October 1, 2017
While we love sharing stories and talking about the experiences and adventures that Harrison has to offer, what can often be overlooked are the people. Harrison has sparkle, vibrant energy, and is full of big-hearted people who love their community. We invite you to get to know some of our local legends!
(By the way, we know this newsletter is longer but we didn't want to lose any of our legends' juicy tidbits!)
Mayor Leo Facio
Don’t let the last name fool you. Born in Gibraltar and with his last name rooted in Italian descent, Leo moved to Harrison from England in 1975, where he started working in a drapery store with his wife Jackie. After visiting Harrison in 1974, he fell in love with the area leading him to move the following year.
Jackie became well known after she accepted a job with Front Desk at Harrison Resort. At that time, it was called the Harrison Hotel. She ended her career at the Harrison Resort with the title of Deputy Executive Manager until she passed away in 1995. Jackie was also involved with the Sorority Club and the girls’ group Brownies.
Simultaneously, Leo was heavily involved with the Lions Club and the Harrison Agassiz Rotary Club. Due to his strong belief in supporting community and effort behind innovative initiatives, Leo was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship, which is the highest distinction to be awarded. Shortly after, he received the Queen Elizabeth The Second Diamond Jubilee Medal, for his dedicated service to his community and Canada.
Leo was one with the community as he drove a daily school bus for the District and spent a great deal of time watching the children grow but, since he is a natural born leader, he decided he wanted to immerse himself deeper in the community. In 1993, he ran for Village Council and was elected. With a few short breaks, Leo has remained with Council and accepted his first term as Mayor in 2005. He is now in his third term. He leads his team with passion and is dedicated to both families.
“Why do I keep running? I have two families –the Village and my own. This is my life. I have great passion for this community,” says Leo.
Bill Miller, Sasquatch Expert
Bill Miller is our expert in ‘all things Sasquatch’! Originally from Illinois, Bill came up to Canada for a Sasquatch Conference at the University of BC in 1998. To this day, Bill believes that he witnessed a large Sasquatch run by him when he was fishing with a friend, one night, in Northern Minnesota in July of 1980. At first, he thought it was a giant person as he didn’t know what to make of the occurrence.
“I didn’t think of Bigfoot/Sasquatch in that part of the U.S. in those days. This memory has stuck with me all of my life,” says Bill.
His ‘obsession’ to learn more about these incredible creatures altered his life path, so much so that he set himself up to live part of the year in Harrison, given its reputation as the world’s Sasquatch Capital.
Like most people, Bill thought that the term Bigfoot or Sasquatch meant there was only one of these creatures still in existence, but has learned that there are several forms of the species all over the world. Contrary to popular belief, Sasquatch is an animal and not a person. From 2005 to 2010, Bill became a self-funded, full-time field researcher as he searched for evidence of the elusive animal in the field, working more than 60 hours a week. People were constantly approaching him wanting to hear more about his experiences and knowledge, and several even asked to join him in the field. The next thing you know, Bill started Sasquatch Country Adventures, which fully launched in 2012.
Aside from writing articles, doing interviews on radio shows, and giving public talks on the topic, Bill's research has been featured on Shaw TV and Global News and his investigative work has also been covered by the press. To learn more, visit SasquatchCountryAdventures.com.
Andy Hillhouse, Harrison Festival
The Harrison Festival brought Andy Hillhouse, Executive and Artistic Director, to Harrison Hot Springs. Five years ago, when Andy heard about a senior position opening at the Harrison Festival, which is a rare opportunity, Andy followed his love of music festivals and uprooted from Toronto. As a Celtic rhythm guitarist and singer, someone who loves to teach others, and having earned a PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Toronto, Andy is, successfully, filling the big shoes that Phyllis and Ed Stenson left behind.
“I grew up going to large-scale music events, like the Vancouver Folk Festival, so leading one was always a big goal of mine,” says Andy.
In Andy’s down time, he is known to connect with like-minded peers who play flute, fiddle, and the penny whistler!
With only a team of three, they pursue the mandate of organizing and executing a festival, founded on community development through the arts, cultural diversity, and accessibility of the arts for all. Celebrating 40 years next summer, the 9-day festival will feature music on the beach, workshops, artisan markets, a Children’s Day, art exhibits, and more. Visit harrisonfestival.com for more information.
Frank Peters, Rocky Mountain Chocolate
Frank Peters has been a long-standing and active Harrison member for decades. His story is fascinating as Frank has been heavily involved with land development and is now the owner of Harrison’s Rocky Mountain Chocolate. In 1990, Frank built a summer log cabin due to the awesome windsurfing that Harrison Lake is known for. His ‘day-job’ included building Harrison’s first condominium unit-- Branches by the Lake-- amongst many similar projects, and then he opened the Muddy Waters and Baskin Robbins shop.
This is 25 years ago when he was the original owner and, at that time, the vision was to have a quaint café where locals played music – like a traditional coffeehouse from the ‘70s. Bands were often seen playing outside the storefront.
After a few unfortunate incidents, including a life-threatening boating accident that almost cost Frank his life, Frank first sold Muddy Waters to his sister, Bonnie, who then sold it to their sister Jenny. Jenny, and her husband, Richard, are still the owners today, and have taken Muddy’s to the next level with its farm-to-plate philosophy and hipster vibes.
“The accident was a major life-changing moment for me. I needed to do something less active and I thought chocolate was a perfect fit for Harrison. Chocolate inspires happiness in all,” says Frank.
When asked what is favourite bite was he said the hazelnut clusters and candy apples. But don’t take our word for it. Visit the shop and try everything for yourself. Oh, and true to Frank’s ambitious nature, he just built Harrison’s newest townhome unit of 26!
Todd Richard, Musician
Todd Richard (pronounced Rishard is an iconic superstar, but as humble as they come. Having won numerous awards, Todd’s career relaunched after the passing of his dad.
“My dad was a musician. Once my dad passed away in 2007, I sold my plumbing business as I made him a promise to start playing music again,” says Todd.
Todd has lived in Harrison for 17 years. It was a lifestyle choice to move as Todd and his wife would take their son to go camping and biking in the back trails. Now their son has grown, but their lifestyle continues with nature hikes and lagoon strolls.
Todd’s local claim-to-fame is Bands on the Beach, which has grown significantly over the past seven years. He is grateful to the Village of Harrison, Tourism Harrison, and local businesses for embracing his brainchild and giving him the support to launch the festival.Today, Todd has two albums with new music and music videos on the way. He is deeply supportive of the Variety Children’s Network and has written a song for the network called Follow Your Heart.
Donna Wright, Island View Gifts
Donna Wright has been here for many years…since 1953! After coming with her family to visit her aunt, her mom fell in love with the lush green and moderate climate. Harrison was paradise to her, especially compared to the harsh Manitoba winters. The white building that is at the Harrison Marina—once called Paul Raake Boat Service-- was a floating structure where the boats would come and stock up on provisions to bring to logging camps. Donna’s father helped with boat repairs, and loading the boats, and Donna and her mom worked at the cookhouse upstairs. They lived in this ‘float home’ until they built their first home in 1955, which was only sold in 2015. It still stands there today.
Donna enjoyed growing up in the Village, playing with the children in the community, and learning to waterski. When she became a young adult, the travel bug got her and she went by ship to Europe, and then backpacking through Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, the Middle East, and Australia. When she came back to Harrison in 1979, she opened Donna B’s--a health food and sandwich store where everything was made from scratch including soups and pies—which is now called Harrison Pizza.
Today, Donna owns Island View Gifts, which is a flagship gift store in the Village loaded with unique items from all over the world. Donna and her sister Audrey, who also works there, have spoken with many visitors during their time, and have wished for all of them to enjoy the beautiful Village. This season is their last as Donna steps out onto her next adventure, but Harrison will remain home.
Marg Doman, Artist
Like so many of our locals, Marg is a strong community member with deep roots. She used to live in Abbotsford until, one day, she and her husband decided to take a weekend drive and ended up in Harrison. They fell in love with the scenery and people –next thing you know they built a home and it’s now 16 years later.
Marg spent most of her adult life as a Special Education Assistant. She adores kids and felt so blessed that she could spend so much time with these young minds. After retiring in 2002, and dabbling in some volunteer work which even included the school’s Hot Dog Days, Marg saw an ad in the Agassiz Observer, inviting locals to take an art class with Joey Ellis.
“I joined this class and then a fellow suggested that I join the Agassiz Monday Painters. Now we get together every week and just paint. We have over 30 members! I am basically self-taught and paint what I like. I still prefer watercolour even though acrylic is the popular medium now,” says Marg.
Marg is recognized for her role with the annual art show, taking place during May Long Weekend, at Memorial Hall where local artists exhibit their work. For more information, contact Marg at 604.796.8665