500–it seems impossible!

It was 12 years ago that Advance Editor Lori Martin called to suggest I try my hand at writing a regular column. Kid One was 18 years old and just heading out the door to begin his career in the ski industry; Kid Two, at age 13, was entering her last year of elementary school Extended French at Prince of Wales School; Kid Three had just joined our family and was completing high school and planning her future.

My first column dealt with the death that summer of Judy Shipton (longtime Barrie teacher) and Bill Malcolmson (downtown’s Malcomson’s Insurance).

In between the first and today’s 500th I’ve been able to follow my instincts and tell good stories.

Good stories. That’s generally been the goal for each of my columns. Philosophically I feel strongly that every news medium plays a major role in how people approach their lives. A steady diet of negative news can send people into a mental downhill spiral… it’s important to balance our news… good news matters!

And so, it became my mantra to tell the stories that nobody would ever know. It’s been a privilege to have page 3 or 5 or 7 (wherever I’ve been) enter your homes every week. Over the years I’ve begun to feel in close conversation with my readers and I’ve appreciated comments from you.

There have been so many ‘firsts’ celebrated through these columns… the launch of my website, www.donnadouglas.com, (where all my columns rest), the closing of Edgar Occupational Centre, the passings of young people like Dennis Pratt and middle aged people like Alf Lower, and old people like Lucretia Rowe and Jean Gable. The column has celebrated the launch of dozens and dozens of businesses. It’s shared the stories of Barrie people like the Pavliks who grew up and built their business and turned it over to their kids.

It’s given information about community efforts like Circle at the Centre, the Barrie Community Health Centre, Hospice Simcoe and Gilda’s Club. It’s honoured volunteers like Thelma Cockburn (for Rainbows) and Joan Jarvis (Out of the Cold).

Column 101 tells the story of our commitment to refugees in the early 80’s. Column 131 centres on 2 hats, both fur bands, and their origin that created a magical story.

Family Life has obviously crept in to these columns. My personal battles with mice and red squirrels has infiltrated humour into this space. A news photo of Iraqi refugees sparked my story of my husband’s family’s escape from their country and the finding of first precious cousins 50 years later. In fact, my husband, fondly dubbed My First Husband (which he is) in my columns plays a significant role of encouragement during those 2 am wakeups when I’ve forgotten to write. Perhaps a missed deadline calls on a writer’s greatest creativity. It’s during those moments, as I boot up the computer, that I spin around and stop suddenly. The first thing I see when I open my eyes is what I write about. So the coffee table column (#404) is one of those. And then there were two columns devoted to my Douglas Fir Tree and Les Gillespie (172 & 196)

It’s a privilege to tell so many people’s stories… Fran Cooke and her Wild Women, Carol Boonstra’s life, Linda Joy’s coffee cafe, Patrick Watson’s eyebrow. The Super Shopper, and the past and future of The Gables, my remarkable connection to Bob Morin (246), the inspiration of early design teachers at Georgian College (289) the demise of our shoreline Boathouses (485) and the importance of hitting the ‘pause’ button (335) .

Celebrating, giving credit, inspiring, and sharing… mostly in a positive vein… this has been my privilege.

And what would a columnist be without a reader? Frankly, what would a columnist be without a 10-year-old newspaper carrier? Absolutely nothing!

Thanks, Lori for the opportunity.
Thanks, Advance for the space and the commitment.
Thanks, Readers for your intake.