May 28th, 2024

Local luminaries inducted into Alberta Order of Excellence

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on December 22, 2021.


The late Cor Van Raay is among one of 15 Albertans invested into the province’s Order of Excellence.
The Order recognizes Albertans “who have made an outstanding provincial, national or international impact,” said a recent press release. It is Alberta’s highest honour and is part of the Canadian Honours System.
New members were recently invested in a scaled-back ceremony due to COVID-19 public health restrictions. They bring the total number of members to 197.
A well-known philanthropist and cattleman, Van Raay died in July.
He “strengthened both agriculture and agribusiness in Western Canada through his innovation and entrepreneurship. His generosity and community building enriched the lives of Albertans,” according to the press release.
Also honoured was Lena Heavy Shields-Russell (Ikkináínihki), a Blood Tribe elder, author, and teacher who is described as a “trailblazing translator” in the release.
She created Alberta’s Blackfoot curriculum, safeguarding the language and culture to pass on to future generations,” says the release.
“Her love of language, teaching and Indigenous culture have inspired countless Blackfoot people to build a deeper connection with their heritage,” according to information on the website.
“She gained particular attention for her ground-breaking Blackfoot translation of John McCrae’s classic World War I poem “In Flanders Fields,” which she is often called upon to recite at Remembrance Day ceremonies. Lena’s translation is now housed in Holland, taking its rightful place in a veterans’ museum,” says the website.
“Lena would go on to teach the Blackfoot language and general literacy skills for more than 50 years. Along the way, she partnered with Alberta Education to develop a Blackfoot curriculum for grades 7 to 12, which remains in use today. She is a proud member of the Aitsi’poyiiksi, a group dedicated to preserving the Blackfoot language. Her life’s work has done much to ensure that the Blackfoot have the knowledge they need to sustain this priceless piece of their heritage, now and forever.”
The province’s website describes Van Raay as “one of southern Alberta’s most prominent entrepreneurs who has strengthened the agriculture industry and ensured the future of agribusiness through 50 years of innovation. A compassionate philanthropist and community builder, his generosity has improved the lives of countless Albertans.”
The website adds “a long-time supporter of the YMCA of Lethbridge and a champion for community health, Cor donated one of the largest gifts ever to a Canadian YMCA. With his gift, the Y was able to purchase the fitness and recreation equipment for its new facility in West Lethbridge, the third largest YMCA in North America, now named the Cor Van Raay YMCA.
“Other community-based organizations in Lethbridge that have benefitted from his gifts include the Chinook Regional Hospital Foundation, École Agnes Davidson School, Helen Schuler Nature Centre and St. Michael’s Health Centre/Covenant Health Foundation. His latest endeavour is supporting the creation of the Cor Van Raay LINK Pathway, a 14-km paved trail connecting Lethbridge and Coaldale, giving cyclists, walkers and runners a safe long distance trail to use and appreciate the beautiful countryside.”
Others invested this year include former premier Ed Stelmach and Holger Peterson, a co-founder of Stony Plain Records and the Edmonton Folk Festival.

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