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Monday, April 15, 2024
An honour roll of NOTL women
Linda Grimo of Grimo Nut Nursery said that more women taking leadership roles in farming reflects what is happening in other business sectors.
President of NEOB Lavender Melissa Achal. FILE PHOTO
Yemi Shifatu, Sandy Ritter and Catherine Porter. DAVE VAN DE LAAR

Women make the world go ’round – in NOTL and everywhere else. So, we asked readers to nominate women from NOTL who they felt we should feature in stories.

We were inundated with dozens of suggestions, far more than we could include in this 2024 International Women’s Day commemorative section. But please enjoy these vignettes, a sort of honour roll of just a few of the many NOTL women who are deserving of recognition.

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Over the nearly 25 years that Linda Grimo has been managing the family business, Grimo Nut Nursery, she has become a leading authority on growing cold hardy nut trees, which produce a food crop, says Syme Jago.

Her dedication to developing a sustainable food source that can be grown in more northerly climates goes beyond supporting commercial growers. She encourages and assists backyard growers to include functional food source landscape trees in their own gardens, Jago says. While her “roots” are here in Niagara, she is a highly respected lecturer across North America and provides support to growers throughout Europe.

*****

Trisha Romance has been a resident of NOTL for almost 40 years and is widely respected for her artistic talent. Her paintings depicting scenes from the town’s past are iconic treasures. Over the years, thousands of people have expressed their appreciation for her work by collecting her prints and paintings.

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Sharon Brimsmead-Taylor was suggested by Carrie Robinson, who says she is “a staple of the community who has held multiple positions over the years that help our community shine and come together. After a long time in the wine industry, she now works to co-ordinate the Niagara-on-the-Lake Farmers Market @ the Village.” Robinson says she has seen first-hand her “insurmountable work ethic, passion, commitment, warm heart and ability to build community and raise up other small businesses (including many female-owned businesses and female farmers).”

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Melissa Achal, president of NEOB Lavender, was nominated by staff member Sharon Chelmecki, who cites Achal for being one-half of “the successful partnership that is NEOB Lavender — a local business that has thrived as a farm for more than 14 years on Niagara Stone Road, and as a relative newcomer to the quaint heritage district of Queen Street in downtown NOTL, in addition to three other locations across Ontario.”

“I have been overwhelmed by her generosity both with her staff and with her community involvement,” she says. “She’s often very quiet about her contributions — frequently participating anonymously to assist local businesses, countless charities, individuals and staff interests no matter where they’re located.”

Separately, Achal singled out Chelmecki and boutique associate Mackenzie Curry. As well, Achal notes assistant manager Tracy Kent “is an outstanding employee who makes a positive impact on our team. Her enthusiasm and commitment is a bright light in our company.”

*****

Julieanne Enns is carrying on a family legacy, having taken over operation of Enns Battery & Tire on Four Mile Creek Road from her parents Rudy and Dorothy. Founded in 1971 by Jake Enns and his wife Anne Marie, the business is now in its sixth decade of operation. The company sells and services thousands of tires annually for area drivers and farmers. Plus, if your vehicle needs a battery, they’ll probably have it.

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Daniela Kozak and her colleagues at Lida Kowal‘s accounting practice nominated their boss for “showing her caring and compassion nature not only within our office but with our clients and the community.” As well, “Lida has been an active participant in many local endeavours, giving freely of her time and expertise on many occasions and with diverse groups.”

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“I always call my dear friend Babs (Barbara Worthy) the infamous Babs,” says entertainer and producer Juliet Dunn. “She’s a legend in Niagara.”

A producer, writer, director, actor, Shaw alumna and well-known for creating original productions that shine a light on local history, Worthy has worked with many artists and arts organizations, including Music Niagara, the NOTL Museum, Niagara College, Brock University, and the TD Niagara Jazz Festival, Dunn says.

“She actively promotes heritage tourism for the entire Niagara region and is the cultural adviser for the Niagara Peninsula Global Geopark group.” As well, she was a CBC Radio producer for two decades, producing both the Shaw and Stratford series and the ground-breaking First Nations Legends and Myths series. “The infamous Babs is unstoppable and a true treasure to us all.”

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Sean Simpson nominated three women from Simpson’s Pharmasave for their contributions: Sandy Ritter, Catherine Porter and Yemi Shifatu.

Ritter has been providing outstanding service and patient care at Simpson’s for over 20 years and recently announced her retirement after 40 years as a pharmacist. “Her warmth, caring and compassionate manner will be missed missed by customers and staff alike,” Simpson says.

Porter is the store’s operations manager and serves on the board of directors of Niagara-on-the-Lake Palliative Care. “Catherine is well known and appreciated for her great sense of humour and her willingness to go above and beyond for her customers.”

And Shifatu, the pharmacy manager at Simpson’s Virgil location, is a certified diabetes educator. “Yemi has been instrumental in bringing in new services to Simpson’s, including the recent approval as a Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre, which will be integrated with our new virtual travel clinic,” Simpson says.

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NOTL Hydro CEO Tim Curtis suggested Sara Engels, the utility’s manager of corporate services, is deserving of recognition.

“She is responsible for most of the customer-facing activities at NOTL Hydro,” he says. That includes managing the customer service staff and ensuring all electricity and water rates and government programs are properly set up — “a real challenge with electricity rates given all the different rates and government programs.”

She also makes sure all the bills get out accurately each month and that service requests from customers are provided to the operations staff for speedy service. “While this may not be as exciting as some of our tourist-serving businesses, her performance is a key to ensuring NOTL businesses get the best electricity rates and service possible,” Curtis says.

*****

Artist Marilyn Cochrane has high praise for Margie Galita, from the new Mann Gallery at Niagara’s 13th Street Winery. The St. Davids resident, formerly from the Moore Gallery in Toronto, is responsible for organizing all future exhibitions at the Mann Gallery in her new position. “Margie will bring in rich and diverse art shows to our NOTL area, helping to expand the visual arts draw for our residents and many visitors. She is a qualified and committed art lover,” says Cochrane.

*****

With Howard Zemsky of Buffalo, NOTL’s Sue Murray was part-owner of Niagara’s Finest Inns before it was sold to the Lais Group. She and her husband, architect Wayne Murray, designed and built the Harbour House Hotel, now also part of Niagara’s Finest. Lyle Hall, who nominated Murray, notes “her depth of experience in hospitality goes much further back” and includes the Millcroft Inn and Pinestone Resort. As well, she was the first female member of the CAA Niagara and CAA Canada boards, “no small accomplishment,” says Hall. In 2007, she was named Canada’s Hotelier of the Year.

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