Author Gabrielle Roy and businessman, politician and philanthropist Edward Lancaster Drewry recently became the 30th and 31st inductees into the Winnipeg Real Estate Board-established Citizens Hall of Fame, which honours Winnipeggers who have made an outstanding contribution to the community.
“It’s hard to believe that we are celebrating the 20th year of honouring our most gifted and most determined citizens,” said Winnipeg Real Estate Board president Ruthe Penner, during a special ceremony for the inductess held last week in the Assiniboine Park Pavilion.
“Another distinguished artist in the literary world (Roy) joins Carol Shields and Nellie McClung as inductees that capture public attention and international fame through their writings,” said Bill Burns, a REALTOR and chair of the Citizens Hall of Fame.
“Our inductee chosen in the historical category (contributions made prior to 1950) this year (Drewry) is much along the lines of past inductee William Gomez Fonseca in his full-fledged commitment and passion for improving Winnipeg’s future economic prospects and living conditions before the turn of the 20th century,” Burns added. “He can be viewed as an early city builder.”
Donald Benham, a city councillor and the great-grandson of Drewry, said the early entrepreneur was in the mould of the late Israel Asper, an inductee into the Hall of Fame in 1999.
“E.L. Drewry was the Israel Asper of his day, who believed that business people have a responsibility to share their wealth with the community. E.L. Drewry was an example of the ethos of that spirit.”
Annette St. Pierre, who along with Virginia Martin, accepted the award on behalf of Roy, said the St. Boniface-born author was “truly one of Canada’s greatest authors.”
Although she spent much of her adult life outside the province, St. Pierre said Roy “loved Manitoba and never forgot her native province.”
Drewry (1851-1940) came to Winnipeg in 1877 from St. Paul, Minnesota, and took over the Redwood Brewery at the corner of Redwood and Main, renaming it after himself as Drewry Ltd. The brewery was noted across Western Canada for its ales and lagers.
But, Drewry was more than just a businessman. He served on city council from 1883 to 1884, was an MLA for North Winnipeg from 1886 to 1889 and chaired Winnipeg’s park’s board from 1894 to 1899. As parks board chairman, Drewry was responsible for laying the foundation for Assiniboine Park and promoted planting the majestic elm trees that now green the city.
He was also a member of the Winnipeg General Hospital Board for more than 40 years, a president of the Board of Trade in 1899 and director of the Union Bank for 22 years.
Roy (1909-1983), an Order of Canada recipient, wrote 12 novels and numerous short stories, many of which are based in Manitoba. Her autobiographical book Rue Deschambault (Street of Riches) describes growing up and living in St. Boniface and Manitoba right up to 1937.
She attended Winnipeg Normal School and taught school in rural Manitoba where she began to write.
A novel, La Petit Poule d’Eau (Where Nests the Water Hen), describes the trials and tribulations of a teacher in Manitoba’s Waterhen region.
Her first book, Bonheur d’Occasion (Tin Flute), netted her one of three Govern General’s Awards she received throughout her writing career.
A homage to the world-renowned author is the Gabrielle Roy House, the home she grew up in at 375 Deschambault St. — the inspiration for Street of Riches. It has been restored and refurbished and was opened to the public in 2003. Martin and St. Pierre said the medallion signifying Roy’s induction into the Hall of Fame will be put on display in Gabrielle Roy House.
All the medallions for inductees are based on a design created by local artist Eva Stubbs.
Special mention was also made to artist Joseph Randa during the induction ceremony. Randa passed away in July. He was the first local artist commissioned to create a sculpture for the Hall of Fame by the WREB and also served as an advisor to the committee that selects inductees. Seven of the 29 sculptures of past inductees now on display in the Formal Garden at Assiniboine Park were created by Randa.
“We now have a significant collection of sculptures by some of our finest artists,” said Penner.
Drewry was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the public affairs category and Roy was inducted in the arts category.