I had the great pleasure of meeting with Lynn Varughese over coffee last week.

Lynn had nominated her late husband Tom for the Cold Lake Hall of Fame. Tom will be inducted into the Hall January 13, along with landscape artist René Richard.

Tom is nominated in the Builder category. He could as easily have been inducted as an athlete, but his contribution to the community goes far beyond his love of soccer—as a teacher and principal, he helped successive generations of students develop their own potential, and he is still very much loved by those who knew him.

Tom Varughese passed away just seven years ago. As such, he has many family members, former colleagues and students, teammates, and others in the community who remember him warmly.

A community’s history needn’t be something from a distant past. In fact, the longer we wait to recognize our triumphs and tragedies, the greater the risk they will be forgotten. 

This is true to some extent of the other inductee, René Richard. Richard, who died in 1982, is still celebrated in Quebec; yet he is largely unheard of in Cold Lake, where he lived almost half of his life. 

Richard was first and foremost a trapper, not a painter, until he married Blanche Cimon and moved to Baie-Saint Paul, Quebec at the age of 47. This is the great value of his art: he sketched and painted the western and northern Canadian wilderness through the eyes of a trapper. No other artist has recorded our landscape from that honest, unsentimental perspective.

Like fellow Hall of Fame member Alex Janvier, Richard used his art to convey both beauty and harshness. The two artists, with their different backgrounds, visions, and approaches to art, show Cold Lake to the rest of Canada and to the world.

In rediscovering Richard, we are listening to and learning from the voices of past generations. By celebrating Tom Varughese, our present generation is communicating to the future. The message is the same: these are the people who inspire us. 

The Cold Lake Hall of Fame is a young project. It was inaugurated in 2017 with the induction of Janvier and local baseball legend Ivan Krook. Two years later, Cold Lake’s first mayor Fabian Milaney was added. And then everything stopped because of Covid-19.

Congratulations to the City of Cold Lake for this initiative to recognize its outstanding citizens. Until recently the “Hall” has been more of a symbolic designation than a physical space. Now the inductees will be commemorated on beautiful plaques in the Energy Centre. There are three now; that will increase to five next week with many more to come in future years. 

Tickets are still available for the induction ceremony next week, call (780) 639-6400 for more information. And stop by the Energy Centre to read about the inductees to date and reflect on Cold Lake’s history.

René Richard at his easel ca. 1955 (CIMON FAMILY COLLECTION)