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Remembering some well-known Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who passed on in 2017

Janet Edmonds as Lady MacBeth at the open-air theatre in Cupids during Perchance Theatre’s 2015 season. Edmonds died of cancer at age 50 on May 20, 2017.
Janet Edmonds as Lady MacBeth at the open-air theatre in Cupids during Perchance Theatre’s 2015 season. Edmonds died of cancer at age 50 on May 20, 2017. - Submitted

As 2017 draws to a close, we reflect upon the many news stories, events and happenings that occurred in Newfoundland and Labrador over the past 12 months.

Of specific importance is the memory of those who have passed on — particularly those who had a significant impact upon our lives.

Some of those who died in the province in 2017 are more widely known than others — whether it be through accomplishments in sports, business or public life, or for some issue or event that affected the public in general.

Here are some of the well-known people who passed on in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2017:

• Cyril Power died Jan. 7 at age 92. He was a member of three halls of fame — provincial hockey and track and field halls of fame, and the St. John’s Basketball Hall of Fame. His multi-sports accomplishments earned him induction into the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.

• Donald (Donnie) Dunne died Jan. 13 at age 60. Dunne was a kind-hearted man who could often be seen in downtown St. John’s. He frequented places such as Marie’s and Dooly’s, and is fondly remembered by those who worked or were customers at those establishments. Many remember him from his days of attending senior hockey games at the old Memorial Stadium.

• Ches Penney died on Jan. 26 at age 84. Penney was a prominent businessman who headed Pennecon Ltd. and founded the Penney Group of Cos. Throughout his career he made tremendous contributions to the economic growth and industrial development of the province. He was also known as a philanthropist, supporting an array of charitable and non-profit organizations.

• Angus Bruneau died Feb. 19 at age 81. Bruneau’s accomplishments in business, engineering and academia were instrumental in Newfoundland and Labrador and beyond. The Canadian Academy of Engineering, of which Bruneau was a past president, paid special tribute to him with a post outlining some of his many successes. In 1968, Bruneau became the founding dean of Memorial University’s faculty of engineering and applied science.

• James McGrath died on Feb. 28 at age 80. McGrath was a former member of Parliament for St. John’s East and the eighth lieutenant governor of Newfoundland and Labrador. McGrath, originally from Buchans, was inspired to enter public life and represent his home province after volunteering during the 1948 referendum to determine whether Newfoundland would join Confederation.

• Bob Gulliver died March 9 at age 65. Gulliver was a well-known St. John’s sports volunteer who was heavily involved with Cabot Street softball in the 1970s and ’80s, and was involved in local basketball and soccer leagues. He also served for years as the provincial darts association president and was co-chairman of the 2013 World Darts Federation World Cup staged in St. John’s.

• Phyllis Angel died March 15 at age 81. Angel was an icon in the arts and dance community of Newfoundland and Labrador. She trained at the National Ballet of Canada and was recognized as an accomplished dancer. She operated the Phyllis Angel School of Dance and in 2004 was elected into the Arts Hall of Honour by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.

• Ed Drover died March 16 at age 70. He was a businessman and former member of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. Drover was a teacher and principal before moving into financial services in the late 1960s. He was a trustee on the Health Care Foundation of St. John’s, the Waterford Hospital Foundation and the St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital Foundation. He had been a director with CNIB and the Community Services Council.

• Mike Squires died March 20 at age 72. He was a Provincial Hockey Hall of Famer and sponsor of the St. John’s senior hockey team “Mike’s Shamrocks” that won the Herder Memorial Trophy in 1979.

• Michael (Mickey) Woodford died March 21 at age 87. Woodford was a former teacher and coach at St. Bonaventure’s College in St. John’s who was also a member of three of Boyle Trophy-winning hockey teams during St. Bon’s long run as St. John’s senior hockey champions.

• John Blake died March 24 at age 51. Blake was a passionate outdoorsman who served as the province’s wildlife director and who fought for the best interests of outdoor enthusiasts in the province.

• Charles (Charlie) Snook died March 10 at age 83. Snook was a provincial soccer hall of famer. A native of Grand Bank, Snook played senior soccer with his hometown GeeBees while still in school and led Grand Bank to an all-Newfoundland title in 1954, when he was named most valuable player of the provincial finals played against St. John’s in Corner Brook. In 1957 Snook was the scoring champion of the St. John’s league. He was also a four-time all-star.

• Janet Edmonds died May 20 at age 50. Edmonds was a former Miss Newfoundland (1986) who turned to acting on the stage and screen, performing in film and TV productions such as “The Grand Seduction” and “Republic of Doyle,” and in numerous theatre productions, including a run of “Rig: Voices From the Ocean Ranger Disaster” in St. John’s. Bravely fighting cancer, she was outspoken on issues facing cancer patients.

• Haukur Leifs Hauksson died on May 21 at age 53. He was a well-known local businessman who realized his dream of opening a bakery in St. John’s to introduce Scandanavian treats to customers. Hauksson moved to Newfoundland from Iceland in 2013.

• Morris Gerard Power died May 17 at age 55. Power, who had battled brain cancer, made the news because he had written his own obituary to ease his wife’s trouble and his family’s pain. He worked as a corrections officer in the province for most of his career.

• Ron Cadigan died June 18 at age 60. Cadigan was known as the player who scored one of the biggest goals in Newfoundland senior hockey history. At the old Gander Gardens, Cadigan scored a shorthanded goal in double overtime in Game 7 to give the Shamrocks the Herder crown over the hometown Flyers.

• Al Slaney died July 2 at age 61. The St. Lawrence native was considered one of the finest soccer goalkeepers the province has ever produced. He was inducted into the provincial soccer hall of fame in 2005.

• Susan Shiner died July 24 at age 65. Shiner was a lifelong advocate for women’s issues in the province. She was recognized with the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society Lifetime Achievement Award, the Governor General’s Person’s Award, the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award and the YMCA Canadian Peace Medal.

• Ed Smith died Sept. 8 at age 76. Smith was a teacher, but most widely known for his storytelling. Smith began writing a humour column called “The View From Here” in 1980 that appeared over the years in numerous papers and magazines across Newfoundland and Labrador, including The Telegram. Smith also published several books.

• RCMP Cpl. Trevor O’Keefe died Sept. 11 at age 47. O’Keefe’s death by suicide highlighted the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a serious issue that many police officers and other first responders deal with. O’Keefe’s obituary noted he died “after a courageous battle with PTSD.” His death shocked many and started a conversation about how to better deal with PTSD and provide the supports needed to first responders.

• Terry French died Oct. 3 at age 66. French was known as one of the finest hockey players to come out of Grand Falls-Windsor, and the province in general. French played with the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67s. In the 1971 NHL amateur draft, the Montreal Canadiens drafted French 25th overall, but after training camp he did not play for the Canadiens.

• Hubert Norman died Nov. 2 at age 75. Norman was a teacher, a volunteer, a lifetime member of the Cupids Historical Society, and the first lay president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Conference of the United Church of Canada. He was involved with the Canadian Bible Society and various education councils.

• Fred Andrews died Nov. 25 at age 72. Andrews was a well-known educator and former president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association (1999-2001), and father of Shanneyganock frontman Chris Andrews.

• John David Meade died Nov. 29 at age 45. Meade was well-known on the province’s west coast, particularly in the Anglican Church community. He had been destined to become the new bishop of the Diocese of Western Newfoundland.

• Victoria Best died Dec. 11 at age 27. The popular music teacher in Clarenville took her own life after battling mental-health issues — anxiety, depression and eating disorders. She had been described as a “tireless advocate” for mental-health issues and a dedicated volunteer. In September, she had been named one of the 150 Faces of Clarenville — a local Canada 150 project that honoured residents who had made a difference.

• Bert Payne died Dec. 12 at age 94. Payne was a Second World War veteran. He was a self-taught engineer who was a foreman with Bowaters in the early 1960s before moving to Ontario, where he worked for Dominion Bridge and helped build the CN Tower. He moved back to the province in 1977, where he played a key role in helping build roads all over western Newfoundland.

• Alphonsus Penney died Dec. 12 at age 93. The former archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in St. John’s was one of the church’s leaders disgraced by his handling of complaints of young boys being sexually and physically abused by priests dating back to the 1970s. Penney was found in public inquiries and court cases to be one of those in a position of authority who knew about the ongoing abuse and did nothing about it.

• Michael Bense died Dec. 12 at age 70. Bense was born in South Africa and relocated to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1971. He spent his career working as an ophthalmologist and pioneered laser eye surgery in Eastern Canada.

• Pat Quinlan died Dec. 15 at age 88. Quinlan was the founder and president of fish processing company Quinlan Brothers, one of the largest fish processing companies in the province. He received recognition for his business endeavours, including the Turning the Tide Industry Lifetime Achievement award.

• John Hickey died Dec. 15 at age 62. Hickey was mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and succumbed to injuries he received during a hunting accident. He was known as a man who worked hard for the people of Labrador in many capacities over the years — councillor, deputy mayor, mayor, president of the Combined Councils of Labrador, MHA for Lake Melville, and former provincial minister of transportation and works and minister responsible for Labrador affairs.

• Frank Taylor died Dec. 24 at age 72. Taylor was devoted to the labour movement and spent much of his life advocating for the rights of others before retiring from the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union.


There are others who could have been included on this list — people who had an impact in more local circles and made a difference in people’s lives.

Also, to be remembered are those who lost their lives through terrible acts of violence such as Victoria Head, Cortney Lake and Ryanna Grywacheski — names unfortunately added this year to the list of missing and murdered women in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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