Andre Sutherland Begin visits Village by the Station monthly, entertaining the residents with dramatic recitations of Robert Service’s poems like The Cremation of Sam McGee. Steve Kidd/Western News

Storyteller brings poetry to seniors

Penticton man tells the tale of Robert Service and his poems

About two decades ago, Andre Sutherland Begin was given an assignment in an English course that set him on the path of the storyteller.

At the time, Begin was attending college in Nanaimo, taking conservation officer training, when he was given the assignment to memorize a poem.

“I recalled hearing The Cremation of Sam McGee in grade school. So I downloaded that and I memorized it,” said Begin.

He’s still got Robert Service’s famous poem memorized, along with many more, that he has been performing for 18 years. Senior’s homes are especially important to him, like Village by the Station in Penticton, which he visits monthly.

“One of my storytelling partners, her mother lived in a retirement residence, so I went there to give them a show,” said Begin.

That start was followed by visits to other retirement centres around Nanaimo. “Then I found the Travellers Lodge. They house dementia and Alzheimer’s Syndrome patients, which is my charity. My father passed away from Alzheimer’s, as well as an aunt and an uncle. So I went there on a monthly basis as a volunteer for six years.

“Another reason I do it, about a year ago, I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.“

Begin combines his dramatic recitations of Service’s poems with real tales of Service and how the poems came to be. But Begin’s reasons for continuing are simple.

“It is just something I enjoy, and the elders enjoy it. I took it as a challenge to memorize more and more of his poems. I have about an hour show I do now, I have about 20 poems in memory,” said Begin. “I like the rhyme and the rhythm and the history of it and the stories behind it. I’ve also studied the history of Whitehorse and the gold mining.”

Just Posted

Art gallery heating things up with chilli cook-off

Penticton art gallery pits local chefs against one another for a fundraiser

Veteran reporter to stay at Global Okanagan

Blaine Gaffney was given a layoff notice after a miscommunication

Column: Disappointed by comments about local rally

Dustin Godfrey is a reporter for the Penticton Western News

No serious injuries in morning accident

Two pickup trucks collided at an intersection on a Saturday morning.

Vees march to division title goes on

The Penticton Vees lead the Interior Division standings, four points ahead of their closest rivals.

What’s happening

Check out what is happening this weekend in the Okanagan-Shuswap.

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Olympic dreams come true for South Okanagan coach

Penticton coach watches as his skier brings home the gold

Ski Patrol and SAR search for missing skier

Man’s truck found in Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s parking lot covered in ‘several days’ snow’

Princeton man brings pooch to court

Dog is “the best witness”

B.C. files new legal action against TransMountain pipeline

Province tries to uphold City of Burnaby bylaws, provoking Alberta

BCHL Today: Powell River stuns Vernon and BCHL grads lead Team Canada

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Reports of money laundering in B.C. real estate ‘troubling’: attorney general

News report alleges people connected to fentanyl trade are using B.C. real estate to launder money

Most Read