Recently, we were looking through The Hub archives and it made us think how, as an organization, we haven’t made a practice of sharing our story and some of the great people who have been a part of it; and you can be sure that there have been many great people and a lot of wonderful stories!
So, as the first of what may become many Hub stories to tell, we want to pay tribute to MaryNell Pawelko, known to many of us in Almonte as Nellie Hempell, where she shared that stage of her life with her then-husband Bruce Hempell.
Nellie passed away recently in Creston, BC from cancer, leaving behind her husband, John, and her children, Ray, Eric, Linda, and Arndt. As we read her obituary, we were happy to know that she had lived a happy life after Almonte and continued to seek adventure, spend time with her family, and serve in her community.
Nellie was one of the founding women of The Hub back in 1974. In fact, when the women of The Hub signed the Letters Patent to incorporate on this day, November 17th, 1975, Nellie was our acting President. Looking at her signature, one has to wonder if she realized the legacy she was becoming a part of, and if she ever imagined what the organization would grow into over the next 45 years.
The memories of Nellie shared by her Hub family, share common themes. She laughed easily and that laugh (or giggle) was infectious. She was an incredible money manager and was one of The Hub’s longest-standing treasurers, which helped us in creating a solid foundation to grow from.
She was creative and could often be found with yarn and a crochet hook making things like booties for soccer kids, blankets for people who needed them, and who can forget the willie warmers that the Hub women got for their husbands at Christmas.
Nellie fundraised and MC’d some of the best Hub fashion shows including one in downtown Almonte where we had a catwalk that came out the front door of The Hub and onto a hay wagon, Lanark County style!
When Nellie was asked to contribute to The Hub history video a few years ago, she reflected on the importance of community in the form of the old ‘Coffee Corner’ at the back of The Hub store. The ‘Coffee Corner’ was a community space that welcomed newcomers, gave seniors a place to go, afforded a friendly and safe place for vulnerable women to share their story and sometimes enable The Hub to connect them with the social services in our community that they needed, to ensure the safety and well-being for them and their families.
Nellie’s reach was far and wide. Someone recounted a time when she and a friend submitted a dating advertisement in The Gazette on behalf of a male friend who was going through a rough patch, describing him as a “Lanark County Wild Thing with all his own teeth”. Although the ad received no response, it still met its mark by lifting spirits and providing a good laugh.
This is just one example of Nellie’s infectious sense of humour and her loyalty to many as a friend, valued member of our organization, as well as our community.
Nellie, we thank you for having been a part of our lives, and for the positive impact you had on us. We thank you for being part of the legacy of The Hub, and most of all, we thank you for just being you.