SUMMERSIDE — Ken and Jenny Meister never expected when they moved to Summerside and took on the massive undertaking of renovating a heritage home that they would be accepting an award for their efforts.
The couple, who purchased the historic home at 98 Summer St. and renovated it into a bed and breakfast, were among the long list of individuals, organizations, businesses and projects recognized during Tuesday night’s P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation’s annual Heritage Awards.
The retired military couple and their children moved to Summerside in 2012 and began the labour intensive, time-consuming and, at times, overwhelming restoration project, mostly on their own, all while ensuring to keep with its integrity.
“It’s pretty exciting, for sure. We can thank George Dalton, our neighbour, for nominating us,” said Ken following the ceremony. “It is something we definitely didn’t expect when we started doing it. We are grateful.”
The Meisters were among several Prince County residents, organizations and projects were received P.E.I. Heritage Awards during the event held at Summerside’s Eptek Art and Culture Centre.
“I am continually impressed with the effort we put forth to protect and preserve the Island’s history and heritage,” said Tourism and Culture Minister Robert Henderson.
He noted visitation numbers have increased from eight to 35 per cent at the seven P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation’s sites, with Eptek seeing the highest spike.
“Islanders have a special place in their hearts for the province’s cultural heritage. That’s partly because of having such a small base of population and our roots run very deep here,” said the minister prior to the awards presentation. “Our soft spot for cultural heritage might have something to do with our sense of pride. Prince Edward Island has a huge role to play in the development of this country.”
He commended the award winners on taking the lead in preserving our heritage.
“You deserve a very hearty thanks.”
Other Prince County recipients included La Belle-Alliance and George Arsenault for the publication, “Les Acadians de Summerside”; Rona Burt for family heritage kits she compiled for her grandchildren; J. Clinton Morrison for his book, “Booze: A Social Account of Prohibition on Prince Edward Island”; Lowell Huestis, named Volunteer of the Year; and Cody MacKay, Youth Volunteer of the Year for his work on recording the stories of local veterans.
MacKay, a university student from Summerside, was surprised to learn he was receiving the award.
“I absolutely didn’t know this was going to happen. I just found out a couple of weeks ago I won the award. I didn’t even know I was nominated,” said MacKay. “To win this is incredible but it is the result of everybody around me, from my professor Ed MacDonald to my boss George Dalton, to my brother Glenn, my grandfather Eric and my mother Donna. They mean the world to me and this community has won this award. This is just the result of what they have done.”
Through the project, which he spend last summer doing and an additional week of his own time, he learned how to approach, ask questions and talk to people and, as a result, may be changing his career path to journalism.
“I never really had the skills to talk to people and how to approach people and they just threw me in it and said ‘here you go’. As a result, it’s been a catalyst to who I am today. I learned so much,” said MacKay. “It was a great time for me to get that learning experience. Five years ago, before I was in university, I don’t think I would be able to understand what was happening or grasp what they were saying.”
The stories he heard from veterans who fought in the battlefield will stay with him for life, some touching and others disturbing and sad.
“There was a guy who at the end of the interview he would grab my arm and start crying and say ‘this means everything to me’. A lot of them don’t talk to people,” said MacKay. “That made me stay an extra minutes, to stay around and make him happy. That was a big deal to me. Their stories were huge.”
Huestis, at age 85, doesn’t see himself slowing down anytime soon. As it said in his citation, the avid volunteer has been involved in almost every heritage-related project in Summerside, including helping establish the Air Force Heritage Park.
“It is an ongoing thing. You do it when you’re young and it just follows through. You like to be involved with people and the things that are done, especially to help Eptek Centre here in Summerside. We have to co-operate and keep it going,” said Huestis. “We try to contribute what we can. I still feel young. I imagine doing this for another 10 or 15 years.”
Although he has been involved in countless projects, the Air Force Heritage Park is one that stands out.
“I was always interested in flying,” said Huestis. “I am proud every time I drive by the airplanes at Slemon Park. We were able to save them. I am happy about that.”
Others winners were
- Leonard Cusack for “A Party for Progress”
- John Flood for “The Master’s Wife: Essays of Sir Andrew Macphail’s Masterpiece”
- Jesse Francis for “N’in na L’nu: The Mi’kmaq of P.E.I. Exhibition and Catalogue.”
- MCPEI for the theatre production, “Mi’kmaq Legends”
- Munn Family for the restoration of the Lowe Home, Valleyfield
- Stephen Tawell for the restoration of 37 Hillsborough St., Charlottetown
- Tyron Area Historical Society for natural heritage activities
Natural Heritage Activity
- Ron Arvidson
Publication of the Year
- Confederation Centre of the Arts and Ed MacDonald for “Cradling Confederation”
The Irene Rogers Award
- APM for the restoration of the Kays Building
The Wendell Boyle Award
- Laura Stewart for her video “Just a Mess”
The Award of Honour
- Reg Porter