Locals honoured with Diamond Jubilee Medals
Villeneuve couple, volunteer extraordinaire, soldier received royal honours this month
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013 06:00 am
A handful of locals received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal this month for their outstanding contributions to the community.
Volunteer extraordinaire Amanda Magyar, 20, said it was surreal to receive the honour from the Girl Guides of Canada.
“It didn’t feel real. It was such an honour to receive it,” she said.
Magyar volunteers for a handful of organizations but was recognized by Girl Guides of Canada for dedicating countless hours to that organization, which handed out 30 medals to volunteers.
Magyar said she has been involved in Girl Guides programming since she was six years old, and has been leading a brownie and guide unit for the last two years.
“If I wasn’t volunteering, I don’t think I would be Amanda,” she said. “It’s what I do.”
Warrant Officer Gerard Francis Gosse, a member of the Canadian Forces for 31 years and counting, was awarded Feb. 2 for his nearly 11-year commitment to the Canadian cadet movement.
“I’ve done as much as I possibly can to support the program to make things happen to make sure the cadets get what they need, when they need it, where they need it,” he said.
Gosse said he felt singled out at the award ceremony, which recognized 15 individuals involved with cadets, and said the ceremony shined a welcome spotlight on the cadet program.
The program aims to prepare youth for adult life through the various exercises they face and the various skills they will acquire.
“Realistically, it keeps teenagers off the streets, it gives them something (constructive) to do,” he said.
Colleen and Raymond Soetaert were honoured at a ceremony Feb. 7 for their lifelong commitment to better the Villeneuve area.
“Both Colleen and Ray are tireless volunteers, outstanding citizens and dynamic leaders, working to better their community, parish and province,” said city councillor Len Bracko at the ceremony.
He said Ray even volunteered to organize the ceremony, which he thought was solely in recognition of his wife. He did not know that he too would be receiving a medal.
“It was quite a surprise for both of us and it was very touching,” Colleen said. “You don’t volunteer for recognition, you volunteer because you love doing it.”
Colleen represented Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert in the legislature for two terms from 1993 to 2001, sitting as a Liberal MLA.
Upon Colleen’s exit from political life, the Soetaerts threw themselves into the West Sturgeon Aging in Place Foundation, which constructed West Country Hearth, a 77-bed seniors’ assisted living facility in Villeneuve.
The facility is currently expanding its dementia ward, called Harmony Haven, by 13 beds and expects to open it in the fall.
“Raymond and I love our community, all the aspects of it,” she said. “To be recognized for caring and loving it … it was kind of overwhelming.”
Raymond was a teacher and vice principal with the Sturgeon School Division for 33 years and spent three years as principal of the Kipohtakaw Education Centre in the Alexander First Nation.
The pair has volunteered countless hours with the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women’s League and coaching various sports teams.
The Diamond Jubilee Medal was created to mark the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II and is awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to their community, province or country.
A total of 60,000 Canadians will be presented with the medal by the end of February, marking the end of the year of celebrations.