Pictured are the members of the Rotary Club of St. Marys, who gathered at Stone Willow Inn Monday evening for the club’s 90th anniversary celebrations. Back row, from left, are: Bob Stephens, Gary Cumming, Charlie Hammond, Grant Barton, Daryl McClure, Dave Cunningham, Claire Sherwin. Pierre Chateauvert, Ron Aitken, Lorne Eedy, John Harlton. Middle row: Gerry Teahen, Ray Bennett, John Uren, John Rouble, Len Hawkins, Homer Rath, Hari Nair, Doug Fread, Kessley Jennings, Mark Oliver. Front row: Lucie Stephens, Linda Schuyler, Dick MacPherson, Maurice Oliver, Marion Creery, Doug Goudy and exchange student Laura Portalier.
Speaking to the assembled crowd of about 140 people under the events tent at Stone Willow Inn this past Monday, Master of Ceremonies Mark Oliver described what it was like for the people of St. Marys on and around Monday, May 25, 1925, the day the Rotary Club of St. Marys was chartered.
The town was home to 3,847 people and two (yes, two) movie theatres. Arthur Meighen’s second term as prime minister would begin in just over a year, and in a couple of weeks the local Methodist church would become the St. Marys United Church. Electricty had only been around in town for 17 years, the work to begin paving the main downtown streets had only gotten under way in 1923, and it would be 75 years before St. Marys got a Tim Hortons.
A couple of the charter members of the St. Marys club who would have been present that day were mayor Charles E. Richardson and Perth South Member of Parliament (and former mayor) Frederick Sanderson.
Exactly 90 years later, Rotarian and St. Marys mayor Al Strathdee was on hand with his family, as was St. Marys native and chief of staff for Premier Wynne Tom Teahen, to recognize the great accomplishments of the club in that span. A few of their projects over the years have included Cadzow Park and swimming pool, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Rotary Park on Trout Creek, the annual Rural-Urban Night, and the Rotary Reading Garden outside the St. Marys Public Library.
St. Marys club president Marion Creery also spoke, recognizing various Rotary representatives from other communities, such as London, Walkerton, Stratford, Listowel, Mitchell and Sarnia, as well as past district governors, who had come to recognize the event.
Teahen, who has been called “The Premier’s right hand man,” was on hand Monday to give a speech on his “journey from St. Marys to the Premier’s Office and the importance of volunteerism to the future of our communities, province and country.” He’s been chief of staff for Premier Wynne since her election in February 2013. He was also her chief of staff when she served as minister of Education from October 2007 to February 2010, and was first a staffer at the provincial level of government in 2005 under labour minister Steve Peters.
Teahen has also previously served as chief of corporate services at the Workplace Safety Insurance Board, a past director at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and worked as an employment and labour lawyer. But before all of that, he was a student at Holy Name and St. Marys D.C.V.I.
Speaking to the Independent before his keynote speech, Teahen gave out some advice for current St. Marys students on how they can go on to achieve their goals.
“I never dreamed that I would end up being the chief of staff to the premier when I was in high school,” he said. “But, I followed my interests, and following my interests led me to this job. It’s a product of a lot of hard work, but it’s also a product of believing in yourself and dreaming big.”
Teahen said that most of the people he’s come into contact with who are most successful have done so well because they have been mentored by other people. “Work hard, dream and, if there’s anything you’re interested in, talk to people,” he said. “99 per cent of people who are successful want to help other people be successful. So, never be afraid to ask for help, or to seek people out who you think you might like to learn from.”
“In my experience, 99 per cent of the time, they’ll say yes and they’ll be helpful,” he said.
Another bit of advice Teahen yielded is one that’s been illustrated rather publicly in the past few days, by the recently-suspended Alberta NDP MLA Deborah Drever. The 26-year-old was elected to a Calgary riding during Alberta’s provincial “Orange Wave,” but has been the target for a great deal of criticism recently. It all began when a series of photos from her Facebook and Instagram surfaced, portraying her in a less-than-professional light.
“In this world now with social media and all those things – things you do as a young person, they can have implications for you later in life,” Teahen said. “Facebook and digital pictures and all these things never go away. It can be sad that’s the case, but that’s the truth. So you have to be careful.”
Teahen said he credits the Rotary Club, along with lessons from his parents Roberta and Gerry and from the Town of St. Marys, for teaching him the value of putting the service of others above your own personal gain. “The greatest fulfillment you’ll get is when you’re helping others succeed,” he said. “That’s what Rotary is about.”