf and has written many books including one on John Barrett McGann, and one on Samuel Thomas Green. A copy of this book can be found in the Archives.

A large portion of student life at SJW involves student residence as many of the students live far outside the day travel area. An alumnus, Gerard Kennedy, is the residence coordinator for the School for the Deaf. He detailed the alert systems that are in place in each of the residence quarters. There are lights that alert the students of the various events, such as red for emergency and the blue light signifies the phone is ringing. The yellow indicates that someone is at the residence door, and green means that someone is at the outside door. In the latter case, for safety reasons, a monitor is viewed before the door is opened.

The residence quarters are also well balanced. Leaded glass, oversized windows allow for ample light and expose the restored parquet flooring in many of the living areas. The furniture is modern and comfortable and full entertainment systems are available including television, computers and even wii.

Most locals in the area know that Sir James Whitney has an impressive swimming pool. It was on my first tour that I learned about the students and synchronized swimming. Music is used during swimming, and it creates vibrations in the water. The water carries the sound wave, which the swimmer can feel; therefore movements can then be executed to the feel of the vibrations of the music in the water. Jim also mentions that during the school dances in the auditorium, the base on the music is turned up quite high for the benefit of the dancers. This same auditorium, complete with full stage, is where SJW holds its annual ‘Unique Christmas Pageant’. The students put on a pageant like no other, and it is fully translated for the hearing in the audience. This event is open to the general public, and an excellent opportunity to experience this forward thinking community.

Published in the County and Quinte Living magazine, Winter 2011 issue. Now available.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hospice: Compassionate Support on Life’s Journey

Allyson Tufts and Andy Forgie entertain.
Luke Hendry/The Intelligencer/QMI Agency
As I began to explore hospice care with a neighbour of mine, memories of my own experiences began to flood in; sponging the mouth of my great aunt, reading her favourite poetry to her, and the gentle touch of the nurse when it was time. I also clearly remembered the time when I was present as my father was facing his end of life. As I recounted my experiences, me the interviewer doing all of the talking, I paused and realized that I was really being listened to. Across from me was Bonnie Delaney, Executive Director for Hospice Quinte and a true face of compassion. She said, “The patients I have been involved with have taught me so much about grief.”
The Belleville area had the first freestanding residential hospice centre in Ontario. Hospice Quinte has grown to over 125 volunteers participating in an excellent home care program. Bonnie is well aware of the exhaustion with home care, both physically and emotionally, and that is where hospice comes in. With the right care for both the patient and the family, with support and the needed medical equipment, the patient can live at home in comfort. That is what hospice is about, says Bonnie, “care for the living”.
Nancy Parks, Executive Director Hospice Prince Edward, agrees. Of paramount, “we must provide support for the patient and the caregiver.” Hospice care is confidential and quiet. She says, “We are a death denying society, there is much educating to be done.” Anticipatory grief begins with the diagnoses, and hospice is there to provide the much needed grief and bereavement support while also acting as an advocate for the family.
At times it is true that unless people need hospice services, they are generally unaware of hospice and all that it can do. The overall cost of allowing people to live at home is 50% less than if they were in hospital, and once diagnosed, people just want to go home, to the comfort of their own familiar surroundings. Long time County resident Bob Norton now knows the benefits of hospice care. His wife, Debbie, was admitted to a residential hospice facility in Cambridge Ontario at her end of life journey, and Bob was witness to the compassionate care of hospice. When Bob learned that Hospice Prince Edward was establishing a residential hospice in the County, he was so inspired by the care Debbie received, he committed to donate $100,000 to the project in her memory. The Rotary Club of Picton is also in support of this project and is committed to helping Hospice Prince Edward build this facility which would offer families in the area an alternative to hospital care for terminally ill patients.
Health professionals are more than aware of the benefits and the services hospice has to offer someone who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and those patients are encouraged to get hospice involved as soon as possible. Furthermore, although hospice is partially funded through the Local Health Integration Network, approximately 70% of the operating budget comes from donations and fundraising in the local communities.
Referrals for hospice care come from the Community Care Access Centre, Community Nursing Agencies, Physicians, Clergy, family members, friends and even the patient themselves. Anyone can make a referral.
Hospice provides active and compassionate care to the terminally ill in our community, primarily providing comfort measures to the patient, particularly with pain and symptom management. They are trained to identify which services are required, the equipment and supplies needed and the support and companionship necessary in an effort to improve their quality of life. Often, the right services and equipment provided in the home can prevent the patient from being admitted to the hospital. All of the hospice services are provided free of charge.
Who are hospice volunteers? What do they do?
Many of the volunteers come from people who have used hospice services in the past. Hospice has professional staff on hand to provide training for all of the volunteers. This training covers everything from what to expect, philosophies, advance directives, basic nursing techniques and body mechanics. When the training is complete, the volunteer then decides in what capacity they can best serve hospice.
The volunteers are carefully matched to ensure that the needs of the patient and family involved are being met while at the same time remaining a gentle presence. “It takes the dedication of many people to coordinate hospice care.” Hospice Quinte
Nancy tells of a retired gentleman, ‘John’, who worked in the financial sector. He learned about hospice care, decided to become a volunteer and went through the training. In the end, he wasn’t sure just what he had to offer hospice patients. One such patient receiving hospice care was advised by her physician to ‘get her affairs in order’. What did that mean? Wills, estate law, funeral arrangements. She was overwhelmed and asked the volunteers if they knew what she was to do. John was asked to assist the patient, and he soon realized how his many years of experience working within the financial sector could now help people with these end of life decisions. This is hospice.
Nancy tells of another local, facing a terminal illness which prevents her from travelling. A close family relative is to be married on the East Coast of Canada. It is the wish of the patient to see the wedding. Hospice steps in and arranges for a big screen TV which is donated by a local business and with the help of many volunteers, and Skype, the patient experiences this unforgettable life moment. This is hospice.
Another story, from Bonnie, tells of a man diagnosed with cancer who was in the care of hospice and he had a wish. He wished that he could paint. The volunteer coordinator knew of someone that could help, a volunteer who also was a painter. The match was made and the patient had his wish fulfilled. This, too, is hospice.
Deborah Kimmett is an author, public speaker and hospice volunteer. After the death of her father, Deborah took a course on palliative care and she then reflected on how she could best contribute to hospice. She was approached by hospice to teach the communication piece of the training for the volunteers. “There was just something missing in the way we communicated,” she says. She teaches that there is comfort in talking about life’s journey and death openly.
“In caring for a loved one, there are not too many places for you to put your grief. It just gets swallowed up by the mechanics of caring for your patient.” Hospice can help care for the caregiver. It knows care giving can be exhausting and it is there to provide support and help alleviate some of the stress. “If you get hospice involved, you will significantly enhance the quality of your care.”
Deborah created the video Talking To Sick People (Walk a Mile in My Backless Gown), which takes a humorous and compassionate approach to this important issue around communicating with someone facing a terminal illness. What do you say when you don’t know what to say? When we are afraid, we bring that to our care giving. Deborah’s work is invigorating and interesting. She asks ‘how do we listen?’ Further, “how do we honour the privacy of the patient and family, how do we honour this journey?”
With the help of volunteers like Deborah Kimmett, “more people are understanding hospice palliative care.” says Bonnie. “People go home to live.” Palliative care can be a long journey; the end of life is just a small component of this entire journey. Hospice care is about assisting people in living every moment until they die. Let’s face it, that is what life is about for all of us. “We need to lead the way.”
See the fall issue of the County and Quinte Living magazine online at

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

By Janet Craig and Janet Jarrell

Prince Edward County is Ontario’s newest wine region in Canada’s fast growing wine and viticulture industry. As the interest in everything to do with wine branches out, the connoisseur in us all strives to keep up.

When a friend listed the new and different kinds of corkscrews now on the market, it was a priceless lesson for all eager wine aficionados. I don’t know of anyone that has just one single corkscrew in their home, most have a favourite that they reach for when it’s time to open the bottle. If you’re away from home and desperate, log on to Utube, you’ll learn how to get the cork out with the heel of a dress shoe, if you’re in the woods, use a tree trunk. It really does work.

Corkscrews can range from the very simple to the very unique and intricate. Basically, the majority of corkscrews can be classified in two separate categories: leverage, where the corkscrew has a lever used to assist in the application of force to remove the cork, and then there are those that require torque, whereby the twisting motion itself removes the cork.

Most corkscrews also come with a foil remover, however, if yours does not have one, very easy and effective foil removers are sold separately. The first step in opening a bottle of wine must be to remove the foil. Cut just below the ridge of the capsule, remove the foil and then wipe the area with a clean, dry cloth. This process will remove any possible residues of dust that could fall into your glass of wine.

Both types of corkscrews mentioned above have a helix, sometimes called a worm or screw. The helix is meant to be driven directly down the centre of the cork, but not all the way through. It is important not to puncture the bottom of the cork, otherwise you will find cork shavings in your wine. With the helix in place, the key to success here is to remove the cork by lifting it straight up. This will prevent possible breakage or damage, and keeps the cork out of your wine. You should hear a very satisfying pop at the end of this process.

There are a few notable ‘others’ that deserve mention here. The first is the corkscrew that consists of simply a handle and two prongs or blades that slide one at a time on either side of the cork and then slowly pry it out. This corkscrew is most desired for the older vintages where the cork itself is likely dry and may crumble with the use of helix style corkscrew. Also included in the ‘other’ category is a corkscrew for the more adventurous type, the cork pop. This showy mechanism consists of a handle with a long needle which is inserted down through the centre of the cork. Pressurized carbon dioxide is injected which forces the cork up and out of the bottle.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Portraits of Honour

A double ceremony recently held in Trenton Ontario meant for a full day of honour, respect and remembrance for our military personnel.

To begin with, the repatriation ceremony of Canada’s 156th fallen soldier, Bombardier Karl Manning, made its way down the Highway of Heroes to CFB 8 Wing. Attendees included government officials such as the Governor General David Johnston, family members and the public at large. This solemn event was followed by the beginning of a nation wide tour of the Portraits of Honour mural.

This hand painted mural is a staggering 10 foot by 40 foot memorial depicting, with striking precision, all Canadian soldiers, sailors and air crew that have given their lives to the war in Afghanistan.

The artist, Dave Sopha, is the son of a Canadian soldier and a British War Bride, and also a member of the service club Kin Canada in Cambridge Ontario. In response to the loss of Canadian soldiers since 2002, Dave began to do what he does best; paint. As an accomplished artist, he has painted many other military themed murals, but this one was to be his largest project yet. In December 2008 he began the daunting task of painting every single fallen member since the war in Afghanistan began, spending an average of 80 hours on each picture perfect portrait. His intention was to ‘remember, honour and celebrate.’ It was decided that this project needed nation wide attention.

This tour is an opportunity for thousands of Canadians coast to coast to remember and get up close and personal to the fallen men and women of the Canadian forces. The artists sketch of Bombardier Karl Manning was also on hand at the viewing on the base.

Dave Sopha’s passion and dedication is painfully appreciated each and every time one stands before the mural in awe of the sacrifice given by those who proudly wear the uniform. The mural was unveiled recently at its first national tour stop at the military base in Trenton. The reveal took place at The National Air Force Museum of Canada during a gala event hosted at CFB 8 Wing by Belleville’s Kin Canada. Bruce Airhart, a Kinsmen, was one of many volunteers on hand organizing this gala with the proceeds going to the Military Families Fund and also, he said, “to the Military Family Resource Centre located on the base. “ These military resources are in place to support the families of those fallen soldiers and further to support the injured soldiers that return home.

The seven month tour will see the mural travel coast to coast allowing thousands of Canadians to view this wall of remembrance. For more information and for the tour schedule visit

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shopping Downtown

As you stroll in downtown at your own comfortable pace, take a break from your window-shopping, take a moment and look up and let your eyes explore the old façade of the buildings down here. The detailed architecture is a reminder of the history that these buildings hold. Every downtown core housed a Woolworths Five and Dime, a Kresge’s Department store or an S&R, and if you look close enough, you will be able to make out the buildings they once occupied. Downtown shopping is more than just getting the things you need, it is really a chance to slow things down, an adventure into the past, to a time when you knew everyone who you were buying from.

Recently on a sunny afternoon, I made my way into one of my favourite antique shops to browse for a gift. “Hello Marina,” I said to the owner. She returns my hello with a big welcoming smile and asks, “How are all your girls?” She knows I am heading for the hats. I love the comfort of knowing the owner by name, the familiar feel to this shop and her personalized service. There is pride in ownership and quality here. I leave with a hat, the gift wrapped, and a smile.

This could be any specialty shop in one of the many local downtown shopping areas. We are seeing a resurgence in downtown commerce as the lure of shopping in the big box stores wanes. The trends are seeing the shoppers moving from these large shopping centres downtown to the smaller urban communities. We, the shoppers, are looking for that quality and unique something that can only be found in the charming shops that line Main Street. As we become more dependent on our modern conveniences, we are finding ourselves more and more disconnected from the world around us. Our downtowns give us the sense of belonging again.

Local downtown shop owners have been coming together in response to the need for downtown revitalization. The passion of the store owners gives way to countless volunteer hours and this response has resulted in community action and improving that connection to your neighbourhood shopping. Our downtowns have the added advantage of the waterfront which further enhances the downtown experience. What makes it work? Downtowns have to have it all. From the hardware store to the specialty clothing boutique, from the homemade ice cream to the fantastic original artwork, from the live theatre to the local café, you will find shopping in your local downtown a personal experience.

Granted, the busiest months for the downtown core occur during the summer, those involved in downtown planning have events running all year round, and the list of events is extensive. From winter celebrations to art walks and parades, to book readings and side walk sales, there is always something tempting you back into your community.

Check out the summer edition of the County and Quinte Living Magazine

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

All You Need Is Love

It’s February 9th, 1964, and millions of families in North America are glued to their black and white television set, witnessing history. Ed Sullivan announces “…New York City never has witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves The Beatles…”Mark Rashotte was all of nine years old, and he recalls that evening quite clearly; his sister sitting within inches of the screen, he and his brother close behind her, and his parents behind them. Mark’s father calls out “Those boys need a haircut”, and Mark was thinking “there is something big going on here”. On that same evening, not far from the Rashotte’s home in Belleville, Andy Forgie is watching too and is “absolutely overwhelmed by Beatle mania.” Both Mark and Andy recall the electricity and excitement of that night. And there the dream begins…

Mark and Andy's first band.
Shortly thereafter, Mark started guitar lessons at Charlie Kramer Music and Flags downtown Belleville. Although Mark’s father would have preferred he study the accordion, Mark insisted on the guitar and started strumming away at this first song ‘Red River Valley’ with Mrs. Kramer.  A few years later, a group of boys in grade 7 at St. Michael’s Catholic School form a band and start practicing in a spot at the White Lumber mill owned by the Rashotte’s.  Andy and Mark were making their own music and performing in front of their own peers at school, in the basement of St. Michaels Church (where there was a coffee shop at the time) and during their first big gig at the Knights of Columbus Hall (now the old Bohemian Penguin) which sold out to the grade 8’s. This first concert was a huge success supported by friends and family, with the mothers in the front selling tickets and the fathers in the back selling the pop.
By the time they were in high school these driven kids, focused on the music were performing every weekend in different cities in and around Ontario. Friends and family packing up cars driving them around – it was time for some road trips!
The boys graduated high school in 1974 and then they really hit the road. Their tour took them through Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, and through a few band name changes such as The Electric Circuit, The Fog, and Creed.  
In 1976, under the name Creed, the band made its first recording with Quality Records. The single hit on the 45 was “Westminister Abbey”. By 1980 the band signed with Capital Records and a new band name Photograph, working with musical greats such as Daniel Lanoise and Tom Cochrane.  This album was a huge success and brought a national hit “The Last Dance”. Photograph was at the top of their game.
In 1984, with young families at home, after almost 11 years on the road, the boys decided to take a break. The band splinters a bit, Mark heading into real estate and Andy producing under a family label. Andy has two young children at the time and thus his children’s music easily morphed into a fulltime career.  Mark and Andy still got together frequently for music projects.
Fast forward to 1999, and All You Need Is Love came on the scene, celebrating The Beatles music - Mark Rashotte, Andy Forgie, Vitas Slapkauskas, Steve Smith, Al Haring, and Paul Lockyer and a secret weapon, Wayne McFaul, the sound technician. While many tribute bands stay true to the usual, four guys taking on the persona of the Beatles and staying to the presentation of the former band, All You Need Is Love takes a different approach. This band celebrates the Beatles, being aggressive and original with the music and adding a keyboard player. Their idea is to take the music from the ‘studio years’, and bring it live to the stage putting on the concert The Beatles never had the opportunity to give. They celebrate great albums such as Let It Be, Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. The focus is to perform the music as if The Beatles were making it today.
Mark Rashotte, Andy Forgie, Vitas Slapkauskas, Steve Smith, Al Haring, and Paul Lockyer and a secret weapon, Wayne McFaul, the sound technician.
Once the band started touring in the US festivals, their career really took off.  They are best known at Abbey Road on the River, the largest Beatles Festival in North America currently hosted in Louisville, Kentucky. They have performed there every year since its inception, the only band ever to do so. This year marks the tenth anniversary of this festival, and they were recently inducted into the Abbey Road on the River Hall of Fame. Mark says “Andy is the guy out front who pulls it all together. “
From the time Mark and Andy were nine years old, they have had this dream, but did they think ahead in so far as the dream would have them playing the music in the homeland of the Beatles during Beatle Week in Liverpool, England?
From Belleville, On, Canada to Kentucky to Washington, to Liverpool – All You Need Is Love was an instant hit with the most passionate of Beatles fans, making them one of the ten top Beatle style bands in the world!
Ladies and Gentlemen, “All You Need Is Love”.
By Janet Jarrell

All You Need Is Love is now in rehearsals and will be off to Kentucky this memorial weekend. The tour also sees them in Washington DC on the Labour Day weekend.
 Over the years, and in conjunction with the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, All You Need Is Love has raised approximately $ 200 000 for women and children’s shelters in this region.