What a difference one life can make in this world

This week, as we pause to consider all that we have to be thankful for we must surely include the superior people from this Island who have led the way nationally and internationally.

The paths we take in our lives as we travel through this world are akin to wading through water, rarely is our journey without resistance. But as we persevere on our chosen course, the ripples of our passage spread, often far beyond our ken.

We have plenty of examples of that here on Manitoulin Island, with incredibly accomplished individuals making their mark on the world stage, even when coming from the humblest of beginnings. This week started with the sad news that the internationally renowned artist Daphne Odjig had passed away at the age of 97, but even as we mourn the passing of this most remarkable lady, we should reflect upon how the ripples of her life impacted the lives of countless others, particularly indigenous artists in every genre.

Ms. Odjig was an artist, but she was so much more than that. She was an indomitable spirit that not only forged her own unique way into the upper stratosphere of the art world, a world into which there was no apparent doorway through which an Anishinabekwe could enter. She not only constructed her own doorway into that world, she built it wide enough for those following behind to enter.

Although unique in her own way, Ms. Odjig is not alone among Manitoulin expatriates who have left their indelible mark upon the world. There are accomplished artists who followed closely on her footsteps in the art world, but there are others who made their way, and are still making their way, in their vastly different fields of endeavour.

Academics such as Dr. Cecil King, also a Wikwemikong expat, have risen to the top of their fields. Actor Gregory Odjig, a relation of Ms. Odjig, has been building a remarkable career in film and television, as has the redoubtable Gloria Mae Eshkibok on stages across Canada. None of these remarkable people have had an easy or carefree path through life as they have built their careers.

Although many have found the path to their success lying far from our shores, others, such as Gore Bay’s Doug Smith have built world-class enterprises based still upon the soil of their childhood. Gore Bay remains the head office of the national and many-faceted Manitoulin Transport that Mr. Smith founded more than a half century ago.

Crossing the fields of business and sports we can find the lives of people like the late Murray McDermid of Providence Bay, who rose to the ranks of professional baseball after rounding the bases in the late 1940s of the many baseball fields that dot the Island. When life threw him a curveball ending his sports career with a tumble from a building supply delivery truck, Mr. McDermid found a new vocation in building his family’s business and his community.

Too often we look upon the challenges that face us in our lives as insurmountable obstacles that we could never hope to climb, let alone conquer. But we have only to look to the lives of people like Ms. Odjig to discover that not only can we succeed and excel in our endeavours, but we can dredge channels through uncharted waters for others to sail successfully upon.

Our world may be a poorer place for the loss of Ms. Odjig, but it has been made so very much richer by her passage.