Tiny branch honours strong community roots

Humanitarian and animal rights activist Marion Cumming honoured by a group of her peers

Humanitarian and animal rights activist Marion Cumming was honoured by a group of her peers recently.

Local conservationists and supporters of heritage architecture, green space and wildlife created a new citizens’ award to acknowledge individuals who have made significant accomplishments in these areas.

“The first recipient of the Golden Oak Award was Marion Cumming, well known in Oak Bay for her tireless work for conservation of plants, animals, heritage buildings and gardens, as well as for various arts and cultural causes,” said Barbara Julian.

A group of 30-odd fans met for an award lunch in a beautiful Oak Bay garden on May 31, to present Cumming with a golden oak branch as well as a live oak seedling.

“It was a lovely gathering,” said Cumming. “It was quite a surprise.”

Last fall the group wanted to nominate Cumming for a Capital Region Ecostar award, given to locals who help make the CRD a more vibrant, liveable region, only to discover those awards have been discontinued.

With a little ingenuity, the group organized its own award.

“It wasn’t given by an established group, but rather a disparate collection of people who have worked with Marion over the years on the array of things she does,” said Julian.

“A different bunch were planning a lunch for Marion to thank her for her work for wildlife (at the same time) so we combined the two schemes. Marion has an enormous effect on her admirers, linking them together and inspiring them to keep working for conservation, heritage, cultural causes of all kinds even when the going gets tough.”

Cumming was humbled by the “charming little branch” awarded to her. “It’s not gold. It’s really painted yellow, but I loved that touch. It’s so homemade and cheerful.”

The 77 year old said any one of those who honoured her for her work in the community could have been singled out as well.

Included in the group were Pat Wilson (chair, Oak Bay Heritage Commission); Jill Croft (Community Association of Oak Bay); Carolyn Chodeck, Terri Hunter and Jane Ramsay (Oak Bay Green Committee); Frances Litman (Creatively United for the Planet Festival organizer); and Joan Russow, former Green Party leader.

“There’s so much in life that can be improved upon. When we see something that, in our perception is wrong, or we feel it would be good to make improvements on we do that. … I’d like to think that a number of us are motivated by the thought of giving back what we feel we’ve been blessed with – it’s a compulsion to share with others.”

The group decided to acknowledge more grassroots leaders in future years who “inform, inspire and bring together multiple groups and individuals for common ecological ends.”

“I hope it will be presented every year as a way of promoting our shared ideals,” said Cumming.