COVID-19 robs community of two important celebrations

In years past, your humble scribe who has covered something like 13 of the last 15 PECI graduations for these pages has made some cracks at the ceremony’s expense.

The PECI graduation committee has been very adept at ordering only the most humid of weather in order to turn Huff Estates Community Centre into Prince Edward County’s largest sauna and, given the ceremony can run over three hours, it’s been natural to make a joke or two about working conditions once retired to the safety of an air conditioned newsroom.

But what we wouldn’t give to be down on the arena floor this evening, listening to Pomp and Circumstance as the latest crop of fresh-faced youngsters march in, ready to punch their ticket into adulthood amidst their parents and family cheering them on.

In a different world, after all the diplomas, scholarships, bursaries and awards were handed out, PECI Class of 2020 valedictorian Nolan Steen would saunter to the dais and offer heartfelt words of encouragement, remarking on the last four years of life at the local secondary school. There would be some laughs, some cheers and a proud-as-punch mom ringing a cowbell at the end of it.

Sorry Amy, the Gazette knows what this moment meant to the Steen family and it’s our hope the graduating class can reconvene this fall where Nolan will have the chance to make his valedictory address to his friends and classmates.

Some PECI grads will be heading off to new and exciting post-secondary adventures en route to a life not of this island. Others will stay and tend to home fires. Whatever the choice (and there’s no wrong one at this stage), the graduating class of 2020 should know they are the pride of Prince Edward County.

They’ve stayed the course, earned through hard work their Ontario Secondary School Diploma and the entrance ticket to a new world they will be exploring.

They should know with confidence this community is proud of them and their efforts, particularly in light of all that’s happened and will happen in 2020. We will celebrate their triumphs, encourage them through their trials and support them as part of this big Prince Edward County family.

The COVID-19 pandemic robbed this community of another joyous celebration and opportunity to gather en masse on Friday.

Again, without the spectre of the novel coronavirus, Friday’s gathering for the announcement that the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital redevelopment project was moving ahead would have been packed with far more than the vetted dignitaries and collection of media that showed up. Hospital supporters like Eleanor Lindsay and Fran Renoy were missed.

Many, many members of the devoted Auxiliary surely would have attended. Foundation board members and the many donors were likely longing to hear in person those magic words escape MPP Todd Smith’s lips and while a Zoom feed was a nice alternative, those in attendance would admit such an occasion felt dulled without the post-announcement congratulatory hugs and handshakes.

And let’s be clear on this project. The new PECMH is coming and now is the time if you haven’t already to commit to supporting the community’s portion of the cost of the project. At $11.3 million of $16.6 million raised and pledged, we are, to use a football axiom, in the red zone and the goal line is in plain sight.

But we can’t let this moment pass without recognizing past Foundation chairs Monica Alyea and Leo Finnegan. Their tireless efforts and unflinching resolve to support Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital in the tough times and at the genesis moments of the redevelopment concept are duly noted.

As current Foundation chair Barb McConnell noted at the announcement, “Today we stand on their shoulders” and a grateful community applauds Monica and Leo’s dedication and enduring commitment to the future of our community hospital.



Busy AS A BUMBLEBEE – (l-R) Prince Edward County’s busiest pollinators are back in furious action during this time of bloom and pleasant weather. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)