COLUMN: Celebrating those who make a difference

By the time 2016 came to a close, plenty of people around the world were glad to flip the calendar and close the door on the year.

By the time 2016 came to a close on Saturday night, plenty of people around the world were glad to flip the calendar and close the door on the year that was.

It was a year defined by many celebrity deaths in the news headlines. Some referred to it as “the worst year ever.”

A small sampling of musicians we said goodbye to included David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Merle Haggard, Glenn Frey and Leonard Cohen.

A few of the actors and actresses we lost included Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Wilder, Abe Vigoda and Florence Henderson.

Other notable deaths in 2016 included boxer Muhammad Ali, astronaut John Glenn, golfer Arnold Palmer, novelist Harper Lee, former American first lady Nancy Reagan, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and U.S. supreme court justice Antonin Scalia.

These people and many others who died last year were newsmakers and shapers of popular culture.

Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Princess Leia (and later General Leia) in the Star Wars movies touched the hearts of millions around the world.

Leonard Cohen left behind many powerful songs with thought-provoking lyrics.

Fidel Castro’s presence on the world stage and his effects on international global politics were impossible to ignore, no matter what anyone thought of the direction he took or the choices he made.

One could make compelling statements about any of the other famous people who died in 2016.

While the world lost some talented and influential people last year, let’s celebrate those living all around us who are continuing to make a difference.

Whether you look near or far, to celebrities or community members, there are people all around us who are worthy of recognition.

We have some Olympic athletes, actors and musicians who grew up in Summerland or who now live here.

Others impress me with their selfless dedication as they work to make the world — or a portion of the world — a better place.

Some served in times of war, making sacrifices and risking their lives in ways few can comprehend.

Some have given of their time and energy to provide assistance to those in need, in this valley or in more distant parts of the world.

Some have pursued careers as teachers and health care workers.

Some work tirelessly as volunteers or assist with fundraising efforts for local, national or international causes.

And some are simply good neighbours, quietly helping those around them.

I remember one local woman who would run errands for her elderly neighbours, picking up groceries or getting prescriptions filled. At the time, she was in her 80s and did not have a car, so her trips were done on foot or by taxi.

When she received a community service award, I remember thinking how deserving she was of the recognition.

Each year, the Summerland Chamber of Commerce recognizes some outstanding people at the annual Business and Community Excellence Awards.

The nomination period begins today and continues until Feb. 1. The awards ceremony will be on March 9.

We also feature some of these people in the Summerland Review as Carla McLeod tells their stories each week.

We have noteworthy people all around us. It’s important to honour their efforts, preferably while they are still alive. If 2016 has taught us anything, it is that life is short.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.