There’s an article in the St.Catharines Standard in January that gave us a capsule of events during 2007, some good news, some bad and some just plain sad. I thought is was a good reminder of the year that was. Thanks to Don Fraser of The St. Catharines Standard for the article. Enjoy!


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By Don Fraser
Standard Staff

It’s a year that included controversy over a proposed building, a massive fire in east St. Catharines and the heroic deeds of an influential cancer fighter.

Here are some of the local stories that captured the attention of Standard readers in 2007:

Two of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s leading community activists and philanthropists died this year.

On Jan.8, Laura Dodson passed away at 82 from cancer. Among her numerous accomplishments, she helped to save the historic Willowbank mansion in Queenston.

Bluma Appel, one of Canada’s leading philanthropists and arts patrons, died of lung cancer in July at 86. Her husband, Bram, a successful financier, died less than two months later at 92. The couple, who split their time between Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake, supported many Niagara arts causes.

Two major blazes affected people in the St. Catharines-Thorold area this year.

An explosion destroyed several buildings at Clean Harbours Canada Inc. on Allanport Road in south Thorold Feb. 19. A fire triggered a series of explosions that were heard as far away as Welland and Fort Erie. Residents within a two-kilometre area of the chemical recycling plant were evacuated, but most were soon able to return home. In June, investigators with the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office concluded damage to Clean Harbours was so extensive they could not determine what caused the blaze.

On Sept. 7, on of St. Catharines’ biggest fires in recent memory tore through a co-op at 82 Roehampton Ave. There was an outpouring of support from the community for the 34 families who lost everything in the blaze, which was caused by a cigarette blown from a tin-can ashtray left on a balcony.

The weather was in the news.

Heavy freezing rain Jan. 15 coated Niagara in ice, damaged trees and knocked out power to thousands of people. On Feb 14, 25 centimetres of snow walloped Niagara. Students got a snow day in many areas and some businesses closed early.

A long drought this summer damaged crops and turned lawns brown. The dry weather made for an outstanding grape harvest, though, with industry experts calling it one of the finest in years.

The storm over the proposed Port Dalhousie tower development raged on in 2007. There was a failed attempt early in the year to bring the two opposing parties together – Port Realizing Our Unique Distinction (PROUD) and the developer Port Dalhousie Vitalization Corp. The new St. Catharines city council reversed the former council’s pro-tower support and the tower issue has advanced to hearings this coming year at the Ontario Municipal Board. In August, tower developer Eric Moog was seriously injured in a boat crash in Niagara-on-the-Lake. He is still recovering.

Council agreed in April to a deal to bring the Ontario Hockey League’s Mississauga IceDogs to the city. Their first game was played Sept.21 at the Gatorade Garden City Complex.

To combat rowdyism in the city, St. Catharines council voted in a nuisance bylaw prohibiting spitting and vomiting in public, among other things. Council in 2007 confirmed two-way traffic downtown. St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan, city councillors and others were furious over a consultant’s recommendation to relocate Niagara Reigonal Police headquarters and the NRP’s St. Catharines division out of the downtown. The police services board is expected to make its decision in the new year. It will then be discussed by Niagara regional council.

The city is also in the process of filling vacancies left by the departures of chief administrative officer Bob Puhach, and parks and recreation director Ron Zizman.

On Dec. 17, seven months after fire chief Tony Mintoff took early retirement a new fire chief was announced. Mark Mehlenbacher takes over in January.

Bad news continued for the local manufacturing sector.

Foster Wheeler closed in Niagara-on-the-Lake, resulting in 60 layoffs. Auto parts maker Dana Canada shed hundreds of jobs in Thorold and Cornelius Pools in St. Catharines went bankrupt, eliminating 70 jobs.

The landmark Canada Hair Cloth plant in downtown St. Catharines closed, ending 42 jobs.

Status quo was the rule in a Nov.20 provincial election with incumbent Niagara MPPs retaining their seats and Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals getting another majority.

There were exciting developments for Niagara’s wine industry.

Foremost was the announcement of celebrity wines and wineries in Niagara by comedian Dan Aykroyd and hockey great Wayne Gretzky. Both wineries have yet to break ground.

There were a number of serious local crimes this year.

Wayne Ryczak is in jail awaiting trial for first-degree murder in the death of 29-year-old Stephine Beck. Ryczak, an engineering technician was arrested March 5 at his St. Paul Street West trailer, the day after Beck’s body was discovered in Vineland beside Seventh Avenue near Victoria Avenue.

There was a fatal stabbing in downtown St. Catharines Nov.10 when Michael Day, 20, of Fonthill, died after he was stabbed in a fight. Joseph Mitchelitis and Allen Eggleton, both out on bail, face second-degree murder charges and are scheduled to appear in court Jan.15.

Matthew Hendsbee of St. Catharines was sentenced to 3 ½ years in jail for striking and killing Jessica Cormier with a car while she was walking in St. Catharines April 26.

The impact threw Cormier, 23, over the railing of the Niagara Street bridge to the road below. Hendsbee pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

Standard readers were outraged by the story of two dogs this fall. The male and female white German shepherd mixes arrived at the Lincoln County Humane Society emaciated and near death in September. The young dogs, named Lady and Tramp by shelter staff, were nursed back to health and put up for adoption. Both dogs were adoped to loving homes and Tramp was renamed Trooper. Their new owners have arranged for the dogs to continue to see each other. A St. Catharines couple faces 17 combined animal cruelty charges in the case. Their next court appearance is Jan. 11.

A public outpouring of support saved the Niagara Symphony, which announced in May it needed to raise $500,000 in five weeks to continue operating. In June, the symphony announced that a strong fundraising campaign and positive public reaction meant the 59 year-old organization would survive.

The story of cancer-fighter and advocate Suzanne Aucoin of St. Catharines was one of courage and perseverance that dominated headlines throughout the year. Reporter Peter Downs chronicled her battle against the disease and her mission to get out-of-country drug expenses reimbursed by the provincial government. In January after a scathing report by the Ontario ombudsman on the government’s treatment of Aucoin, the Health Ministry reimbursed her $76,000. in medical costs and launched a review of its out-of-country medical benefits program. Aucoin was diagnosed with terminal colorectal cancer in 2003. She died Nov. 11 at 37 with her brothers at her side. The Standard’s front-page headline the next day said “She touched us all.” “She opened her eyes. She was happy. She smiled. She had one tear come out of her eye, and I swear it was a tear of joy. She was at peace,” her brother Gerald said of her death. Downs was among many who were profoundly moved by Aucoin and her journey: “(When my reporting on her began) at the cancer clinic I had expected to learn more about what it’s like to die,” he wrote. But Suzanne taught me and anyone who paid attention to her what it means to live a good life.”

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