Dianne Fraser selected as Billings Township senior of the year for 2018

KAGAWONG—The council for the township of Billings has selected local resident Dianne Fraser as its 2018 Senior of the Year.

It was pointed out that council had considered nominations of two local residents for this award. “We had two people who were nominated for this award,” confirmed Billings Mayor Austin Hunt. “Both were excellent candidates but the point was made that Dianne has done an awful lot of work in the township and council felt it was time she was recognized for this.”

“Dianne is very community minded and has helped out on many, many different groups, organizations and events or activities in the township,” said Mayor Hunt.

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“I feel very honoured and was definitely surprised when I heard I had been selected for this award,” Ms. Fraser told the Recorder.

“Dianne is one of the hardest working volunteers around,” stated Rick Nelson, curator of the Old Mill Heritage Museum in Kagawong. “She has done a vast amount of volunteer work in the community, especially with the museum and she is well deserving of this honour.”

Mr. Nelson noted that Ms. Fraser was “one of the leaders in getting the museum started. If it wasn’t for her and a few others in the community we wouldn’t have this museum and be able to preserve the history of the community.”

“Being a volunteer is a very important aspect of living here in a small community,” Ms. Fraser told the Recorder. “Working with community members is rewarding and it takes a team to make everything happen.”

Ms. Fraser told the Recorder she has been on the Old Mill Heritage Museum board for at least 10 years, and has served as its chair for the past three years. “I like history and doing research on Manitoulin Island and Billings, Kagawong especially.”

She serves as well at St. John’s Anglican Church as a warden and treasurer and is on the events  committee and Island council.

“I am also on the Canada 150 committee made up of a partnership of 4Elements, the Billings recreation committee, the museum and the Township of Billings,” she pointed out.
As well she was on the Billings waste management committee from 2004-2005.

Dianne has been a member of the Kagawong Cenotaph Board since 2006 and has been service leader for the Remembrance Day ceremonies since 2008.

“I was also involved in the barn quilt project on the Island a few years ago,” Ms. Fraser told the Recorder. “There are lots of quilters on Manitoulin. I am not a quilter myself but I helped paint some of the quilt designs that are displayed outside on buildings around the township. The project was a representation of quilts as a very beautiful art form as well as the very practical use of bed covers.”

Ms. Fraser is and has been involved in fundraising events. One of the biggest, when she first moved back home, was for the new hall for St. John’s Anglican Church. This addition took three years to accomplish. The hall has been a good place for fellowship, celebrations, community meetings, luncheons, pot lucks, bake sales and teas.

“At the museum, one project was the development of Mariners Park for people to sit, visit and enjoy the beauty of Mudge Bay,” said Ms. Fraser,  “and with the outdoor artifacts, people can learn some of the history in Billings.”

The Post Office Museum was renovated with grants provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and FedNor. Rejuvenated, the building now has renewed exhibits about homesteading, schools, the post office, stores, communications and transportation. The Museum Board is really proud to have carried on work of the Historical Society in this building.”

“The Lester B. Pearson exhibit last year in the Old Mill Heritage Centre was a large project to take on,” said Dianne. “It turned out to be very successful, as so many people visited and shared in the history of Mr. Pearson and his work in the riding as an MP and as Prime Minister of Canada.”

This year the museum has new exhibits featuring the Henry Brothers’ story, the historical walking tour of Kagawong, the replica of a blacksmith shop circa late 1800s-early 1900s, and Life in Billings-On the Land and in the Home, telling about life of the first settlers of Billings Township.”

“I am a Haweater, having been born in Mindemoya at the former Red Cross Hospital,” Dianne told the Recorder. “I was actually one of the first babies that Dr. Jack McQuay delivered.”

“I attended school at SS#1 Billings, which was a one room school house with Grades 1-8. Mamie Gordon was the teacher.” Ms. Fraser stated that, “it was interesting going to school there. As we progressed through the grades and became one of the older students, the teacher would ask us to help take care of the younger students by helping them learn to read.”

After elementary school was complete Ms. Fraser attended Gore Bay High School. “I enjoyed my time   in high school and was involved in lots of activities like softball, broomball, hockey, track, volleyball, choir, French Club, cheerleading and student council. We had an interesting mix of teachers at the school with representation from many countries such as Germany, England and Wales. They all provided a very different world perspective for the students,” she said. “The school always held a Cinderella Ball in the spring and I had the honour of being voted Miss Gore Bay High School in 1966.”

She was chosen in Grade 11 to take part in the Ontario Athletic Leadership Camp held in Couchiching, sponsored by the Department of Education.

After graduating from high school Ms. Fraser attended Teachers College in North Bay and taught for 32 years retiring in 2000.

In 1973 Dianne married David Fraser who was also from Manitoulin. After retiring, David and Dianne moved back to the Island to be closer to their parents.

“Dave and I are certainly enjoying our time here,” continued Dianne, “being with family and friends. I would like to thank the council of Billings Township for selecting me for this award. Volunteering is so very important to all communities. To me, this award represents a show of appreciation and a thank you to all the volunteers who help make this part of the Manitoulin Island such a beautiful and welcoming place to live.”