ATHABASCA/BARRHEAD/WESTLOCK – Two Barrhead-area residents were among eight people from across the region recognized for their contributions to their prospective communities with a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal.
On Friday, Jan. 13, Barrhead's Herman Barkemeyer and Fort Assiniboine's Dale Kluin received their medals during an afternoon ceremony hosted by Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken at his constituency office in Barrhead.
The medal is a new award created to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the thrones of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. About 7,000 Albertans that have made a significant contribution to their communities and the province will receive the award.
"This is a special ceremony to honour individuals who are givers. They gave of themselves to their communities, province and county in service to others without expecting anything in return," van Dijken said.
He noted that Queen Elizabeth II expressed her wish that all events celebrating the jubilee be occasions to celebrate togetherness and optimism about the future.
“That is why today is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our award winners who make our communities better," van Dijken said. "It also serves as a tribute set by our late majesty throughout her extraordinary lifetime. Like (Queen Elizabeth II) these medal recipients lead rather than wait to be led. They tackle challenges head-on and see problems as opportunities instead of obstacles."
Herman Barkemeyer, a long-time Royal Canadian Legion member and Canadian veteran serving for 10 years with the army and air force, including an 18-month rotation with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) in the Korean War. He received his medal for his work helping area veterans as the Legion's service officer.
"His commitment and devotion to supporting veterans, he has become a positive role model and inspiration within our community," van Dijken said.
A longstanding member of the Fort Assiniboine Fire Department, van Dijken noted Kluin is a perennial jokester that always has his community's best interest at heart, serving as the Fort Assiniboine Legion president and on several other boards, he dedicates his time to numerous non-profit groups and organizations. He also served as a Woodlands County councillor for 14 years.
Tammy Funk (Westlock)
van Dijken called Funk a humble servant in the Westlock community that gives her time freely to those without family or the ability to help themselves.
"Her willingness to help others is admirable, as she is always ready to assist and lend a helping hand," he said.
Arnold Gerlach (Rochester)
A farmer and business owner, van Dijken said Gerlach is a stalwart member of the Rochester area.
"His commitment and dedication to coaching youth sports, founding the local Lions Club, and the Bluebird Conservation Group are a few of his many valuable contributions to the community," he said.
David Hall (Westlock)
van Dijken noted that for more than 50 years, Hall has been committed to public service, including serving in the Canadian Armed Forces reserves with the Rocky Mountain Rangers within the 39 Canadian Brigade Group, the RCMP, as well as a prosecutor in the provincial and solicitor’s prosecution service.
"He also volunteers on numerous boards and organizations. He has truly made a positive impact in our community," he said.
Bonnie Speers (Rochester)
A dedicated educator, van Dijken said Speers volunteers her time to the local community with numerous agricultural and youth groups.
"All while raising a family helping to manage a successful farm and co-authoring a book with her spouse. Her commitment and dedication have had a positive impact on her community," he said.
Larry Speers (Rochester)
A decorated athlete and educator, van Dijken said Speers is a community leader who has had a lasting impact on both his students and the community.
In addition, as mentioned above to managing a successful farm and co-authoring a book with his wife, van Dijken said, Speers' "strong leadership to the Athabasca region has made him a prominent individual to be admired".
Doris Splane (Boyle)
A long-time councillor with Athabasca County, Splane served the Boyle area for 20 years before retiring in 2021.
van Dijken said her commitment to serving her constituents did not go unnoticed.
"Doris has also actively volunteered on numerous boards and committees in the community as well as contributed her spare time to assist seniors and youth groups," he said.
Also receiving a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal for their service to their communities were Mathew Johnsen of Westlock and Dr. Harvey Scott of Athabasca. Unfortunately, they were unable to attend the ceremony.
Johnsen, a master corporal with the 3rd Battalion, PPCLI, who recently returned home from Ukraine, where he was deployed to help improve Ukrainian security from the Russian invasions. In addition to serving with the Canadian Armed Forces, Johnsen is also a volunteer firefighter with the Westlock Fire Department. In his spare time, van Dijken noted that Johnsen dedicates much of his efforts to "responding to individuals in need and volunteering at various community events".
van Dijken said Scott, a professor Emeritus of physical education and sports studies, is "a champion of the Indigenous and ecological community, through the support of watershed programs and has a deep desire to preserve nature and the communities within".
"His love of the outdoors is inspirational," he said.