What makes Fernie special to you?
I moved to Fernie in 2000, after leaving our Whitewater Rafting company in the bush of South Africa behind. My boys were 4 and 5 and school was just around the corner so it was time to come home.
My dad grew up on a dairy farm and my mom in a small town. I grew up in Mississauga, Ontario and wanted the boys to grow up in a small town where people looked out for each other.
I wanted the feel of community and Fernie has that.
I wanted my kids to run out the door in the morning and come back home for dinner, ride bikes and be safe all day and not worry for a minute about them.
They grew up on the river and on the hill, and of course, the rink, an idyllic childhood.
I have done some travelling and I have seen a few places, but home will always be in Fernie, on the Elk River below the Ski Hill. It’s a once in a lifetime property and I am lucky to call this place our home.
Fernie draws us back after every trip, it’s wonderful knowing that you will be welcomed back into the fold and you can always pick up where you left off.
Some say you have two homes, the one you were born into and the one you find, the one that fits, the one you where you want to see grandchildren running around laughing.
We’ve found that in Fernie.
I wanted to live in a community made up of people whose word meant something, and a handshake was their bond. It’s a bit old fashioned these days but that integrity was important to me, it’s where I come from and it’s what I want my boys to be. I wanted the boys to grow up meeting those old timers that stood for something and we are lucky enough to be surrounded by many generations of people born and bred in Fernie from farmers, and butchers, to doctors and lawyers, from grocery clerks to ski hill founders. Fernie’s past contributes to the ongoing diversity of this special place and its’ transition into the future which is a completely unique small town in Canada, with all of the best Canada has to offer.
I think our big cities can sometimes lose sight of community and respecting our elders who have so much to contribute. Their wealth of knowledge and experience can only enrich our children’s lives.
People are friendly and helpful and they smile and wave as you drive through town.
It is truly an international town with a small town personal feel. It’s a slower pace here and I think people genuinely care about each other because they chose to live here and they care about their neighbours and want to continue to build a positive environment for everyone to flourish in.
When we had decided to move to Fernie from South Africa it was decided I would do a solo cross-country road trip from Ontario, with my boys and their father to join shortly in time for the 5th birthday.
I would be hauling my grandmother’s antique sewing machine to my first ever home and on a whim, my parents decided they would join and off we set. Forty-one hours of driving later we entered into the Elk Valley and wound our way into Fernie, my mother said in awe as she craned her neck from the crowded back seat trying to take in her surroundings,” Well Susan, you have definitely picked the most beautiful place on earth to live”.
The Majesty of the Rockies is unparalleled and we are spoiled by their beauty surrounding our town.
There has been an influx of great people choosing to make a lifestyle choice by moving to Fernie and integrate with the already amazing community that has been here for generations.
It’s great to see that diversity of all ages and backgrounds making Fernie work for them and their families.
We have a small town feel with a big city capabilities.
I meet a lot of people on my travels and it is great to hear people from all over the world who have heard of Fernie and have it on their wishlist of places to visit. It makes me proud to say I live here.
What makes you proud to be Canadian?
I can remember as a kid watching the news at 6:00 pm and seeing the UN peacekeepers, some of whom were the Canadian soldiers with the Blue helmets and a feeling of pride grew as I did, knowing that Canadians are strong in our own right and want to help others less fortunate. We don’t just flex our muscles, we don’t look down on others, we pick those up that our less fortunate, which strengthens that sense of community, which defines us and joins us into a stronger nation.
We have been criticized that we are too apologetic, but it might be the simple fact that we say sorry first, which isn’t weakness, but that one word, opens the door to conversations that would never have happened without the humility of that simple word.
I am proud to know Canadians can be strong and humble.
I am fortunate to be part of a generation that can work and travel and lucky enough to have had the opportunity to experience many different cultures around the world and can come home and see that Canadians and Canada are so unique and respected in a world that is getting smaller by the day.
Canada has an amazing diverse physical beauty that changes constantly during our 4 seasons, the magnitude of the Majestic Mountains, the vastness of the plains, the freshwater lakes, the colours of the leaves in the fall, all the way to the banks on the Atlantic, north to the perma-frost and further, and everything in between. I have never come across another country with as much natural beauty that we are always surrounded with.
Canada can stand alone as a beautiful place, but the people here make this country what it is.
Helping others is an amazing feeling and I feel Canadians do this.
I was lucky enough to see this first hand while working as the Executive Director with the Veloo Foundation, a Foundation started by a Canadian family. We started as a kindergarten with 28 kids who exist on the dump in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It continues today, to evolve and grow, helping some of the poorest people, enduring the World’s harshest environment.
This Foundation, Kindergarten and its’ children came to the attention to the Governor General of Canada, The Right Honorable David Johnston and His wife Sharon Johnston who I was privileged to meet in 2013 when they were in Mongolia on a State visit.
I am proud to have had a part in the Children of the Peak Kindergarten and to know Canadians are making a difference throughout the world.
What is your Fernie story?
Fernie began for me in 1999 on a reconnaissance trip to “the West” from South Africa. The plan, to relocate our family knowing we wanted our children to grow up in Canadian mountains.
I drove into Fernie, it was beautiful. It was the stories my dad told me of the mountains and more, there was a river running through it and it was perfect. Everything we needed.
We searched for another 8 days, all the way to Vancouver, but I was done, I am afraid I did not keep an open mind. On day 2 of the 10-day trip, we had found home.
We moved here and I watched my babies become young men, then we were off to Mongolia for a few years, coming back with only my boys and being welcomed back into the warmth of the arms of Fernie and friends.
My two young men have lived in a few houses, but our home on the Elk is an anchor for all of this new family to hold onto. Fernie is our home where we are happy and loved.
At present I am actually in Eastern Russia, Dylan and Teagan are living in and caring for our home, while my fiancé Stephen McKechnie, an Australian who has also fallen in love with Fernie, look forward to the day when we can settle on the banks of the Elk River, cast a few flies and watch the world go by under the watchful gaze of the Rocky Mountains.