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Matthew was a gift to the Penticton arts community

Alanna Mathew was a well known and loved member of the arts community in Penticton. - Submitted Photo
Alanna Mathew was a well known and loved member of the arts community in Penticton.
— image credit: Submitted Photo

She lived for the arts with a boundless energy and a memorial fund for Alanna Mathew hopes to continue that legacy.

Mathew was returning home from Keremeos following the final performance of the Penticton Chamber Theatre’s production of the Shakespeare comedy As You Like It in August when she was in a motor vehicle accident. She died in the hospital on Sept. 12 from the injuries sustained. To honour and celebrate her life and contribution to the arts community in Penticton, friends and family established a memorial fund in her name which is managed by the Community Foundation of The South Okanagan.

Her partner Roy Thomerson met Mathew at the Seniors Drop-In Centre. It didn’t take long before he knew he wanted to take her out on a date.

“Within half an hour she said yes,” said Thomerson. “We went to all different things: theatre, shows, pictures. She was a lively person and I wanted to be with her all the time.”

At her memorial in September, actors, actresses, dancers, students, friends and her son Jeremy told tales and offered anecdotes about Mathew. She emigrated from France in 1966 to Canada and took a teaching position. Mathew was a single mother and her son Jeremy said it was not always easy for her, but she was no complainer.

“No matter how tired she might be after a day’s work she was always ready for anything artistic,” said Jeremy.

Born in Newbury, England after high school she attended the Arts Education School in London for four years training as a ballet dancer. She passed the Royal Academy of Dancing and Guildhall School of Drama exams with honours. She later taught at the National Ballet School in Dublin then in Norfolk, England and performed on British stages in musicals, opera, pantomime and ballet before coming to Canada. In 1978 she was featured in a CBC broadcast of The Bluebell Girl, In 1991 she moved to Penticton and immediately became a part of the arts community, directing and acting. Mathew helped start a book club with good friend Sonni Bone and members say she would bring a book to life.

Jim Calvert met Mathew when he played Jack in the production of Jack and the Beanstalk. He said Mathew played everyone else. He describes her as the Helen Mirren of Penticton and said she was highly intelligent, charming and a “bon vivant.”

“What I loved most was her English eccentricity, her willingness to put on a show — any place, any time and any character,” said Calvert, who worked with Mathew in many productions.

Calvert quoted Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in his eulogy stating “Cowards die many times before their death; the valiant never taste of death but once.”

“Alanna never feared death,” he said.

The fund must reach $5,000 before it can start giving out money to someone who is pursuing advancement in their studies in the arts. Currently it sits close to $3,000 and friends and family hope that people will think of the fund during the holiday season when they are donating or giving a gift.

To donate to the fund mail or deliver your gift to the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan at 390 Main St. in Penticton. Tax receipts will be issued promptly. For further information contact Aaron McRann, executive director of the Community Foundation at 250-493-9311.

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