As the old year ends and the new year begins, many periodicals and publications take the opportunity to stop and reflect on whom they consider to be an outstanding member of the world, country and community. I feel it is an ideal (and long overdue) time and opportunity for the citizens of this great city to stop and reflect on who in this community is most deserving of our accolades. There is one member of our community who I feel should be considered for this honour above all others, no it’s not a politician or outstanding sports personality. It is Rita Chretien.
Surely more than anyone else in the past year, Mrs. Chretien has reflected the ideals that are pertinent to all of us as Canadians, British Columbians and Pentictonites. One could not have lived in this city during the past year and not have known and privately shared the anguish, torment and ultimate conquest of adversity by this brave woman. Mrs. Chretien’s story is at once one of sadness, faith, hope and fortitude. Here is a person of faith, who with little else to go on but faith, survived an ordeal which would have buckled many people of greater physical strength. One could see her story as someone who got lost in Nevada (whether by misadventure or not) and had the good luck to stick it out for 49 days before being rescued.
Many, however, believe it to be much, much more than that. It is in fact a story of epic if not herculean proportions; it tells the story of one who would not give up on life, who nurtured the will to survive against all odds. Many challenges were thrown at her and her husband and she managed to surmount them all and come out victorious at the end. The love story that is intertwined with this adventure ( tragedy) where one mate offers his life for the survival of his beloved, is worthy of inclusion in any Shakespearian masterpiece. There are so many sub-stories and lessons to be learned from this event and this brave lady’s sheer guts and determination. Regardless of any observers’ religious or spiritual beliefs, there are ones of “being left in the dark and waiting for the light”, one of “faith in believing that one is not an island unto one`s self”, of “mind over matter” and so forth.
At the completion of her tribulations, Mrs. Chretien was humble and reserved when she returned to our community. She sought no recognition, and in fact to the best of my recollection, received neither recognition nor accolades from the community at large. Was she offered any civic recognition? Perhaps the key to the city, appropriate scroll, a chance to be fêted as the grand marshall in the Peach Festival or Santa Parade? Have local educators availed themselves of her presence to teach students the life lessons she has experienced? Where and when will any of this happen? If (unknown to the writer) she has refused such recognitions when they were offered, then why not just simply Penticton’s newsmaker of the year. Or is it to be (to paraphrase an old adage), a hero is “without honour in her own hometown”.