One person who has been in the spotlight for many years, and is always associated with benefitting others, is Kent Farndale. Many of you know Kent from her constant appearances in the media or through her involvement in various organizations, but most know very little of her history outside of what the papers print.
Kent, who is, and has been, involved in many community events and projects, was not only born in Port Perry, but is the fifth generation of Gerrow's in Canada. Her family, persecuted Huguenots from France, originally settled here and their family name, Gerrow, became prominent among local society. In 1924, Kent's grandfather opened Gerrow's bakery, which they operated until 1961. It was sold to Hank de Jong, and continues today as Hank's Pastries, at the same location.
An only child and wanting to experience life outside the bakery, Kent (christened with her mother's maiden name), had an opportunity to work part time in the Bell Telephone office at the age of 13, across the street from the bakery (in what is now Adorn). She became very proficient as a 'number please' operator while she completed her high school education, and attended Teacher's College in Toronto. She graduated and specialized in teaching Grades 1 and 2. In 1958, Kent married Doug Farndale, and they moved to Burlington. Doug's career at the Toronto Dominion Bank took the couple to Toronto, and later to Edmonton, where Kent continued her career as a teacher.
Time passed quickly and in 1966 Doug had been asked to return to Toronto and head up the implementation of the new Chargex (Visa) concept for the bank. The couple moved back to Port Perry, locating on none other than Kent Street, in Port Perry. They purchased a cottage on Platten Island (now Goreski’s Landing on Scugog Island), which at the time was part of Kent’s Grandma Platten’s farm.
Kent immediately became involved in the Town's activities. When good friend Bill Brock called her one day in the early 1970's, to share the gloomy news that the Town Council of the day intended to tear down the Old Town Hall, Kent was most upset and decided that would never do. She may be short on stature, but is a fireball when it comes to involvement. She quickly participated in a fundraising campaign that not only saved the Town Hall 1873, but restored it as well, giving Port Perry a wonderful venue for the arts, in a building which has tremendous historic value.
Most people at the time did not realize that Kent also had a very talented singing voice, and many were surprised when she joined the Scugog Choral Society in the early '80s. Shows like Fiddler on the Roof, Brigadoon and My Fair Lady, featured Kent crooning to everyone. Her public singing debut was made as a child in the United Church choir.
Kent was also involved in the Port Perry Hospital, and sat on the board during the expansion of the Matthew Diamond Wing. In the late eighties Kent was asked to join the Port Perry Hospital Expansion committee, and in typical Kent Farndale style, jumped right in. She became actively involved in raising funds for the expansion of the Steven B. Roman wing, and in 1992, became chairwoman of the Board.
Being an active member of the Hospital Foundation, Kent worked diligently to achieve goals, which added necessary, state-of-the-art equipment to the hospital. She was also actively involved in the 'Lighting the Way' campaign, which began in 2005 to support the new endoscopy unit at the hospital. Her eyes beamed when she told me how successful the campaign had been. Needless to say, enough money was raised and their goal was achieved.
I have always been aware Kent Farndale was a great admirer of art, and her private collection attests to that. More importantly, Kent lovingly supports the Arts in Scugog Township. For the past eleven years she has been a director with the Scugog Council for the Arts, is a life member of the Ontario Crafts Council, and a supporter of the recently renovated Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art.
When Scugog decided to build a new library in 1982, Kent was adamant an art gallery be included with the plans. After many long hours of discussion, it was decided an exhibition space for artists would be an integral part of the new library. Kent looked after the operation of the gallery for 10 years, and upon her leaving, a committee determined to pay tribute to her effort by naming the gallery in her honour, as well as establishing the Kent Farndale Bursary for the Arts.
Last year Kent was the recipient of the prestigious Community Service medallion, presented by MP Erin O’Toole, in recognition of her achievements. It was also the year Kent received the Lifetime Achievement Award, when the Durham Art of Transition Creative Awards were handed out.
For most people, half the accomplishments achieved by Kent Farndale would have been more than enough, but not for this lady who has become an institution in Port Perry. Her 1994 book (co-authored with Gwenyth Thompson), entitled 'Stitches in Time', tells the story of the history of hospitals in Scugog Township and is an indicator of the endless hours Kent has dedicated to this community.
Next time you see Kent Farndale rushing to an event or hurrying to one of the many organizations with which she is involved, say hello. She will always take time to chat.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, columnist and author. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.com