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Osoyoos man’s Medal of Bravery and Santa being honoured as top volunteer made headlines in April
An Osoyoos man who rescued a man from a burning truck several years ago and the naming of Osoyoos’ longtime Santa Claus as the Volunteer of the Year made headlines in April.
It was announced in April that John Meredith would be awarded the Medal of Bravery by Governor General David Johnston for rescuing a man from a burning truck. Meredith was informed of the award nearly five years after he pulled the trapped man from the truck, seconds before it exploded. Meredith received his award in Ottawa in June with his wife and two sons attending.
Meredith, a retired policeman from the Toronto area, was driving with his wife Kathy in their motor home from Galveston to Laredo, Texas in the middle of the day on March 4, 2008.
Suddenly, he saw a flatbed truck, which was coming towards him on the other side of a divided highway, swerve into the guardrail and topple over the edge, plunging into a ravine and river below.
“I thought they were all dead when I saw it flip,” said Meredith.
The truck landed on its roof with the cab on land and the flatbed in the river. Meredith pulled their motor home off the road and ran down to offer assistance.
Meredith and two other men struggled unsuccessfully to free the cousin while the truck burned and tires started popping. The man was wedged in by the crushed truck cab.
They decided to make one final attempt with the truck driver prying with the board and with Meredith and the other man pulling on the trapped cousin.
On the count of three, all pulled and the trapped man came flying out.
“It was our last try and he came out,” said Meredith, who says that with his police training, his instinct was to help without thinking about it.
When they dragged the man, the other motorist wanted to stop, but Meredith insisted on continuing until they were about 100 feet from the burning truck.
Seconds later, the truck exploded.
“They both lived,” said Meredith, who doesn’t know the exact extent of the injuries, but believes the trapped man may have broken a leg while being pulled free and the driver likely had head injuries.
“Actually, considering the type of accident it was, the injuries were not that severe at the time,” he said.
Meredith, who is humble about the incident, wasn’t looking for recognition, but he mentioned it to his son Iain, who was with the Canadian Forces and was living in Ottawa at the time. The Merediths, who were in the process of moving from Whitby, Ont. to Osoyoos, knew their former Member of Parliament, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Their son informed Flaherty’s office. From there the matter was referred to the office of the Governor General.
Seeing the smiles on the faces of thousands of children has provided Mike De Salaberry with endless memories over the past 25 years.
To be recognized as the winner of the Outstanding Individual Volunteer Award at the Osoyoos Volunteer Appreciation and Awards, is a kind gesture he will always appreciate, said De Salaberry.
For the past quarter century – 14 years in Abbotsford and the past 11 years in Osoyoos – De Salaberry had spent countless hours combing his white beard and wearing his red suit by playing Santa Claus for tens of thousands of children.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed to have received this honour,” said De Salaberry. “I’ve always loved young people and I have truly been blessed to have been Santa for the past 25 years. I always did it because I enjoyed meeting the children and making them smile. So to receive an award like this is something that is almost overwhelming to me.”
De Salaberry’s wife Margaret is a big reason why he kept returning every Christmas season to entertain children.
“She deserves as much credit as I do … she’s the boss of this operation,” he said smiling.
Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells said the volunteer of the year award couldn’t go to a nicer man or more dedicated volunteer.
“Mike’s first appearance as Santa came when his daughter called him and said, “Our Santa is sick, so you must come now dad. Since that time, Mike has warmed the hearts of so many, both young and old.”
The Outstanding Community Group Award was presented to the board with the Osoyoos Museum Society. This year, the society is celebrating its 50th anniversary in Osoyoos.
The town’s Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) was the only nominee for the Council Appointed Committee or Task Force Member Award.
The EDAC was formed in January of 2012 with members appointed by council. They include chair Len McLean, vice chair Jason Bartsch, Joanne Muirhead, Holly Plante, Carol Youngberg, Rob Rausch and Brad McRae.
The Best Volunteer Project Award was given to the School Breakfast Program that has been providing muffins and juice to students at Osoyoos Elementary School and Osoyoos Secondary School for the past 12 years.
Every volunteer makes a difference to the quality of life we all enjoy in this town, said Wells.
“It’s the volunteers who build the community in this way. We thank you sincerely for all the good work you do for others in the Town of Osoyoos.”
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES