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John Lyons celebrates award
with friend

Gala celebrates Service on the Sea

By Paul Gowan

A unique set of awards was handed out in October in Vancouver, with the Disabled Sailing Association the beneficiary. The first-ever Service on the Sea awards, held at the Sheraton Wall Centre on October 16, honoured individuals demonstrating extraordinary commitment to B.C.'s marine communities.

The awards were launched this year by B.C.'s Pacific Yachting Magazine with aid from a variety of sponsors. They recognized outstanding contribution in four categories: heroism, environmental contribution, long-time service, and creativity and innovation.

In addition, DSA presented it's own award, Commodore of the Year, to one of its own: disabled sailor and retired Air Force veteran John Lyons of White Rock. DSA honoured Lyons for his exemplary spirit and his contribution to improving opportunities for people who would otherwise have limited access to sailing.

In two short summers since donning sailing gear, Lyons has been a constant source of support and guidance to others, in addition to developing the skills to sail solo.

"I've learned a lot of things and met a lot of great people," Lyons says of his experiences. He enjoys teaching others the sport or just taking them out for a little sun and a ride.

Lyons, a quadriplegic, first injured his back more than 40 years ago during a rough airplane landing while serving as a radio navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Later, as an Air Force reservist, he suffered further spinal damage when a jeep in which he was riding overturned. Within the last 10 years, doctors have been able to insert titanium rods in his back, giving him some limited mobility.

Other award winners spanned the marine community. Retired lighthouse keepers Ed and Pat Kidder, lately of Qualicum Beach, but formerly keepers for 34 years of the lighthouse on remote Nootka Sound off Vancouver Island, were recognized for their long-time marine service. Though by nature private people, Ed and Pat occasionally faced the glare of publicity as principal spokespersons defending the invaluable work performed by lighthouse keepers across the province and across the country.

Sharing long-time service recognition with the Kidders was Surrey's Don Rose, a towboat captain on the largest tug on the West Coast of Canada, and a B.C. Rivtow Marine employee for 38 years.

Rose says of his profession: "If you don't like it, you'll be miserable." Rose and his tugboat crew spend most of their time hauling barges on long trips up and down the Coast. While on duty they live on the tug and operate continuously. Rose, 59, tried a shore job once but didn't warm up to the 9-5 routine.

The award for heroism went to a team, rather than an individual. For their courageous volunteer service, the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, Pacific Region garnered this honour. The auxiliary, with 1,400 volunteers and 53 units in B.C. and the Yukon, responds to an average of three incidents a day and 1,000 a year in support of the regular Canadian Coast Guard.

Sabine Jessen of North Vancouver, a tireless worker and champion of ocean conservation and an unbending advocate for special Canadian marine protected areas, picked up an award for her environmental contribution to B.C. waters.

The creativity and innovation award went to Phil Nuytten, also of North Vancouver. The B.C.-born-and-bred technological pioneer, responsible for several creations that have put B.C. on the world's underwater map, has been consulted by organizations such as the Canadian Space Agency and NASA, among others.

For more information on Service on the Sea or DSA, visit, or phone 604-688-6464.

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