By Mike Butler
This is big news everyone! I mean really BIG news! With this Who’s Who profile I have finally scored what was once the impossible: an interview with Wendy Elliott! Why is this so big? Because Wendy the journalist is now the subject, as opposed to being the writer… under the sharp wit and probing mind of ME! I’m so excited to tell you about this very special person with whom, I’m sure, we all have a connection to somehow.
When I was 13 years old I travelled to Italy. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, it was my first encounter with Wendy Elliott who featured my story and me on the cover of the local “Advertiser”. Little did I know then, that it would not be the last time Wendy would be responsible for my local celebrity.
Wendy Elliott grew up in Ottawa, but visited her grandparents in Wolfville most summers equating to, she feels, dual citizenship. She came to Acadia University to avoid grade 13 in Ontario and fell in love with not just the University, but also the small town life and the beautiful surrounding area. She holds a BA & B.Ed from Acadia (gulp!) 40 years ago. Wendy’s hubby, Steve, is a graphic designer and the chair of the volunteer Acadia Cinema board. They have three very talented offspring who are all grown up and off being fabulous, but enough about them, this is about Wendy!
You’d have to have been living under a huge rock for the last quarter century to not know that Wendy is a community newspaper reporter. After graduating, Wendy wanted to be a drama teacher but the only job open at the time was in Sydney, and since she wasn’t from Cape Breton she was told she could not be eligible. Wendy did teach for two years at the private school in Windsor and she coached a lot of drama at Wolfville School and Horton High School over the years.
On reporting she states, “I tried a summer at the “Hants Journal” and had a blast finding out what community really means. It has always seemed a great privilege to me to meet individuals who go above and beyond the average. With my notepad and camera in hand I have been privileged to meet individuals I would have been too shy or opinionated to encounter otherwise. Seems to me the first thing one learns at a community newspaper is to submerge the self behind the necessity of capturing the fabric of the community one is writing about.”
Wendy has written a weekly column since the late 1970s. In my short six years with “The Grapevine” I can attest to how enjoyable community reporting is. Now I can use this platform, finally, to thank Wendy for inspiring me to be the best I can be within the community, and understand my responsibility as a contributing writer to this paper. Thank You!
She says, “You never know which comment will seize a reader’s attention. Local history, especially people of the past stories, is a particular love of mine. I was astounded to meet Ernest Eaton who sailed before the days of steam and Henry Bentley who could recall with ease when Sir John A. McDonald was prime minister of Canada. Meeting actual witnesses to history are becoming infinitely rare. One of my best memories as a reporter was the Lions Club testimonial dinner for Wolfville’s retired garbage collector. That night the dining hall was filled to the rafters to honour a man that many communities would have taken for granted. And then there was the time Fred Phillips, who is developmentally delayed, set about fundraising to purchase a gravestone for the father he never met. He was supported, not laughed at, and the list goes on of how this community is amazing!”
Wendy’s personal hobby, and way to give back to her community, is live local theatre. Theatre is one of those very magical experiences and Wendy is a tremendous supporter and contributor of her own projects and those of other theatre companies in the Valley. In 1995, the first Fezziwig Family Frolic began and, over the years, seeing and being involved in the show has become a holiday tradition for many. Wendy has had the director reigns since the beginning and I can’t imagine the shows without her support and guidance. And I am only a veteran of six years whereas some cast members have been with the show since conception including Wendy’s son Alan Slipp.
Remember when I said I owe my local celebrity to Wendy? Well, six years ago on my walk home, Wendy pulled up beside me and yelled “Come to Wolfville School this Thursday night at 7pm. It’s a surprise!” And that began my illustrious career as the chief panto-dame in the Fezziwig shows – starting with Cinderella and moving through Tinkerbell to this year’s production. Because of Wendy’s vision, friendship, generous spirit, and keen eye, I’ve become somewhat of a community theatre superstar and I owe her the deepest thank you!
This year the Fezziwig Society presents “Robin Hood: The Forest Awakens” and yours truly gets to dress like a babe again as Maid Marian in a quirky locally-written script with all the love and hard work of previous years. Tickets are available at The Box of Delights Bookshop and the show plays December 16 and 17 at Festival Theatre in Wolfville. See you there!!!
Besides Fezziwig, Wendy helps with the WOW productions each year. She says, “The Women of Wolfville is a network of more than 300 women. Since WOW’s creation in 2001, the organization has had a very strong core group of 40-60 women. In our 16+ years of existence, WOW has raised over $160,000 for charities worldwide. The proceeds are dispersed between local and international charities.” Wendy’s help with this organization led to a nude male calendar featuring me as Mr. April (yet another claim to fame I owe to Wendy).
Wendy recently ran for a spot on (and was elected to) the Wolfville Town Council as another way to give back to her community. After sitting in on meetings since 1980, Wendy is very excited to be on the decision-making side of the table now to see where she can contribute.
She states, “I feel rooted to the shores of the Minas Basin, not because my grandparents lived here, but because spiritually speaking, it feels like home. But finding community is far more than a pleasant vista. When living in community, there are good and bad times. That is normal. The overall benefit is what keeps the parts striving toward the positive. Quality of life matters more here than big homes, big cars, and fat expense accounts.”