Dr. Laurel Dempsey came to Verona in the mid-1990s from Toronto. She was interested in primary care and community-based medicine and wanted to participate in what she describes as the “first iteration of primary care reform in Ontario”.
Doctor Gordon Day was getting ready to retire from his practice in Verona at the time, and the two worked together for five years until Dr. Dempsey took over the practice, and bought the clinic building in the year 2000.
Since then she has not only run the clinic and served the large rural practice, which had been established since the early 1960s, she has also been the lead physician for the Rural Kingston Family Health Organisation (FHO). The Rural Kingston FHO is made up of all the primary care providers in Frontenac and rural L&A counties, including the physician-run clinics in Sydenham, Verona, Tamworth, and Newburgh, and the family health teams in Sharbot Lake and Northbrook.
“The idea behind the family health organisation was to offer a solid family medicine base for rural residents, with the addition of other services,” she said.
As the result of the FHO, dietician, psychiatric, dermatology, and even cardiac services have been offered at the Verona clinic and at other locations in Frontenac and Lennox and Addington.
Lynn Wilson, who has been the administrator of both the Verona Clinic and the FHO, has also managed an initiative called Health Links. Health Links targets the most medically vulnerable population, has also been established in the two counties.
But for her patients, Doctor Dempsey has always been someone who understood rural practice. When she took over from Dr. Day, she continued to put in long hours, and quietly made home visits to some of her very ill patients.
“She has been such an open and welcoming person, and from the start her relationship to the community and to her patients has been a warm one,” said John McDougall, who is a patient of hers and was one of the founders of the Verona Medical Services Committee. The committee now acts as a liaison between the clinic and the Township of South Frontenac.
The relationship between the clinic and the township was also an offshoot of Dr. Dempsey's efforts. She went to the Verona Community Association 10 years ago to talk about the future, envisioning back then that things would need to change in order to ensure the future of primary care in Verona upon her retirement.
Two of the issues that needed to be worked on were physician recruitment and the related issue of the ownership of the building where the Verona Medical Clinic is located.
“Doctor Dempsey told us, and this was confirmed when we went to meet with medical students to try and sell them on Verona, that the new generation of doctors did not want to take on the financial or administrative burden of owning buildings, so we went to the township and they were willing to take ownership of the building, which was very important,” said McDougall.
The clinic has been able to recruit two doctors over the past five years: Doctor Oglaza, who is about to do a residency in public health, and Doctor Gibbons, who will be taking over as lead physician at the clinic next month as Dr. Dempsey is retiring.
“One thing our patients need to know is that they have to register with Doctor Gibbons,” said Doctor Dempsey, “but patients don't need to worry that they are losing services, as she will take all of my patients on.”
An Open House is set for this Saturday, May 28 at the Verona Lions Hall between 2 and 4pm for the community to express their appreciation for the 21 years of service Dr. Dempsey has given to the community, and there will be a dinner later on. For tickets to the dinner, contact the Lions.
As for Doctor Dempsey, she may be retiring from her full-time practice but she will be continuing to work in Verona and at some other clinics on a more casual basis. A commitment to family medicine is not something that is turned off when doctors reach the so-called retirement age.
“She has always been committed to reform but is also a link to the way medicine was practised in the past,” said John McDougall. “She certainly has done well by us in Verona over the years.”
Janice Conway has always been a supporter of the North and Central Frontenac Relay for Life, which is taking place this year on June 18 at the Parham Fairgrounds, from 12 noon until midnight.
Janice's maternal grandmother died of breast cancer, and her paternal grandmother, Marguerite, also developed the disease at the age of 84. Fortunately she has survived and is still kicking at 95.
Janice has been a participant and team captain over the years, and said she supports the event because it is a community event and contributes to fighting cancer locally and though research. “Being a team captain is a big commitment, but it is worth it. It is hard work to organize team meetings before the relay because people are busy and to help with fund raising, but the committee helps out and the relay itself is a great experience.”
Janice's own experience with cancer became more acute when her father, Alvin Conway, was diagnosed with lung cancer early in 2014. Alvin was well known in Parham since he had been the custodian at Hinchinbrooke school from the early 1990s until he retired in 2008. He had worked at Land O'Lakes in the 80s and at Sydenham High School and in Kingston before that, for a total of 37 years with the school board.
“He retired when he turned 60, not because he wanted to leave since he loved working in the school, but because my mother needed his support since she has diabetes and other health concerns,” said Janice. “At least he had a few good years of retirement.”
Until he started to have back pains in the summer of 2013, Janice does not remember her father ever being sick, much less seeing a doctor. It was late in the year that the possibility that the pains were caused by cancer was first raised and early in 2014 he got the lung cancer diagnosis.
“Throughout 2014, it was mostly my sister who took Dad for his treatments because I was working, but I took him quite a few times, and my brother as well. He had chemotherapy and radiation in Kingston. In early 2015 he had an experimental treatment but I don't remember what it was. My sister was the secretary; she kept track of everything.”
Over a year after her father's death, Janice is still dealing with his absence. “He was always the go-to guy, for all of us. Whenever we needed advice, or someone to come with us, to look for a car or anything, really, he was the one we went to for support,” she said.
When Alvin Conway died, Janice's mother Caren lost her husband of almost 47 years, and also a supportive partner, and the entire family is dealing with the loss, each in their own way.
“I still feel exhausted by it,” said Janice, who also has two uncles that are being treated for cancer.
Her commitment to the Relay for Life has not waned throughout the past two years, and although she may not register for the entire day this year, she will be there, with her mother, to light some luminaria candles with her mother, and to help her friends.
“We need to support the teams who come together to do the relay and support the fund-raising events that each team organizes before the relay,” she said.
Dan Milton, 1974-2016
When a car crossed two lanes on Highway 417 near Arnprior last Monday and hit two road workers, it killed one of them, Dan Milton, and in doing so tore at the heart of a family and a community.
The funeral for Dan Milton, which was held at Milestone Funeral Home in Northbrook on April 30, was unorthodox to say the least, as his neighbour delivered a eulogy that was all about giving shouts out to all of Dan’s friends and family in the way that he would have done.
The picture of Dan Milton that emerged was that of a giant of a man with a big heart and a tendency towards playful mischief. This came at the expense, most often, of those he loved most.
The road crew that he worked with every day was there in full force, and while they are all hard and tough men in the work place, the tears flowed freely from them all afternoon, as freely as the Coors Lite that Dan loved so much.
Reverend Kellar had to share the front of the chapel with some of that Coors Lite, but he did not seem to mind, remarking that this was one of the funerals he has officiated at for people he did not know, but which leave him thinking, “I really wish I could have known that person.”
Dan Milton's, wife, Debara Leary-Milton, was 20 years older than him, but the age gap never affected their marriage, and Dan was a well-loved step-father and friend to Wayne, Jaycen, and Angel. Angel spoke briefly at the funeral, saying how much she appreciated everything that Dan had been for herself and her mother.
While the mood at the funeral was as irreverent and full of jokes as Dan Milton had been, the sense of loss was palpable.
For this community to lose Daniel Milton, a still young man who packed his large lunch and headed to work that morning just as he did every Monday morning, is hard to process and will continue to be hard to accept for months and years to come.
It's not that easy to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which is a bucket list event for many long-distance runners. Patricia Humphrey, a 66-year-old marathoner who has lived on Long Lake between Parham and Mountain Grove for the past three years, qualified for this year’s event based on her time at the Philadelphia Marathon in November of 2014.
She had already run the Boston Marathon before, five years ago, and when she qualified for this year's race, which took place on April 18, she thought it might be her last marathon and she wanted to go out in a good time.
She ran the 42-kilometre course, complete with the four Newton's Hills that culminate with the aptly named Heartbreak Hill, in 4:39.05.
The time is significant because it is 55 seconds faster than the qualifying time for her age group for next year's race, and that might prove to be a temptation.
Humphrey’s running career began 16 years ago, when she was only 50. Her mother had recently died of cancer, and Patricia decided to take up running in order to complete a 5 km cancer run later that year. She took to the sport and began increasing the length of her runs over time, finally building up to the marathon distance.
According to her husband and chief supporter, Colin, Patricia plans to stick to the half marathon distance from here on mainly because the preparation for a marathon is so onerous and time consuming.
She was a common sight this winter on Long Lake Road and Road 38 training for this year's event.
“She wanted to make a good time in case it was her last marathon, that's for sure,” said Colin, when contacted by phone early this week. “She was pushing her speed at the end to make sure she beat the 4:40 qualification time.”
Patricia has retired from working at FW Black's Appliances in Kingston, where Colin is a co-owner. They intend to remain in the area for years to come, as they enjoy living on Long Lake.
“We love it here. We never plan on moving again,” said Colin.
Heather Woodyard, owner of Verona's yarn shop, Ewe can Knit, is enlisting the help of local knitters for a good cause. In an effort to give comfort to youngsters who are undergoing medical procedures at Kingston’s KGH and Hotel Dieu hospitals, Woodyard has launched a community blanket- making project. “The idea is get the community together to give these kids a sense of comfort and something nice to hang on to while they are in the hospital,” Woodyard said. She is inviting knitters to knit or crochet 7x8 inch squares, which she will then sew together to create blankets. This is an ongoing project and those interested can drop off their finished squares at Ewe Can Knit in Verona, which is located at 6667 Highway 38 just beside The Verona Convenience store. Store hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10am-5pm. If you have any questions please contact Heather at 613-374-3000 or visit Ewe Can Knit on Facebook
Editor’s note: This article by Teresa Shevchenko was written in 2006 and we are republishing part of it as a tribute to Don Lavery, who passed away last week.
One of the joys of spending time at the cottage is stepping back in time to discover some of the old-fashioned general stores that are still operating in the area. These rural gems are an important part of Canadian heritage.
The concept of the general store actually dates back to fur-trading days when customers could buy everything from a shovel to cod liver oil all at the same place. They are however, rapidly becoming an endangered species. Big box stores, urban sprawl and changing lifestyles are making it difficult for general store owners to stay in business. Once the thriving heart of small communities, many general stores in cottage country stand empty and forgotten, a reminder of a different, simpler way of life.
This summer, cottagers in North Frontenac will surely miss a landmark. James General Store in Plevna, closed up shop in August 2005.
Proprietors, Don and Jessie Lavery moved from the Toronto area to the rural village of Plevna 16 years ago when they bought James General Store, named after previous owners. The store that had already been serving area residents and cottagers for many years was much more than a place to pick up the essentials. The business doubled as the only gas station within 50 kilometres, village post office, snack bar, butcher shop, bakery, book exchange, hardware and fishing supplies store and internet café. But most importantly it was the hub of the community - a place to buy the newspaper, have a cup of coffee, enjoy the smell of bread and homemade pies fresh out of the oven, and chat a while with the friendly staff.
”It was always my dream to run an old-fashioned general store. We really got to know our customers over the years and made many friends,” says Jessie. “We loved sharing stories with our customers. Saving newspapers for our regulars and remembering how they like their coffee was all part of the fun.”
While Jessie could usually be found at the front cash, Don spent most days behind the butcher counter at the back of the shop. Calling out to customers by name, he always made sure to save their favourite prime cuts and threw in an occasional bone for their dogs. If there was an item that a customer needed, but it wasn’t in stock, Don wouldn’t hesitate to find it in his own kitchen.
The Laverys, who lived in an apartment above the store, would open after hours for people who found their gas tank on empty or just needed some emergency cottage supplies. This small town helpfulness was one the charms of James General Store. Keeping up with the times, the couple designated a corner of the store as an internet café, during their last few years in business.
While the Laverys depended on the busy summer season, they felt a responsibility to stay open during the slower winter months for local residents, snowmobilers passing through and the occasional cottagers who braved the cold. But last summer when a larger, modern grocery store opened in Plevna, they realized that they could not compete, even though their customer base remained faithful. Sadly they closed the store, but not before throwing a party at the village community centre to thank all their customers for years of business. People came from far and wide to wish them a great retirement and to let them know that they will be missed.
“Now we’re enjoying the rest, but we will definitely miss the store and the people this summer,” says Jessie.
Diane Gray, owner of Battersea General Store, just 15 minutes outside of Kingston on Battersea Road, has been running the business with her husband Glenn for eleven years. “The store has been open for over a hundred years. We always try to carry a little bit of everything,” she says. “Our busiest time is cottage season.”
Discover these stores and others in the Kingston region and experience an integral part of Ontario history right on your doorstep.
Cottagers can do their part to help preserve the general stores that are scattered throughout cottage country. Here are a few suggestions.
If you generally bring in your supplies from larger urban supermarkets, but there is a general store near your country retreat, try to make a point of picking up some of your everyday purchases such as fresh milk, bread, eggs and your favourite paper. Every little bit helps.
Many general stores sell ice cream, coffee, desserts and snacks. Stop in and treat yourself and your family
Tell other people about your country store experiences. Word of mouth is one of the best advertisements and others will also want to step back in time and savour the old- time atmosphere.
Many general stores offer souvenirs like t-shirts, postcards and locally made crafts and gifts. Pick up a memento. It could be a collector’s item one day.
What kid - and for that matter, what adult - doesn't love a kid goat?
That was the motivation for a “Kidding Around” event on March 12 at Food Less Travelled in Verona, when the Perry children of Perry Farm in Harrowsmith, brought the latest four-legged members of their family farm to the grocery store, which is operated by their parents, Kim and Dave Perry.
Grant, Mason and Kaitlyn Perry hosted the event, which attracted kid goat lovers of all ages from near and far. Many who enjoyed meeting the goat and human kids were already doing their regular Saturday shopping at the store, while others were just passing by and noticed the lively commotion.
The four Nubian goats are cared for by the Perry children and the two oldest, Kaitlyn and Grant, are experienced at the task, having both worked at a goat farm in Harrowsmith. The goats, the youngest of which was just four days old, are still being milk fed and are mostly pets for the Perry kids, but requests have recently come in at the store for goat meat, which has the Perry parents wondering if expanding their operation to raising meat goats is an option for their farm.
“The thing with goats and other smaller animals like sheep is that it is hard to get meat on the bone and you really have to work at it to be proficient,” Kim Perry said. “Farmers who specialize in raising goats and sheep know how to do it and while we know how to do it with our beef, pork, turkeys and now chickens, we will likely just wait and see what happens with the goats, which right now are pets.”
Perry also updated me on the many recent changes at the Verona store, which will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary this June. The store has recently expanded and added chicken to its regular inventory of beef, pork and turkeys, which is something new. “This year is the first in the history of Ontario that we are now allowed to sell our own free-range chickens at the store instead of just at the farm gate,” she said.
The kitchen area has also been expanded and Perry has added a number of new pies to their inventory, such as bumbleberry/rhubarb. She and her staff will continue making last year’s popular grape pie. She also makes a wide variety of quiches, all with Perry Farm meats, local cheeses and vegetables.
The indoor dining area, now open all year round, has also been expanded with a new kitchen access, where Perry offers up weekly specials of hot and cold lunches that include entrees like shepherd’s pie, Irish stew, quiches, a wide variety of home-made meat and vegetable soups and salads. Her home- made pies are served with Kawartha Dairy ice cream.
On the store’s shelves is an eclectic selection of fresh and frozen meats, cheeses, veggies and a wide assortment of other Canadian food and cooking products all of which are either grown and/ or locally processed. They include snack foods, dressings, sauces, condiments, sweet treats, grains and flours and much more, with an emphasis on products and groceries that are organic, gluten-free and non-GMO.
“I choose suppliers who either grow locally or process locally, which means they are small manufacturers for the most part that are using as many local ingredients as they can. My aim in doing so is to help ensure diversity in our food supply,” Perry said.
For more information visit foodlesstravelled.ca or local family farms/foodlesstravelled on facebook.
David Yerxa has once again taken to the pool in Perth in an effort to raise funds for the annual Swim-a-thon fundraiser for the Clifford Bowey School in Ottawa. The school, which caters to students aged 4 to 21 years who have developmental disabilities, teaches them independence, and helps them develop their communication and mobility skills to their maximum potential so that they can live and participate to the fullest extent possible at home and in their communities.
The annual fundraiser is close to David's heart since as a young adult he attended the school for three years. He said that there, he learned how to cook for himself, learned computer skills and also about the school’s recycling program. The latter has since become a focal point and a big part of his own Sharbot Lake Office Supplies business, which he currently operates from his home.
This is the third consecutive year that David has participated in the swim-a-thon and he said that he begins training in October every year leading up to the event. He also swam in the summer months this past year in Maberly at the pool of former Community Living-North Frontenac staff member Tamatha.
The swim-a-thon took place at the Perth pool on February 17 and David raised $927. He swam a total of 22 laps in half an hour, the maximum time permitted for the swim. Last year David raised $1300 for the cause and the year before, $570. Also, every year in June, David returns to the Clifford Bowey School to hand out a recycling award to one of the students.
Anyone who has met Rick Law knows that he is a pretty sociable guy. This is likely what inspired his newly-launched Godfrey Social Club, the coffee shop and gas bar that he owns and operates in Godfrey. The establishment held its official grand opening on March 5 and Law hopes to see it become a popular gathering spot for locals who like to meet and greet and enjoy a beverage.
Law bought the historic building and property in April 2013. He has 35 years under his belt working as an auto-body mechanic, which he continues to do in his present location. His creativity shows in the painting aspect of his work, and he especially enjoys restoring collectible cars.
The retro-inspired coffee shop fronts onto the Westport Road at Road 38. It was unofficially open last summer and in recent months, Law has been working to expand it. The property now has a high-test gas bar (with regular gas coming soon) and inside, there are tables and chairs, comfy couches and loungers where guests can enjoy satellite TV, Wi-Fi internet access, and play vinyl records to boot. There are retro popcorn and candy machines and the space is bright and friendly, made more so by a wide array of 1940s and 50s collectibles that include antique signs, a variety of hanging car/motorcycle parts, and one old chopper in the corner painted with an old A&W sign.
“I want people to come by, fill up with gas and come in, sit down and relax, enjoy a coffee, tea, hot chocolate, pop, or ice cream (in the summer months). If they just want a place to work on their screened devices or to meet up with friends, I want this to be a place that they think of.”
Law is busy most days working in his body shop, so he has enlisted the help of his daughter, Stephanie, who hails from Windsor and who will be working in the coffee shop. Law said that he also hopes to be able to employ a few summer students when the fairer weather arrives and the local traffic picks up.
He admits to having lived a pretty rough life in the past, but said that despite that fact, he has been warmly welcomed into the community. “This community has really accepted me for who I am; I really enjoying being here and I just love this place. Seeing people enjoy the place as much as I do is great and the idea is not so much about making a ton of money - I know that I'm not going to make a million dollars here - but more about making people happy and seeing people get excited by what they see here”.
Another draw to the shop is Law’s gorgeous husky, a dog named Skydancer that he rescued, which he brought out to meet with the guests at the opening. Law has a number of ideas up his sleeve for the future of the shop and hopes to hold movie nights and other special events. “I want people to tell me what they are interested in, and if I can swing it I definitely will try.”
Another project he mentioned is to build a rat rod to have on display for guests. Law said he also hopes to also put in a second sink so that, in the future, he will be able to serve an assortment of snacks as well.
The shop and gas bar will be open from 7am – 7pm and in the summer from 7am - 11pm. The Godfrey Social club is located at 16 Westport Rd.
It's been two months since Brenda Bonner retired after working for eight years as a Nurse Practitioner (NP) at the Sharbot Lake Family Health Team.
At 64, she was feeling that it was time to take a step back from full time work in a clinic. She saw patients at the clinic four days a week, often working through lunch and into the early evening, and she did a lot of paperwork at home.
“All in all it was a full time commitment,” she said this week from her home in Perth. Her work as a nurse practitioner, which came after a long career as a registered nurse, was some of the most rewarding in her career, and after taking a step back for a few weeks she has thought about her own future, about the future for nurse practitioners in general, and about their role in a reformed healthcare system in Ontario.
For her own part, Bonner has been considering a number of options.
“I would like to keep working, but with more balance in my life, more time for family,” she said.
She is considering taking on patients for house calls.
“For various reasons, including transportation issues, there are patients who require care in their own homes, so I might do some of that work. It is not covered by OHIP, but some supplemental health insurance policies will cover it,” she said.
She might be doing relief work in a community health centre in the vicinity of her home in Perth, and also some in-service education to health care organisations, to promote and maintain health knowledge and skills.
“I didn't have any of these ideas when I left Sharbot Lake, but over the last couple of months I have been considering how I can continue to work on my own terms by setting these things up. It is different for me since my whole career has basically been as an employee at only two jobs, as an RN in one location for 30 years and as an NP for eight years in Sharbot Lake. It's a change to be setting up a business of my own at this time,” she said.
Bonner has also spent time, before and after she left the Sharbot Lake Family Health Team, considering potential changes in the role that nurse practitioners play in the heath care system.
She supports some of the initiatives that are being promoted by the Nurse Practitioners Association of Ontario (NPAO).
“When the NPAO made submissions to the Ministry of Finance for the upcoming Ontario budget, they highlighted a few items that would make a difference for NPs and save money for the system as well,” she said.
One item that was featured in the submission is to deal with the pay and benefits gap between NPs who work in hospitals and those who work in primary care clinics.
“Salaries have been frozen since 2006 in clinics, which has led to a $30,000 pay gap, plus, NPs who work in hospitals enjoy the pension and benefits plans in the hospitals. This means that when positions in hospitals come open, NPs leave clinics, often rural clinics, for those jobs,” said Bonner.
The NPAO also supports the “right care in the right time in the right place, by the right provider”, an initiative of the ministry that intends to redirect healthcare dollars so they start to follow the patients and not the providers.
Bonner cited a case that illustrates how this is not happening currently. Public health units that were running sexual health clinics led by nurse practitioners have been switching to contracted clinics run by doctors. This has been done for financial reasons. The health units pay the NPs out of their own budgets, whereas the doctors can bill OHIP directly for the service. This is a financial benefit for the cash-strapped health units, but since the doctors’ billings are higher than the cost of clinics led by the nurse practitioners, ultimately there is a greater cost to the healthcare system as a whole and the ratepayers who fund it.
Finally, the NPAO is supportive of an initiative to locate NPs on a full time basis in long-term care facilities.
“Acuity level is increasing in long-term care facilities. Seniors are staying at home longer, and they are older and sicker when they go into long-term care. Nurse Practitioners on staff save doctor visits and visits to emergency units at hospitals,” said Bonner.