Joan Wilson
Recipient of the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal

By Kathy Morrell


April 23, 2013, Lieutenant-Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield awarded the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal to six residents of the province, including long time YFBTA member, Joan Wilson.
  “If it needs to be done, let’s do it.” These words remain the basic tenet of Joan’s approach to volunteer work. Once a need is identified, she involves not just one individual, but an entire community, for Joan is very much a “we” kind of person.

Over the past thirty years, Joan Wilson has given her time and energy to countless projects in Saltcoats, Yorkton and area. Her interests have ranged from sports and arts and culture to nature programs such as the annual Birding Symposium for the YFBTA.  But more than an enthusiastic member of a birding group, Joan has developed her own expertise and knowledge of prairie plants. She attributes this “flowering” to the influence of Jim and Shirley Jowsey.
“I discovered Wildflowers across the Prairie when a new edition of the Jowsey book was released in 1999,” Joan said.  “I’d always been interested in wild flowers and the book gave me the incentive to search out native plants, to learn more about them.”  With its beautiful photographs, clear line drawings and a reader friendly text, it was just what Joan needed to pursue her interest.
Since that time, she has developed a broad knowledge about the plants and grasses of the prairies. She does presentations on prairie flora to various groups, sharing her enthusiasm, learning with others, creating community.
“Too many people fail to appreciate the true value of our native plants,” Joan noted. “We need to preserve the natural prairie or they will have no hope of survival.”

In 2008, her commitment to the preservation of grassland was put to the test. Some people in the community had decided to plow up a portion of natural prairie contained within the Saltcoats Regional Park in order to create a golf course.
“I was really concerned,” Joan explained. “I wrote letters. I talked to people.” It was a project in need of doing.

The result of Joan’s advocacy was the establishment of the Dr. Jim and Shirley Jowsey Wildflower Heritage and Conservation Area. The initiative acknowledges the enormous contribution of the Jowseys, two members of the YFBTA, to the study of prairie plants, but it also recognizes Joan’s perseverance in the protection of natural habitat.

The project once again was not a “me” kind of thing. Joan persuaded the YFBTA and Nature Saskatchewan to join as partners in the establishment of the Conservation Area. It was truly another one of her “we” endeavours.

Joan exhibits her commitment to the protection of prairie flora in other ways as well. Not so many years ago, Joan realized a twayblade orchid, a plant at risk, was growing along the shore opposite the Wilson cabin at Madge Lake. She soon had the parks people involved. They came and found to their surprise that the land had already been “posted”. Joan had already staked the property and set up a sign asking people not to walk on the land in order to protect the plants.
In addition to her efforts at Madge Lake, Joan has also volunteered her expertise for the Yorkton Film Festival. Joan and Paula Maier, another one of our members, were asked to weed the bed of natural plants in front of the Godfrey Dean Centre. Everyone knew the task needed the discerning eye of two experts to determine what was weed and what was native plant. If it needed to be done, Joan was there.

If you ask people in Saltcoats about Joan, someone might say, “Oh yes, she ran the curling program for the kids.” And indeed, she did –for thirty years.

Another might add, “Oh yes, I saw her in that play. She’s quite the actor, you know.” The Laketown Players mount an annual production to raise money for the Community Hall and Joan is always a part of it all.

“Those sets,” another says, “well, they take tons of time and I know she does a lot of the painting.”
“She’s really our resident artist,” another adds. “I think she had something to do with that mural at the Post Office.” In fact, she had a lot to do with that mural. She acted as the liaison between the artist and the community.

“She had more to do with that mural on the Community Hall.” And that is true, too. She designed the mural and then involved the town in the actual painting, an involvement that included the grade seven and eight students from Saltcoats School. It was part of what she called developing the vibrancy of the community. The Community Hall mural was unveiled during the visit of Princess Anne in 2005.

Joan has served on any number of boards: the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils (OSAC), Lake Town Manor, and the Yorkton Regional Library. She was chairperson when the Yorkton and District Home Care Board and the Sunrise Health District amalgamated. But no commitment was greater than her eighteen years of volunteer service as a Saltcoats town councilor and no task more difficult than her role as chairperson of the Board of Revision when reassessment occurred in 1997-98.

“There was a lot of dissension,” Joan said. “The reassessment evaluated newer properties as an eight while older properties received a ranking of two. There seemed to be nothing in between.”

Tax payers who received a high ranking faced a large tax hike. They were not happy and as a result of that unhappiness, one quarter of them appealed to the Board of Revision.

“As chairperson of that Board, I dedicated a lot of time to the appeals,” Joan said. “I learned how to do an evaluation. There were some skewed rankings and there were some technical errors, too. They were easier to deal with. As for the others, it soon became clear that there needed to be a greater variation in the assessments, not just rankings of two and eight.”

“I tried to be as fair as I could,” Joan continued. “There were hard feelings and some name calling. There was talk on coffee row and at the curling rink. But I saw it through.”

Saltcoats voted for Joan the next time around, too, an indication they appreciated and approved of her work. Joan stayed on Council for one more term.

“I wanted to see the process through to the end,” Joan concluded. “I wanted to help in the community healing process.”
In all her endeavours from town councilor to resident artist and plant person, Joan Wilson has focused on community. She perceives the need, invites others to see that need as well and then involves them in finding the solution. Her leadership is based on the participation and input of others, for she is indeed a “we” kind of volunteer.

And so to you, Joan, we at the YFBTA recognize your work and leadership as a volunteer and congratulate you on your award.

It is truly deserved.

  Return to 'In Tribute' Index