Two ceremonies: one advancing a cause, the other heard Dvorak’s “Going Home”. Jane Irwin became part of the community memory.



By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  May 26, 2013.  It was a sod turning that didn’t see as much as a blade of grass get anywhere near a shovel. 

The event was held so that people from Ashland, the Burlington corporation that came forward and offered to lease a patch of their property for a buck a year to the Freeman people, could be officially recognized.  That generous offer was what saved the station. 

So there was going to be a sod turning event.  Then – well the problems crept in.   It just wasn’t possible to get the equipment the Freeman Station people wanted on site to clear away some brush and prepare the spot the station is going to be moved to in time for the Thursday morning event which had a kind of soft country get together about it.

It was to be a photo-op, but not one of those that really didn’t have much of a purpose, other than getting someone’s picture in the paper.

Jane McKenna, MPP for Burlington; John Mello, a Friend of Freeman Station;  Joe Cerilli  Maintenance and Engineering Team Leader Ashland Canada; John Naughton: Director, NA Operations Ashland, Director, Global Process Technology & Quality; Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster; Scott Thomson,  Plant Manager Ashland Canada; Mayor Rick Goldring;  Brian Aasgaard; James Smith, president Friends of Freeman Station; Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward

The Ashland people and the two city council members who fought to keep the saving of the Freeman station from a wrecking ball had to be in the picture – they were.  The Mayor was there as well and he is supposed to be at these functions but, truth be told the city was not able to come up with a solution for the station under his leadership and Goldring was one of those prepared to see it lost.

The shovels can be used to dig out the foundation for the Freeman Station; they certainly weren’t used for a sod turning event.

Burlington’s MPP, Jane McKenna was there – goodness knows why, other than to have her picture taken.  Our MP Mike Wallace wasn’t there – which was unfortunate.  Wallace has a passion for history and comes through every time there is a project with an historical angle.  He got federal Stimulus funding for the project and when the city got to the point where they couldn’t find a way to spend that funding Wallace juggled things and got the city permission to spend the money on another project.  Kudos to Mike for this one.

Councillors Meed Ward and Lancaster were where they were supposed to be – front and centre because it was their combined tireless efforts that the event last Thursday even took place.

Getting the pictures taken with the station jacked up on steel beams ready for transfer to the new site just yards away was a happy occasion but there was a tinge of regret – one of the people who worked tirelessly on the project was not with her peers.  Jane Irwin had passed away earlier in the year and the community was to gather later in the day at the Performing Arts Centre to celebrate her life’s work and have a chance to meet her three children and tell Jane stories to each other.

They filled the Community Studio in the afternoon and listened to music, heard the friends speak of the Jane they knew; the stalwart, short woman who just could not be stopped.  She just never quit until the day her heart gave out.

Her husband Richard spoke of “the love of my life” and told the audience of more than 225 people of the experiences and frustrations that were Jane’s life.  Few knew that she once worked as a proof reader for a medical publication; there wasn’t a person in the room who didn’t smile knowingly, to use Richard’s word, how “persnickety” she was about language.

Jane completed her doctorate at Cambridge University where the writings of George Elliott were her focus.  One of the bigger disappointments in her life was that she did not get the opportunity to do some substantial academic work.  She did teach at Trent University.  Burlington was the beneficiary of a sharp mind, a strong voice and the courage of her convictions.  At her very last public presentation Jane took city council to task for not providing adequate facilities for people who needed to be able to sit while they delegated to their local government.  That is just who she was.

Jane is part of the community memory now.



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