By Darren Lum
There were plenty of people wishing Rosie Kadwell a happy retirement gathered at McKecks Tap and Grill on May 3. It was a fitting farewell for Kadwell who touched many lives as the registered dietitian with the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit for 32 years.
She was an advocate for healthy eating and community food security and helped to establish policies and environmental support. She influenced government and school board policy and was involved in starting several programs. And she did it all with a no-nonsense attitude and a smile.
Friends and colleagues spoke about Kadwell as the person who cared for others and the community where she not only found her career but also her husband Kris and where she raised her two boys one of whom was in the audience for the retirement party.
“Thank you everybody. Thank you for supporting me in my career that I have loved. I want to do a happy dance. I’m retired!” she said at her party to resounding applause.
Her journey would not have started if it wasn’t for her good friend Cathy Outram. Growing up in Peterborough the pair would walk to school together every day.
“I did not want to go to my Grade 13 chemistry exam” Kadwell said. “I was burnt out. I was done with school. It was the last exam. Cathy had to come to my house and get my butt out of bed and said ‘You’re writing this exam if it’s the last thing we do.’ If I didn’t do that I wouldn’t be here … so thank you for that.”
Outram ended up moving to Haliburton because of Kadwell.
Although Kris Kadwell also recently retired from the health unit where he was the tobacco control officer he told the audience he never matched his wife’s fame.
“Most people know me as Rosie’s husband but I do have a name. I like to get it out there every once in a while. Rosie has many many many contacts in the community. My job was more of a solo [act] type of thing. Hers was involved with extensive number of committees and groups. In fact I got to about 10 and I thought I was going to list some of them but I thought no I don’t have enough time. Very active” he said. “Very very dedicated. Many times I would think she is reading an interesting novel or something when I came home at night. I’d look across at her so diligently reading the last three or four hours and then she would very surreptitiously indicate that it was a work-related thing … I’d say are you going to claim this time? She’d say ‘Oh it all works out in the wash’ but the laundry never got done on her side.”
With Sue Shikaze Kris sang to his wife tweaking a few lyrics of a Neil Young standard “Heart of Gold.”
Many of Kadwell’s achievements were in concert with others. She helped start the Food for Kids program with Fay Martin which continues to provide healthy snacks to thousands of students in area schools.
She’s also been involved with the Good Food Box Eat Smart Community Gardens and the Apple Sauce Project. She worked with Trillium Lakelands District School Board to implement the board’s healthy eating policy. Products like milk in vending machines was a result. She conducted a Community Food Assessment and developed a report Haliburton County: Food and the Official Plan. She served as chairperson of Harvest Haliburton which worked with municipal staff and consultants to address food policies locally.
Kadwell thanked former bosses Leslie Orpana and Rachel Moon-Kelly for giving her an opportunity supporting her and encouraging her efforts. She fondly remembered working with Connie Wood who worked with her to start the Diabetes Network. “We built something amazing” she said.
Manager and friend Anne Marie Cyr provided her advice early in her career: “Forge ahead and beg for forgiveness later.”
Kadwell praised her now-former office mates including her husband Kris Sue Shikaze Angela Andrews Melanie Scheffee Karen Pettinella and Kate Hall. “We are one big happy family. I’m so fortunate” she said.
Andrews who first met Rosie in 2002 called Kadwell a “mother bear.” She noted how her friend had a “million pairs of shoes under her desk” and a practical approach to life often using the phrase “suck it up buttercup.”
Kadwell credited her mother for providing the foundation for her life.
She remembers how her mother baked bread regularly and had a garden to harvest for dinner.
“They talk about the local food movement and sustainable diets like it’s something new. My mom taught me that from a long time ago. I was raised that way” she said. “When I start reading articles and understand what’s going on [I think] what’s the big deal? That’s how I was raised … we had a big garden. My mom did all the preserves. She canned everything. She made bread every week. Fresh bread. We ate plant-based proteins. We had beans all the time. I wasn’t a healthy eater when I was a kid. I was a very picky eater.”
At this point her mother sitting next to her said “All she wanted to eat was French fries.”
The audience burst out in laughter.
Thanks was also paid to her family: Kris and her adult sons Shawn and Karl who were all there for her.
A new chapter has begun and Kadwell is taking advantage of it. She has already planned a girls’ adventure to Chicago and a biking trip with her husband and friends slated for this summer.
Kris told a story about a recent hike they had taken encountering knee-deep mud. But no matter what advantage he had on their walks – what should be a wider stride or an extra foot in height while stuck in the mud – she still was faster.
“Some people must believe it’s a myth she walks really fast but I can substantiate that. I’m a math and science person and I can never figure out how my legs which are twice as long as hers can walk at half her speed. That’s the best I can do.”