Heather Emberley

Heather Emberley

Crescentwood community correspondent

Heather Emberley is a community correspondent for Crescentwood. Email her at heather.emberley@gmail.com if you have a story suggestion.

Recent articles of Heather Emberley

Riverwood Choir returns to rehearsing in-person

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Riverwood Choir returns to rehearsing in-person

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 7, 2022

There is a choir in Crescentwood that could be an antidote to the stresses of COVID, thanks to the healing power of singing in community. Riverwood Choir, a non-audition, non-denominational women’s choir reconvenes at 7 p.m. on Sept. 12 at St. Mary’s Academy, 550 Wellington Cres.

What better way to start the week than singing every Monday evening? Being centrally located with free parking doesn’t hurt, either. Sessions will be socially distanced in a well-ventilated, accessible main-floor room. The expectation is that singers will be vaccinated. Masks will be optional as of this writing.

Aware of the stresses of not being able to sing in person for two years, conductor Louise Enns knows everyone needs a dose of fun. Therefore she is celebrating the choir’s return with a happy trip down memory lane, programming a Beatles retrospective for the first term. She will also be teaching a most timely song, Beauty of the Earth.

She will be joined by accompanist Peter Fyne. Enns is musically trained and teaches piano. She says her music career “began early when I conducted the rhythm section in kindergarten.”

Wednesday, Sep. 7, 2022

Riverwood is a welcoming choir, and prospective members are encourage to take time to see if it will be a good fit for them.

A community that cares

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A community that cares

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 27, 2022

They clapped. They cheered and waved. They gave thumbs up. They were people who appreciated the volunteers of the recent Interfaith Riverbank Cleanup in Crescentwood.

Organizers Sonya Watson of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg, Michael Thiessen of Bear Clan Patrol, and Dr. Ray Singer of Shaary Zedek Synagogue along with city councillor John Orlikow (River Heights) amassed a hearty crew of helpers and equipment clean up the riverbank under the bridge adjacent to 603 Wellington Cres.

One passerby, seeing the amount of garbage being hauled up, which included 24 shopping carts, described the situation as one “where angels fear to tread.”

Participants were gloved, safety goggled, hydrated and keen to prevent a plethora of discarded items from polluting the river. Needles (sharps) were put into safety containers, and empty food containers were bagged. A common refrain from volunteers was “I had no idea it was this bad.”

Wednesday, Jul. 27, 2022

A team of interfaith volunteers recently gathered to clean up the riverbank on the south side of the Assiniboine River, near 603 Wellington Cres.

The amazing feat of Art Chow

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The amazing feat of Art Chow

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Wednesday, Jun. 15, 2022

Early every morning, like clockwork, a living legend scurries around Crescentwood. He’s a man on a mission and there’s no stopping 85-year-old Dr. Art Chow. For 44 consecutive years he has trained daily for the Manitoba Marathon and hasn’t missed one yet, raising a total of $242,713 (as of last year) for Manitobans living with intellectual disabilities.

It was his friend’s daughter, Katherine — the subject of her mother, Nicola Schaefer’s book, Does She Know She’s There? — who motivated him to support community living. Chow says “the first people I saw when I crossed the finish line that first race was Nicola and Katherine, and they’ve been cheering me on every year since.”

Also cheering him on is his wife of 59 years, Dr. Donna Chow, and their family, which includes three grandchildren. A native of Meaford, Ont., Chow attained a PhD in chemistry and taught at the University of Manitoba. It was at the U of M that he started running on his lunch hours to keep fit with colleagues. This ultimately led to his passion for the original Association for Community Living in 1979.

A true Renaissance man, Chow has been participating in the Hart House Camera Club annual exhibition for over 60 years and has had more than 500 photographs accepted for display. The first photo competition he won garnered him a prize of four tickets to fly anywhere in the world. He chose Canada’s north. His camera was busy in Churchill, Whale Cove, Rankin Inlet and Yellowknife. Since then he and his wife have visited 65 countries around the globe.

Wednesday, Jun. 15, 2022

Retired U of M chemistry professor Art Chow has trained for the Manitoba Marathon since its inception in 1979.

See your surroundings with new eyes

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See your surroundings with new eyes

Heather Emberley 2 minute read Wednesday, May. 4, 2022

In between the recent blizzard and monsoon I took one of those “seeing with new eyes” walks around Crescentwood. It was a precursor to national Jane’s Walks whereby folks are encouraged to “get out and walk.”

Jacobs, an urban activist who moved to Canada in defiance of the U.S. Vietnam war, was known for her “eyes on the street.” As I passed a friend’s condo driveway I noticed something I’d seen dozens of times but never really thought about. It was a sign that said Muster Point.

Since I never leave home without my cell phone, I called her up to ask what it meant. Had she ever mustered?

Doing some on-line research in her driveway — where I was a solo musterer — I learnt that a muster point is a place where people can gather in case of an emergency. While I was at it, I also researched Jane’s Walks. That led to thinking about gathering places and walks as one-stop shopping for community building.

Wednesday, May. 4, 2022

This muster point outside a friend’s condominium complex led Heather Emberley to think about community engagement.

Friends for 30 years

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Friends for 30 years

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2022

“If you have a garden and a library you have everything you need.”

Cicero’s words are on display above the entrance at the Millennium Library. For 30 years the Friends of the Winnipeg Public Library have done their utmost to make sure library patrons have everything they need.

Some of my best friends are books. And those books have friends who are dedicated volunteers at the Friends of the Winnipeg Public Library. As a charitable non-profit organization, the Friends, as they are known, promote literacy and learning in consultation with the managers of the 20 branches of the Winnipeg Public Library system.

“Volunteers are the heart of our program,” says Friends president Rita Burgess. The friendly voice who replies to queries on the Friends answering service belongs to one such volunteer, Heather Graham. She worked at the Transcona Library when the idea of a Friends chapter began and now in retirement she serves on the board as secretary, works the book sales and has been a valued resource for 25 years.

Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2022

The Friends of the Winnipeg Public Library recently commissioned a new logo for the non-profit charitable organization.

Sundays are for singing

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Sundays are for singing

Heather Emberley 4 minute read Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022

It’s been a long winter and an even longer pandemic. While singing in the shower can help with personal renewal, it’s time to kick that up with singing with others even while in various stages of a lockdown. That can happen every Sunday afternoon thanks to Margaret’s Choir, Café Nuages and James Keelaghan.

The musical experiences are online, allowing for folks to not miss out on learning new songs while building community.

Margaret’s Choir has the good fortune to have Katy Harmer lead the singers in developing a repertoire they plan to perform at a concert when COVID restrictions allow.  Currently rehearsals are via Zoom until the choir can sing in-person at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg.

Not only is Katy a choral conductor for Margaret’s Choir and the Beer Choir, she is a community musician, music educator, singer and arts administrator. A Torontonian, Harmer came to Winnipeg via Yellowknife to pursue a master’s degree in conducting at the University of Manitoba with a specialty in voice-matching.

Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022

Supplied photo
Katy Harmer is the choral conductor who leads Margaret’s Choir.

A friendly voice and a helping hand

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A friendly voice and a helping hand

Heather Emberley 4 minute read Friday, Dec. 10, 2021

When asked if I wanted a cup of coffee, I was sure they had mistaken me for someone else.

So absorbed was I in listening to a podcast while doing laps in Crescentwood I was totally oblivious to the Salvation Army emergency disaster services van on the side of the road. 

“We have pastries today if you’d like one.”

 Who? Me? Really? Did I look like I needed help?  I know sometimes I look like a disaster, but... really?

Friday, Dec. 10, 2021

Photo by Heather Emberley
Debbie Clarke (left), the Salvation Army’s emergency disaster services manager for Manitoba, Northwestern Ontario and Winnipeg and Maj. Mervyn Halvorsen, street ministry officer, recently served up coffee and pastries to passersby in Crescentwood.

This is what reconciliation looks like

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This is what reconciliation looks like

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Friday, Nov. 12, 2021

Usually I go for a walk to find a story in my Crescentwood community. This time I barely got out my front door when an epic tale appeared in the form of a woman looking in my Little Free Library. After exchanging pleasantries, I discovered that Gerrie Prymak, a retired early years core area teacher, was the visionary behind Little Stars Playhouse at 681 Selkirk Ave.

A refrain Prymak heard often from the moms and kookums who gathered at North End Stay and Play was that they wished they had a permanent place where their preschool children and caregivers could meet.

Sponsored by Woman Healing for Change, an organization of Indigenous and non-Indigenous women, the dream of a child-centred safe place in the North End became a reality. Even before its grand opening there is a waiting list for quality childcare in a daycare desert. Little Stars is staffed by certified early childhood Educators.

After seven years of fundraising Prymak, credits the Manitoba Metis Federation and its president, David Chartrand, “who got the Playhouse to the finishing line.” 

Friday, Nov. 12, 2021

Photo by Edda Livingstone
The Little Free Library at Little Stars Playhouse was built by the Woodhaven Men’s Shed.

Catching up with Dan Frechette

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Catching up with Dan Frechette

Heather Emberley 2 minute read Friday, Oct. 15, 2021

Conducting Sou’Wester research was never easier than stepping out my front door thanks to my neighbours, the Reid family, who hosted an outdoor concert on their yard and boulevard. 

Masked and socially distanced fans of Dan Frechette, from Santa Cruz, Calif., were enthralled with the former Winnipeg balladeer who made time for an outside-the-house concert between gigs at Blue Note Park and and the brand new West End Cultural Centre patio. 

Dan revelled in having a live audience again and called the atmosphere “an urban folk festival.”  

Frechette describes himself as, “an insanely prolific songwriter.” He is an independent thinker and an independent musician, choosing to share his thousands of songs on BandCamp with a link to his lyrics. For him, it’s about the music and “not about the business.”  Readers may remember him from the Winnipeg Folk Festival where his roots folk was often. 

Friday, Oct. 15, 2021

Facebook.com
Dan Frechette played an outdoor show in Crescentwood when the former Winnipegger, who now calls California home, visited friends and family last month.

Food for the soul at Oak Table

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Food for the soul at Oak Table

Heather Emberley 4 minute read Friday, Sep. 24, 2021

Another walk around my neighbourhood and another opportunity to learn so much. This time I met a homeless woman my age looking for a place to pitch her tent. Ironically, she was also searching where to get food having recently lost benefits after losing her job at a restaurant which closed owing to COVID-19

One of the closest places to Crescentwood serving those at risk is Oak Table at Augustine United Church, so I suggested she check it out. Then it occurred to me that if I’m making a referral, perhaps I had better check it out also. 

You can’t buy what I found there. What’s on the menu is hope, even during a pandemic.  Guests are served dignity, acceptance and the main ingredient of love.

 One volunteer in particular was pure inspiration in the power of kindness. Guests at Oak Table did not know that Justine Rory Ramos was only in Grade 8 when she decided she wanted to research and write a book about poverty. When she began volunteering in high school as part of the Maples Collegiate Met School, everyone thought she was a university student because of her mature demeanour. 

Friday, Sep. 24, 2021

Supplied photo
Oak Table volunteer Justine Rory Ramos, who attends the Maples Collegiate Met School, has compiled a collection of the first-person stories of Oak Table regulars, called Angles of Reality.

Listening for the ‘quiet zone’

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Listening for the ‘quiet zone’

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Monday, Aug. 16, 2021

If you remember the kids’ TV show The Friendly Giant, you’ll recall him saying, “Look up, look waaaay up.”

That’s what I did while out for a recent Crescentwood stroll. Besides cumulus clouds, many peculiar objects appeared atop some condo buildings.

Like many of you, I walk/cycle/drive past 5G-enabled cellular antennas every day and miss seeing them because, instead of looking up, we keep our eyes on the road or sidewalk.

Citizen scientist and retired research biologist Marg Friesen has been looking up on our behalf.5G is the term being used for the next generation of radio-frequency technologies. 

Monday, Aug. 16, 2021

Photo by Heather Emberley
Marg Friesen, a retired research biologist, is pictured in Crescentwood with her RF meter.

Communication camp gets people talking

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Communication camp gets people talking

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Tuesday, Jul. 20, 2021

There’s an innovative summer camp for adults that has everyone talking, and the reason they can talk is because this camp is for folks who are learning to speak again after suffering brain injuries.

The Aphasia Connect Camp, a first of its kind for adults, is an online program for participants and their caregivers. Aphasia is a language disorder that limits a person’s ability to communicate, resulting in difficulty speaking, reading or writing. This can be due to medical causes such as genetic illness, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, dementia, concussions, tumours and traumatic brain injuries from accidents, many from sports mishaps or falls.   

Communication virtual camp for Winnipeggers runs Aug. 5, Aug. 19 and Sept. 2. On Oct. 1 and 2 the equivalent of a jamboree happens at the Manitoba Aphasia Camp sponsored by the March of Dimes.

The caamp is also available in Thompson (Aug. 23 and Sept. 13); Selkirk (Aug. 19 and Sept. 2) and Steinbach (Aug. 12, Aug. 26 and Sept. 9).   

Tuesday, Jul. 20, 2021

Supplied photo
Speech pathologist Allison Baird will help run the Aphasica Connect Camp this summer.

Hidden in plain view

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Hidden in plain view

Heather Emberley 4 minute read Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2021

Last month I wrote about the humorous books readers who visit my Little Free Library recommended.

This month it’s a whole other story. The news out of Kamloops, B.C., has everyone talking and trying to come to grips with the tragic injustices that our Indigenous brothers and sisters have endured. The site of the former residential school on Academy Road also has folks wondering . “Too close to home.”; “Not in my back yard.” Those words are eerily applicable now. 

I once again heard from little library patrons about books they had read or were looking for. This time they wanted to know more about residential schools and the history we were never taught. I learned there is a new memoir receiving rave reviews at McNally Robinson, conveniently located in Crescentwood, titled Nishga, by Jordan Abel.

He describes his work as “a book about intergenerational trauma, Indigenous dispossession, and the afterlife of residential schools.”

Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2021

Photo by Dan Harasymchuk
Indian Horse, by the late author Richard Wagamese (above), is a recommended read for those seeking to learn more about Canada’s shameful past.

We have to keep laughing

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We have to keep laughing

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Wednesday, May. 26, 2021

You know you’ve been in lockdown too long when you call a plumber friend to fix the drip in your bathroom tub and then realize it’s the ticking of the wall clock. 

With the arrival of the third wave also came a wave of news items about a new malady calling languishing. There is no needle for this lack of vitality from being forced to remain in an unpleasant situation. 

Taking the adage ‘laughter is the best medicine’ to heart, I watched a winter’s worth of comedies including binge-watching six seasons of Superstore on Netflix. I also decided to read every book that won the Stephen Leacock award for humour. To alleviate cabin fever, I moved my office outside to my front deck. Then the real fun began.

I’ve had no shortage of socially distanced masked people of all ages to talk to because I have a Little Free Library near my front sidewalk. They see me with laptop and teapot and assume I am a real librarian. I think it’s the glasses on a chain that does it.

Wednesday, May. 26, 2021

Supplied photo
Author Bill Richardson poses with Gracie Sweetstory, the steward of Little Free Library #5611.

These are the days, my friend

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These are the days, my friend

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Friday, Apr. 30, 2021

This will be known as ‘the year that was’ in more ways than one.  The ‘before times’ will have milestones with anniversaries in 2021.

This year we will have had 50 years of  “You deserve a break today, at McDonald’s.”

 Imagine that, five decades of those quarter-pounders messing with healthy menus.

 Imagine, John Lennon’s signature song, will have been sung at graduations, funerals and peace rallies for 50 years as of this summer. FedEx has been getting packages door to door overnight for 50 years. And for 50 years it’s been possible to open those packages while sipping a cup of coffee from Starbucks.

Friday, Apr. 30, 2021

Photo by Heather Emberley
Steve Lennon and Annette Lowe taking a well-deserved rest from pricing Jumbo Sale donations.

Your little secret will be safe with her

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Your little secret will be safe with her

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Thursday, Apr. 1, 2021

Growing up in Crescentwood, Sheila Farago learned many business secrets from her entrepreneurial father.

Now, as owner of My Little Secret, the mother of three has used her sales background to create a unique home-based business “designed to help people get things done.” She has her own secret to success that begin with imagining “a conversation between two people; one asking the other how she got everything done and the other replying, that’s my little secret.”

And a business was born.

Sheila’s original intention was to focus on seniors and provide a concierge service enabling elderly clients to remain in their own homes as long as possible. Once her secret was out, though, her business grew to include people from all walks of life.

Thursday, Apr. 1, 2021

Supplied photo
Sheila Farago runs My Little Secret, a personal service and concierge business in Winnipeg.

Miss Lonelyhearts loves Crescentwood

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Miss Lonelyhearts loves Crescentwood

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Thursday, Mar. 4, 2021

What would Miss Lonelyhearts do? 

That’s the question my friend Evelyn and I would speculate upon during our trip to CancerCare Manitoba and in the waiting room.

My job when I picked Evelyn up was to read the problems of the day sent to Maureen Scurfield’s column in the Winnipeg Free Press. During the car ride, we would each discuss what we thought would be the best solution to the problems.

Then, in the waiting room, I’d read Miss L’s answer aloud. Some days it was best two out of three but there was always introspection, analysis and a lot of fun. 

Thursday, Mar. 4, 2021

Supplied photo
Winnipeg Free Press advice columnist Miss Lonelyhearts makes her home in Crescentwood.

Yes, this will be a year filled with hope

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Yes, this will be a year filled with hope

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021

In December, when my son predicted that “January isn’t going to look any different than 2020,” I had to think twice about what to say and when to say it in a New Year’s message to my loyal readers.

Then I went for a walk in Crescentwood and saw a ray of hope.  On the front lawn of a home facing Harrow Street is a neon reminder that we can have hope for positive outcomes.

Hope was looking a bit elusive the last time we met, but now, with optimism for democracy in the air, non-essential items allowed at the checkout and vaccines on order, it seems the right time to say Happy New Year!

It’s also time to say thanks to you for reading, to all those who appeared in my column in 2020 and to give you some updates. Last year began with 25 Million Stitches and an interview with Darlene Payne who put Winnipeg on the map with the international refugee awareness campaign. Not only did readers participate one stitch at a time, there is now a proposal to have the California museum in charge of the project bring the panorama to the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021

Photo by Heather Emberley
Dictionaries define hope as an “optimistic state of mind with an expectation of positive outcomes to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.”

Be an agent of change in your community

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Be an agent of change in your community

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Monday, Jan. 4, 2021

Woman Healing for Change Manitoba describes itself as a cross-cultural, diverse, volunteer-based registered charity working to expand the circle of Manitoba women to create environments of learning and healing.

 “Women need each other. Women need to take care of our inner world to be effective in the outer world,” says Marianne Cerilli, an experienced community organizer who is facilitating an online workshop on Jan. 15 and 16 that will raise funds for WHFC.

“Women need to take care of each other so we can take consummate care of our families, our community and the world.”

Cerilli’s six-hour online workshop, titled Healthy Communities, Healthy People, Healthy Planet, will run in two parts — from 4 to 6 p.m. on Jan. 15 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 16.

Monday, Jan. 4, 2021

Supplied photo
Marianne Cerilli will host a workshop titled Healthy Communities, Healthy People, Healthy Planet on Jan. 15 and Jan. 16 as a fundraiser for Women Healing for Change. Manitoba.

Rising from the ashes

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Rising from the ashes

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Friday, Dec. 11, 2020

Look no further than Crescentwood for inspiration and examples of resilience.

Dana Kletke, co-executive director since 2008 of Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA) manages to support female artists even after her studio was destroyed by fire and projects derailed by COVID.

When not at her Crescentwood home of 20 years or preparing her new studio, Dana is a mentor to women and non-binary artists, 282 to date, in the foundation mentorship program at 611 Main St. 

Dana is passionate about budding artists become professional during a year-long program. She helps visual artists individually and facilitates peer groups to define their philosophies, develop skills and access to resources. She is particularly proud to be working with third generation mentee graduates, many of whom who have gone on to amazing careers in the arts and have won Governor General’s awards.   

Friday, Dec. 11, 2020

Supplied photo
Dana Kletke loves helping young artists as a mentor with Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art and is an accomplished and prolific artist in her own right.

Spreading the joy and enjoyment of art

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Spreading the joy and enjoyment of art

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Friday, Oct. 16, 2020

Is there no limit to Crescentwood creativity?

Every time I go for a walk in my neighbourhood I come across something awe-inspiring. Most recently, a moose showed me how a psychiatrist with a passion for visual storytelling is helping  folks with pandemic stress. 

When she saw art in house windows thanking front-line workers during the pandemic lockdown this past spring, Dr. Tatiana Gregoryanz knew she had to do something to help others the way art has helped her and her patients.

The moose is actually part of a project she calls Moose & Walnut art (names chosen to reflect her admiration for the animal’s fearlessness and how walnuts are strong). 

Friday, Oct. 16, 2020

Photo by Heather Emberley
Tatiana Gregoryanz has set up a little free art library in front of her Crescentwood home.

Porch concerts lighten the mood

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Preview

Porch concerts lighten the mood

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Friday, Sep. 18, 2020

As former Crescentwood resident Neil Young once sang with Buffalo Springfield:

“I think it’s time we stop,

Hey, what’s that sound?

Everybody look what’s going down.”

Friday, Sep. 18, 2020

Porch concerts lighten the mood

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Preview

Porch concerts lighten the mood

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 16, 2020

As former Crescentwood resident Neil Young once sang with Buffalo Springfield:

“I think it’s time we stop,Hey, what’s that sound?Everybody look what’s going down.”

Thanks to Zohreh Gervais, what’s going down is the finest music one can stop to hear emanating from her front porch on Dorchester Avenue. With so many musicians unable to perform in venues due to COVID-19, Gervais organized an outdoor concert series featuring an outstanding array of performers.

A violinist, violist, performing soprano, Suzuki teacher and executive director of Polycoro Choral Ensemble, Gervais uses her skills to welcome everyone to experience the joy of hearing live music.  

Wednesday, Sep. 16, 2020

Supplied photo
Musician and music educator Zohreh Gervais has been hosting concerts on her Dorchester Avenue front porch during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sal just wants to have fun

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Preview

Sal just wants to have fun

Heather Emberley 3 minute read Friday, Aug. 21, 2020

While out on my recent Crescentwood journalistic beat, I worked hard at looking up, down and all around. The pandemic has a  s-l-o-w motion feel to it that affords a great opportunity to observe one’s surroundings.

  When I saw a family laughing as they bent over to look at something on the sidewalk I knew there was a story that I just had to tell you because anything that makes people smile these days is good news.

I noticed a debonair gentleman in a silk suit also looking at the sidewalk. As I approached I saw there were quarters, a toonie and a loonie on the sidewalk. He was studying them closely. Yikes, I thought, things must be worse than I imagined. Then I noticed he was smiling also. His name is Sal and he likes to have a bit of fun. Which is why he crazy glued coins to the cement walk.

“It’s my Candid Camera type moment,” he chuckled. “Everyone needs a little humour these days.” 

Friday, Aug. 21, 2020

Photo by Heather Emberley
Sal Aysan, owner of Selim’s Antiques on Corydon Avenue amused himself, his customers and many passersby by gluing loose change to the sidewalk in front of his store.