Saturday, October 10, 2015

Selkirk Citizens

My parents live in a small Manitoba city. The community foundation asked for nominations for “Citizen of the Year” and I thought my folks could easily win. According to the foundation, they didn’t. But to me, the community wins with these two as citizens.

Here is my nomination letter.

Wedding Day!

 I cannot nominate just one. My parents have been a pair for more than sixty-five years. They are interdependent individuals, helping each other and their community in so many ways.

They are Mary and Al Cartlidge.

They moved my sisters and me to Selkirk on July 1, 1960. Sutherland Avenue was a new development, filled with young families and exciting expectations.

Dad worked at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, first as a bursar and then as the administrator. While Mom stayed home, she did occasionally work at Skills Unlimited, a workshop for patients from the Centre. I observed my parents’ open-mindedness and acceptance, Dad knowing all the patients by name and Mom letting me play with the workers at Skills. I was probably quite a distraction, but I recall having two friends, Charlie and Ross, who let me help them assemble boxes; an honour to a five year old girl!

Young family.

During the 60s and 70s, Mom and Dad were members of Christ Church where they taught Sunday School and created the popular teen group “Anglican Acorns.” Though I was too young to be a member, I have great memories of the group’s dances, walk-a-thons, and even a musical production!

During that time, Dad was a football coach for many teams in Selkirk. Now-grown men still come up to Dad with stories and memories of his time with them on cold fall days, practicing out on the field.

Mom did her part at that time by being the female chaperone for small groups of teenagers that were traveling with their teachers out west; kids that would probably not otherwise ever leave Selkirk. Mom and Dad also opened our home to children needing emergency foster care. I observed respect and compassion for others.

In the 70s and early 80s, Mom became the first teacher assistant in the Lord Selkirk School Division, working at Devonshire and Robert Smith schools. Her favourite assignment was outdoor duty where she always stuck up for the underdog. From her time outdoors, she wrote her monthly column for the school newsletter, “Playground Potpourri”, filled with funny kids’ quotes she overheard while on duty. Dad changed careers at this time and became a teacher, working at Robert Smith and St. Andrews schools, along with a year of teaching in Australia. People again still approach my parents, saying “I remember you! You were my teacher! Do you remember me?” And then a funny or sometimes touching story will be shared about my parents’ actions or reactions to any number of school mishaps or triumphs. And I observed appreciation and support for others.

When my parents retired, they maintained their connection with the community. Dad organized, and participated in Terry Fox runs for schools in Selkirk, and helped with swimming programs when female teachers needed a male helper. Mom and Dad shared their love of tennis with Selkirk kids, offering lessons to anyone who wanted to play. Up until two years ago, Dad still rode his bicycle in the Selkirk Terry Fox Run, too! And of course, Mom would cheer him on. Dad stayed involved in the school system as a volunteer reader with children at Ruth Hooker School and, for many years, Mom worked at the breakfast programs at Robert Smith and Ruth Hooker schools. I learned about sharing energy and enthusiasm. Dad also volunteered with the Selkirk Food Bank, driving the truck to pick up food. In later years, he took my son along to help, passing on the lesson of generosity. Meals on Wheels also benefitted from Mom and Dad’s helpfulness for many years.

Saying good-bye to their home.

Two years ago, my parents had to leave their beloved Sutherland Avenue home, now lined with mature trees and new sets of families, to move into a seniors apartment. They finally admitted they were senior citizens, so they got involved with the Gordon Howard Centre.  Mom volunteers two - three times a month at the front desk, and Dad attends activities twice a week. He will still teach any and all willing players the game of crokinole! Health issues are beginning to slow them down but I have watched them throughout my lifetime and have seen how each small act can make a difference.

My parents, Mary and Al Cartlidge, now in their eighties, deserve to be recognized for the positive impact they have had on so many people in the Selkirk area. This twosome has taught me, and many others what it is to be an open-minded, caring, and respectful citizen. Bravo!

Mary & Al

©Conni Cartlidge, 2015


  1. Both of them have lived to give. And to love. If anyone ever needed a 'case in point' of how to do it right, point them to your Mom and Dad.