Museum board members took time Oct. 13 to honour the many volunteers who help run the organisation, celebrate a successful season, and pay a special tribute to former member Jack Sicavish.
Museum president Connie Clifford, the afternoon’s emcee, said the Gabriola Historical and Museum Society’s (GHMC) success over the last year was due to “the dedication and hard work of all the volunteers”.
“Our grounds and building are well-maintained,” she said, “we have an exciting new display on the history of the brickyard, and a new welcoming and user-friendly website.”
On behalf of the board, Clifford acknowledged that “the museum exists and continues to grow solely through the commitment of its volunteers, so thank you everyone”.
Noting that they would be celebrating with the help of their own “Rockfish Wines”, she thanked Ann Banford, “wine vintner extraordinaire”, Mary Wohlleben and Gwen L’Heureux, who designed the labels, and Diane Cornish and Doug McKnight for organising the day’s event.
Thanks to GHMS volunteers, Clifford said, students and other islanders have benefitted from historical information made available through presentations and from museum articles about local street names.
She added that all the museum’s committees will be working over the winter, even though the museum itself will be closed.
Clifford specifically thanked volunteers Gail Kirkland and Ev Whitney who “worked tirelessly for years, raising funds for the museum, through meat draws; carrying on the legacy of Vera Wayman”. Kirkland said they have raised $2,875 through the draw.
Clifford also thanked former president Mary Wohlleben. “Through her monumental efforts,” Clifford said, “the society now has secure funding under the Regional District of Nanaimo tax base.” She said Wohlleben has “dedicated countless hours providing tours to visitors, and teaching elementary school students the value of the museum. She has brought Gabriola history to life, and she has been a tireless fundraiser, selling Easter basket raffle tickets dressed as the Easter bunny, manning the museum table at Farmers’ Markets, and supporting the meat draws.”
Noting that the museum would not exist without the efforts of past volunteers, Clifford made special mention of the late Jack Sickavish. She said Sickavish “saw the necessity to preserve Gabriola’s First Nations heritage, and was instrumental in the development of the Petroglyph Park here on the museum grounds”.
Archivist Janet Stobbs spoke to how Sickavish championed the park, fearing that the real petroglyphs would be destroyed by being trod upon and having their protective moss coverings removed. She described the many hurdles he and Gabriolan Rufus Churcher leapt to make sure the petroglyphs could be seen without destroying the originals. Finally, she said, the park was opened Aug. 16, 1997.
Before asking Sickavish’s family to unveil a plaque dedicated to him, Stobbs said: “I have asked several people about what Jack was like and the answers were all the same, but it was best said by Barry Humphrey. ‘He was persuasive, and he could connect to people. He found many who were willing to volunteer their help and expertise to move the project along. But most of all he was persistent, or – as someone has said – stubborn’.”
After a round of applause the group moved outside, where Sickavish’s wife, Edna Sicavish, and family members Maureen O’Rourke, Michael O’Rourke, and Donna Robertson unveiled the plaque.
Summing up, Regional Director Howard Houle, who was at the event, said: “It was great to meet other people who have volunteered and are still active in preserving and collecting Gabriola history. Thanks to the museum for the opportunity.”