Eric Bunnell's People: A show of solidarity

St. Thomas on Wednesday voiced a community's grief over the unbelievable tragedy Sunday in London in which a family was destroyed after a man reportedly ran them down while they were out for an innocent evening's stroll in their neighbourhood.

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St. Thomas on Wednesday voiced a community’s grief over the unbelievable tragedy Sunday in London in which a family was destroyed after a man reportedly ran them down while they were out for an innocent evening’s stroll in their neighbourhood.

The family was Muslim and police have described the alleged murder of four persons that claimed a father, mother, grandmother and daughter as a hate crime. Only a boy survived, with serious injury.

A London vigil Tuesday attracted an estimated 10,000 people.

It’s a loss that city residents also mourned Wednesday evening. For two hours, they lined up along Southwick Street in a silent walk-by vigil, also livestreamed on Facebook, to sign a book of condolence at the St. Thomas Islamic Centre, where flowers also had been laid.

And to show our solidarity in the face of a horror that certainly is a crime against all of us.

A field of red

Poppies!

There must have been thousands of bright red poppies waving in bloom in a field in the new Orchard Park on the city’s southeast side.

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And the sight, much shared on social media, has attracted a steady stream of St. Thomas residents, including Rebecca Stephenson, who enjoyed an outing with her mother, Pam Nesbitt, and son Carter, almost 11 months.

Pam Nesbitt, left, daughter Rebecca Stephenson and her son, Carter, are among a stream of spectators who have been enjoying a field of bright red poppies which has sprung up in the city’s new Orchard Park. (Eric Bunnell)
Pam Nesbitt, left, daughter Rebecca Stephenson and her son, Carter, are among a stream of spectators who have been enjoying a field of bright red poppies which has sprung up in the city’s new Orchard Park. (Eric Bunnell) jpg, WD

“When you can only do outdoor activities, it’s nice to have something beautiful to come and go for a walk and just look at,” Rebecca said on Monday.

I’m not sure with this week’s heat how much longer the poppies are with us, but there will be more to see in their field neighbouring the new park’s lawn.

The poppies were seeded in a wildflower mix that homebuilder Doug Tarry Ltd. suggested and funded. The Orchard Park neighbourhood has been a Tarry project.

“The poppies are in bloom right now, but there’s many different varieties in the wildflower mix,” Adrienne Jefferson, city manager of parks and forestry, said earlier this week.

“It should go all three seasons – spring, summer and fall.”

And, hopefully, the annual poppies will return next year.

“It’s absolutely stunning,” Adrienne agreed.

The park is at the end of Empire Parkway, which is east a couple of roundabouts on Peach Tree Boulevard south from Elm Street.

(While the new greenspace is called Orchard Park, Adrienne said coming tree plantings on the former farmland likely won’t be fruit trees. They demand too much maintenance. But that decision is in the future … right now, a playground is in the planning.)

Reality star

He was Brendan Polasek on the St. Thomas Stars roster when the star goalie was traded to the hometown hockey team in 2015 from the Caledonia Corvairs. The 20-year-old was the top-rated goalie that season in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.

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But it’s as Brendan Quinn that he’s now vying for the attention of Katie Thurston in the current go of the ABC-TV show, The Bachelorette. (A stage name, don’t you know – Quinn’s his middle name.)

The reality show began its 17th season June 7.

As a Star, Brendan was one of the crowd at Legends Tavern, a team sponsor that now is rooting for its alumnus.

“He was a regular customer,” owner Andy Lerikos said. “And being that he was a goalie, we always used to sponsor the goalies. That’s how we knew him.”

And with restos reopening Friday with patio dining, the sports bar’s TVs will be rolled outside and tuned to the show to root for Brendan when he makes his appearance.

“He’s just a really nice guy, charming. He’s just very well likeable.”

Andy said Katie would be making a mistake not choosing him as her guy.

“I’d like to think so.”

Longtime Stars booster Tammy Ford agrees. Brendan was a billet at the Ford home during his time in town.

“He’s very full of life. Happy-go-lucky. That’s a good thing!”

The TV show bios Brendan thisaway: “He is a straight shooter and says that nothing makes him happier than putting a smile on the face of the woman he loves.”

But something that puts a frown on his own face? Veggies. Hates ’em!

No surprise to Tammy.

“Oh, yes,” Tammy laughs. “I knew very much so.

“We cooked them and l put them on the table – he didn’t eat them.”

Now back in his native T.O., Brendan is a trainee firefighter, though he still laces up in a local league.

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Sidelined by injury

Sadly, Sophie Grant is out.

The 21-year-old skateboard athlete who picked up the sport as 16-year-old student during lunchtime at Parkside Collegiate Institute, and later honed her skills at Aylmer’s skateboard park when she lived there, was to have competed in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, where skateboarding was included for the first time.

But the Aylmer Express reported this week that the Team Canada member, a London native now living back there, has been sidelined by a concussion she suffered in a fall while performing a skateboard trick.

She now is looking forward to the 2024 Olympiad in Paris.

“In these next three years while I train for Paris 2024, you will see a whole new skater,” she has posted.

‘An exciting development’

The “sold” sign has gone up on another corner of the former Timken Canada plant site.

No future of the property yet announced but Sean Dyke, St. Thomas Economic Development Corp. CEO, is chuffed.

“There’s a severance process ongoing right now that should move forward shortly and an announcement on who the buyer is should come after that.

“In the meantime, it’s safe to say that there’s an exciting development coming to the busiest intersection in the city, with commercial and residential uses.”

Hmm. And like they say on TV, Sean signs off, “Stay tuned.”

Get Gorgeous for Grad

Who knows yet how this year’s high school and Grade 8 graduation ceremonies will go ahead.

But in whatever form, the St. Thomas-Elgin YWCA once again is helping young people whose families are on a tight budget tog out to celebrate.

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For at least 10 years, the YW has hosted Get Gorgeous for Grad. It’s an opportunity for young guys and gals to find their fun clothes for their big night in a boutique-style setup. Get Gorgeous offers a 45-minute confidential appointment, and gowns and suits and shoes are free

“We are very pleased to be able to offer this opportunity to students who have had anything but a regular school year – graduation is an important milestone and should be celebrated” said Lindsay Rice, the YW’s director of services and community development, in a release.

“We hope this event helps give participants the opportunity to feel confident and fully enjoy this important time in their lives whether their celebration is outdoors with classmates, virtually or with family.

Clothing is donated by retailers, as well as the local community, and support is “fantastic,” Lindsay said on the phone. They help between 30 and 60 young people look their best each year.

Get Gorgeous for Grad goes Tuesday through Friday next week and the number to call for a booking is 519-631-9800.

The program is returning after a pandemic postponement last year, and public health protocols will be in place.

Patio season

And Friday’s word definitely is …. patios!

As Ontario moves into the first phase of reopening from the latest lockdown, restos can open their patios Friday.

Andy Lerikos will open the Legends patio at 11 a.m.

Yet, after restaurants being shut to in-person dining for so long, Andy said the moment is “kind of a bittersweet victory.

“We’re thinking of others as well … other restaurants as well.”

Not all have the space for patios, Andy noted, and in an already tough industry that has struggled through COVID-19 restrictions, that could be a deal breaker for some.

Stay well.

ericbunnellspeople@gmail.com

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