Betty McWhinnie took her napkin to the podium when she was announced as Whistler’s Citizen of the Year at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.
"This is in case I start to bawl," she said.
McWhinnie, 83, was honoured as citizen of the year for her years of volunteer work in Whistler. McWhinnie was nominated for "her many diverse efforts over the last 19 years," Garry Watson, last year’s citizen of the year said in introductions.
A long-time dedication to the Whistler library board, emergency and community social services societies, Whistler Welcome Week, Elizabeth Manso society, and the Mature Action Committee are just some of the organizations in which McWhinnie has been involved. Most recently she was featured in Pique Newsmagazine as an opponent of the public-private partnership that was proposed for the sewage treatment plant upgrade.
With startled tears McWhinnie accepted the plaque with her name on it. She was even more surprised when Mayor Ken Melamed rose to tell her the municipality is giving her a designated parking spot and an annual bus pass. When she received the phone call on Monday asking her to come to the luncheon McWhinnie said she initially said no, citing a doctor’s appointment.
"I said oh that’s a pleasant surprise but I can’t go."
But with some behind the scenes negotiation between McWhinnie’s daughter Heidi Rode and the Vancouver doctor the appointment was changed so McWhinnie could attend.
A mother of five and ESL and commercial studies teacher at Toronto’s George Brown College for 24 years, McWhinnie also taught in Shanghai in 1983-84.
Greenhouse program advocate Jim Cook; mountain bike enthusiast Tom Thompson; former chamber of commerce president Bernie Lalor-Morton; Ginny and Kerry Dennehy. founders of the Kelty Patrick Dennehy foundation; and Whistler Health Care Foundation chair Marnie Simon were also nominated for the honour.
Presented for 26 years by the Chamber of Commerce, responsibility for the award will rest with Community Foundation of Whistler in the future.