Prince Albert’s 2021 Citizen of The Year Marie Mathers was officially presented her award in a ceremony at the Prince Albert Legion on Saturday afternoon.
This was the first in person banquet for a Citizen of the Year since 2019 because of ongoing concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic.
The banquet was delayed until March although it usually happens in January. Mathers thought she was off the hook, but was moved by the speakers who came to the Legion to pay tribute to her Saturday afternoon.
“When it didn’t happen in January—because it’s usually in January—I figured that’s it,” Mathers said
“I had a bit of a cry there. It’s just too much for me,” she added. “I’m not used to that. I’m usually the one that speaks and not the one that listens.”
Mather’s son Robert was among the speakers at Saturday’s gathering. One of her grandsons also made the trip.
Mathers was happy to have Robert speak at Saturday’s event.
“He has been a very good son,” she said. “I was very happy that he was able to come because he worked all night and then he has to come to P.A.,” she said.
Robert is a long-distance truck driver and worked the night before and travelled for the presentation.
“He came into Saskatoon at 7, did his paperwork and then came home and had a couple hours sleep,”’ Mathers said.
Robert spoke about his mother’s dedication as a scout leader, and how she was called the Witch Doctor, a nickname given to her by a fellow scout leader.
“We were at a camp at Evanson Lake and we had third-year scouts with first-year scouts and he said to me, ‘I am taking the kids out for a night walk,’” Mathers remembered.
“When he came back the next morning he says ‘what did you have in those little bottles?’ They were Smarties. I told them if they have headaches or a sore stomach there was different colours for different things and that’s when I got the nickname of Witch Doctor, since 1976.”
Mathers moved to Prince Albert from Manitoba in 1966 when her husband was transferred. At the time, Mathers spoke only French, but she worked hard to earn English and eventually became a part of the community.
She loved working with children, and began volunteering as a Scout leader. She held that role for 47-and-a-half years, while also helping with other groups like Cubs and Rovers.
She’s also volunteered with the St. John’s Ambulance, Vintage Power Machines Threshing Festival, and of course, the Legion.
In her own speech, Mathers wrapped up by saying that people should volunteer doing things that they enjoy. When they lose that joy they should stop.
When volunteering is enjoyable, she explained, the time flies.
“Sometimes I have really got to think how long I have been somewhere or how long I have given because it goes so well I don’t even notice the time,” she explained. “For example, Housing (the Prince Albert Housing Authority). The reason I know exactly how much time I have put in because when we made Charlene the new chair they sent me a form with how many years we had and I have more than 23 years. It didn’t seem that (long).”
One of Mather’s most important charitable duties is presenting the first poppy of the year. She relished the duty because it allowed her to do something for people she admired, like friend and former scout Ramsey Bellisle, who received the first poppy at the Legion in October.
“Ramsey was a very special boy to me because I had him as a Scout…and then he went to Croatia and he come back and he came back to help me as a leader,” Mathers explained. “Even in that he was always special to me, always.”
Councillor and Deputy Mayor Charlene Miller presented Mathers with recognition from the City along with a City Of Prince Albert Award of Merit. Legion President Rick Hodgson presented Mathers with a plant as a token of appreciation from the Legion. Legion Saskatchewan Command President Carol Pederson also made the trip from Star City to attend the presentation.
The Kinsmen Club presented Mathers with the Citizen of the Year plaque. Daily Herald Publisher Donna Pfeil presented Mathers with a framed Page 1 from the Daily Herald when she was named Citizen of the Year.
Mathers was nominated for the award by Suzanne Bantel of the Legion who chose Legion president Rick Hodgson to speak on her behalf.
Miller, Pfeil, Hodgson and Kinsmen Club president Jean-Marc Beliveau each gave speeches recognizing all that Mathers has done as a volunteer.
Fellow Housing Authority member and Prince Albert Historical Society President Fred Payton sent a letter, which Moore read to the guests.
The Citizen of the Year Award has been handed out every year since 1958. Winners are chosen by a committee that includes members of the Prince Albert Kinsmen Club and Prince Albert Daily Herald.
Recent Citizen of the Year winners:
2020 – Margaret Ferguson
2019 – Janet Carriere
2018 – Felix Casavant and Derek Smith
2017 – Ron and Shelley Horn
2016 – Sheryl Kimbley
2015 – Duane Hayunga