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Vernon  

Enderby mayor sees growth

Enderby Mayor Greg McCune is excited by a spike in growth in the city.

A number of development applications for homes and businesses came before council this week.

“The exciting part is that people are seeing Enderby as attractive,” said McCune. “We're going in the right direction. We're starting to see investment.”

McCune pointed to the city's main street, Cliff Avenue, which is undergoing a multimillion dollar renewal project.

“That was our goal with these projects. To get people to come and live and play and prosper in Enderby,” said McCune.



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Hwy 6 logging truck crash

UPDATE 4:38 P.M.

Two people have been taken to hospital with minor injuries after their car veered in front of a logging truck on Highway 6, just past Coldstream Ranch on the way to Lavington.

“A four-door sedan heading eastbound veered to the right shoulder, braked hard and then veered left across the highway,” explained Cpl. Spencer Hornoi. “It was then broadsided by the logging truck behind it.”

He said the driver and a passenger in the car were taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital but the logging truck driver was not injured.

Police were called in at 2:27 p.m. on Friday.

An eye witness to the aftermath said the truck was in a ditch by the railway tracks.

The highway is open to alternating traffic, said Hornoi, who added that it will take some time to clean up the scene.

“It will be a process to unload the logging truck. The load has shifted on the trailer substantially.”



Stuck on Stickle

A traffic signal at Highway 97 and the notorious Stickle Road, north of Vernon, appears to be the preferred option among members of the public despite efforts to find a different solution, according to a transportation ministry spokesperson.

However the ministry is still going through the approximately 150 comments from feedback forms, email and regular mail, submitted during and after a May 26th open house. A total of 234 people attended.

At that session, ministry officials explained their $9.5 million plan, which does not include a traffic light for the intersection where there has been a number of fatal accidents.

The ministry plan included changes to both the intersection and an extension of 20th Street from behind the Rona store through to Stickle Road. Acceleration and deceleration lanes were proposed for the west side of the highway.

“We are still going through all of the comments but the majority of public responses seem to indicate a preference for a traffic signal,” said Kate Mukasa, public affairs officer. “This is important for us to know and, as we stated in the materials presented at the open house, public input will be considered along with technical, environmental and financial information, and input from local governments.”

The ministry stated that once all the input is reviewed, the next steps would be considered.



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Rain delays tournament

Heavy rain has forced the closure of the ball diamonds on the DND grounds south of Vernon.

Soccer fields remain open.

The closure delays the start of the Vernon co-ed slo-pitch league playoffs which were slated to start Friday evening.

Organizers hope to reschedule those games for Saturday and Sunday.



'Urgent' medical need

A list of the most urgently needed medical equipment for Vernon Jubilee Hospital and residential care facilities in the North Okanagan has been supplied by the VJH Foundation – following a meeting of the board of directors and consultations with Interior Health and medical staff.

The 33 pieces of equipment total $480,816 and will assist residential care in Armstrong and Enderby as well as the operating room, respiratory services and women and children's health services at VJH.

“We are excited to have completed the annual process of determining which urgently needed pieces will most benefit the various and growing needs of North Okanagan residents,” said Sue Beaudry, the foundation's director of development.

The foundation raises the funds needed to buy necessary equipment.

Included in the list is a $16,300 airway clearance system for patients with acute and chronic respiratory conditions.

The vest system uses high frequency chest wall oscillation to clear lung secretions.

“The machine will be used for adult and some pediatric patients with cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, muscular dystrophies and quadriplegics,” said Michael MacAulay, cardiopulmonary lead at VJH.

Also on the list is a $22,700 flexible ureteroscope for urology, a $24,000 laryngoscope for difficult intubation and two portable patient lifts totalling $7,900 for palliative care residents in their own homes.

The foundation already has a head start on a couple of the items, including $62,000 for a central monitoring system for the women’s and children’s health department at the hospital, which was raised during the SUN FM Have a Heart Radiothon in April. 

Funds raised from the 2015 Wine, Women & Woods Tee Off for the Cure and Prospera Vernon Dragon Boat Festival purchased a $99,000 ultrasound unit and stretcher for the mammography department.

The equipment arrived on June 21st and is already in use.

“Having this state of the art equipment helps us provide our patients with the best possible health care,” said Travis Thompson, manager of digital imaging. 

“Pieces of equipment, specific projects, individual programs and Interior Health staff training and education are all part of what is considered.  Based on VJH Foundation’s fund raising capacity, our board determines how much it is able to fund each year,” said Beaudry.

Last year, the VJH Foundation raised more than $2,500,000 to furnish and equipment the 6th and 7th floors of Polson Tower as well as money for equipment and training.

The complete list of urgently needed medical equipment can be seen online.



Love letters soldier on

As Cathy Gaetz-Brothen opened the box to show her book club the hundreds of love letters her father had written her mother during the war, she recalls several people recoiling.

Nestled alongside what may be the largest surviving collection of Second World War correspondence from a Canadian army soldier was a soiled, red armband decorated with the unmistakable sign of a swastika.

Gaetz-Brothen explained how her father, Joseph Gaetz, had been given the artifact, along with several other pieces of Nazi memorabilia, from enemy prisoners at the wind down of the conflict in Europe.

"In the letters, he talks about being given an armband as a memento," she said during an interview at her home in Vernon. "And some of the soldiers who were prisoners at the end of the war gave him some of their badges."

Those relics are part of an extensive collection of wartime paraphernalia. Included are black-and-white photos, an army-issued scrapbook and a half package of Wild Woodbine cigarettes, each wrapped in disintegrating, yellowed papers.

For Gaetz-Brothen, the letters hold the real treasure.

Carefully tied bundles tell handwritten accounts of a man whose upbringing in small-town Alberta to German-speaking parents saw him repeatedly sent behind enemy lines, tasked with capturing and interrogating enemy soldiers.

Those same dispatches chronicle the misgivings of a soldier buffeted by the bloodshed around him and the affection he felt for the woman who would become his wife.

Most importantly for Gaetz-Brothen, they offer a window into the father she never knew.

Joseph Gaetz died at age 41 of chronic hypertension in October 1956, days after Gaetz-Brothen's first birthday. It was another 40 years before she began reading and documenting her father's letters.

"To sit down in the evening and take notes, it became like sitting down with him and getting to know him," she said.

"When I finished them all it was a great sense of feeling whole, feeling complete, because you have all the pieces of the puzzle ... Now I know my whole family."

Joseph Gaetz joined the army in 1942 at 27. Five months later he became engaged to his sweetheart, Margaret Jean McRae, before shipping off to Europe with the Calgary Highlanders.

Over the next two years he sent 451 letters home, describing his transfer to a scout platoon to work as an "interpreter." He wrote of various covert expeditions into enemy territory to seize German soldiers and gather intelligence.

"My officer and I went a mile into the Jerry lines one night and took 52 prisoners out of a barn ... That was quite an experience," Gaetz penned from "somewhere in Holland" in late 1944.

Many of the details are intentionally vague and every letter is stamped with the ID number of the censoring soldier, sometimes accompanied by blacked-out lines.

Despite the redactions, Gaetz-Brothen said her father's personality shone through in the writing, especially in the way he treated her mother.

"(He) always addressed her as 'my dearest darling Jeanie,' always signed off with three Xs," Gaetz-Brothen said. "That was their little signal. And later in life my mother would do that in writing to us girls."

A snippet of dried heather survived the decades following the war, preserved in a plastic bag. It's the same fragment Gaetz carried in his uniform pocket for good luck, in homage to his fiancee's Scottish heritage.

It was through his letters that Gaetz-Brothen discovered her father's fondness for Rosebud chocolates, Chiclets and 1,000-piece puzzles. She learned that his fellow soldiers nicknamed him Pearly Gates because of his brilliantly white teeth.

"I would send my sisters copies of my notes and little gifts of what I learned about him," she said. "That gave us another connection, another way to appreciate and know him."

Gaetz-Brothen's eldest sister, Linda Gaetz-Roberts, was seven when her father died. She remembers him marching in Remembrance Day parades and recalls seeing her mother's name inked on his upper arm.

"It's a good thing he married her or he'd have had to change his tattoo," she said in an interview, laughing.

Gaetz's letters are believed to be the largest known collection of such correspondence in the Canadian army, though larger examples do exist elsewhere in the military, said Stephen Davis, director of the Canadian Letters and Images Project. The project is an online archive of war materials based out of Vancouver Island University.

As for the Nazi armband, Gaetz-Brothen has a theory that it may have been part of a disguise he used, though war historians say that's unlikely as a soldier risked summary execution for espionage if caught as a spy.

Once she'd finished reading his letters, Gaetz-Brothen said she was surprised to find herself mourning her father.

"I don't think we ever really grieved for our father because we never really knew who he was," she said. "The sad side ... is knowing how much we missed."

Still, Gaetz-Brothen said she's grateful for the chance the letters have given her and her siblings to better understand their family history.

"It was a beautiful gift," she said. "We got to know our dad."



Smoke overcomes driver

Vernon firefighters put out a burning vehicle Thursday afternoon while others treated a driver overcome by smoke.

The drama took place on 20A Street on East Hill, between 30th and 32 avenues, just after 2 p.m.

The crew arrived to find heavy smoke spewing from under the hood of a white Dodge Grand Caravan.

Two firefighters wearing breathing apparatus struggled to open the latch on the hood of the smouldering vehicle although they finally succeeded and doused the engine with water.

Farther along the street, another member of the crew crouched near the clearly distraught male driver who was being treated with oxygen. A male passenger appeared to be OK.

“We're looking after him. He said he was overcome by smoke in the vehicle. We'll be handing him over to BC Ambulance,” said fire captain Brent Bond. The driver was taken to hospital.

The cause of the fire is undetermined but could be mechanical, said Bond.



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