Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Protecting creatures both great and small

Goldfish rescuer worthy of person of year

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Erin Cornelius sits next to her fish tank in her home with 99 of the 400 goldfish she rescued from the outdoor pond at the downtown library.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Erin Cornelius sits next to her fish tank in her home with 99 of the 400 goldfish she rescued from the outdoor pond at the downtown library. Photo Store

AND NOW MY NOMINATION FOR PERSON OF THE YEAR... If fish could vote, and I had my way, Erin Cornelius would be Winnipeg's person of the year. You might recall her story.

Last October, the Chicago-born 24-year-old who is a lifelong animal rescuer, made headlines by doing something most people -- even a lot of animal lovers -- couldn't fathom.

When she learned the city was draining the courtyard pond at the Millennium Library -- and the goldfish that had been illegally deposited there would be left to die -- she raced down and rescued every one she could scoop out of the puddles and muck. In total, during two days, Erin said she managed to gather more than 400 goldfish of various colours and size. About 30 would die before they could be transferred to a 70-gallon tank at her mother, Marie's, Charleswood home. But, by supplying her email address to various news media, Erin managed to find new homes for nearly 300. "I have 99 left," she told me last week.

All of them small and perfect for Christmas giving.

I know there are still many of you who still don't get it, even if you feel differently when you see people on the news desperately trying to rescue beached pilot whales. Why would anyone do so much for so long to save the lowly and common goldfish?

It really has nothing to do with goldfish being able to live for more than a decade in favourable conditions. Or even that they can help save human lives by preventing West Nile disease because they eat mosquito larva. No, the reason she has worked so hard to save the library goldfish is simple. Erin cares about all creatures large and small.

All creatures?

Someone who read the original story on another news website challenged that dedication.

"Does she feel the same about rats and mice? Cockroaches and mosquitoes? Where does Erin Cornelius draw the line?"

So I asked her about mice and cockroaches.

Mice she has saved before from sticky traps.

As for cockroaches.

"They," Erin said with smile, "can go outside."

-- -- --

PEOPLE IN THE NEWS... Val Werier is in hospital. The 96-year-old freelance Free Press columnist, dean of Winnipeg newspapermen and environmental crusader, broke his hip recently, his physician son, Jonathon Werier, tells me.

"He is at the Victoria Hospital getting attentive care," Jonathon wrote in an email. "I know he would like his fans to send him a letter or a visit." As Jonathon also said, it perks him up.

Winnipeg Police Service Deputy Chief Shelley Hart leaves policing Wednesday after 36 years. That makes her the highest-ranking female officer in the city's history and the longest-serving. I asked her what memory stands out during her accomplished career. "Probably my years in traffic," Hart said. "We just did so many positive things for traffic safety in the city." Among them, the controversial adoption of photo radar.

Monday, in what must have been an emotional moment, Hart put on her uniform for the last time. She did that to speak to her younger son Jackson's Grade 11 class at River East Collegiate. So, what does Shelley Hart civilian want to do with the rest of her life?

Well, in her youth she was a competitive swimmer who made the 1976 Olympic Trials. And she's still passionate about sports and that's where she would like to be involved.

"Something related to sports."

I wonder if Sports Manitoba is listening.

-- -- --

THE FREE PRESS DELIVERS IN A DIFFERENT WAY... A female writer of my acquaintance named Niki Trosky emailed a request on the weekend.

"I recently had the spirit of Christmas come to me in the form of a female Free Press carrier," Niki began.

The carrier found Niki's hot-pink iPhone 4 one recent snowy, dark and frigid morning, and then went to the effort of calling three phone numbers at 6 a.m. to locate the owner.

"She finally dialled 'mom' and my mom answered and graciously thanked her and told her my address."

But Niki said the carrier did even more than that. She delivered her iPhone inside a plastic bag, that also contained a complimentary Free Press.

"I feel the deed is so wonderful and thoughtful and I wanted to thank her, or at least acknowledge her," Niki continued. "Is there a way to do this through the paper?"

Yes, Niki, as a matter if fact, there is.

Anyone can email kindness@freepress.mb.ca with their owns stories and expressions of gratitude.

In fact, the Random Acts of Kindness section depends on you to do just that.

Any more grateful people out there?

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 17, 2013 B1

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