Saying goodbye to Gerard O’Malley

Valley businesses figure quite large in my memories of childhood – groceries from Kitts Red & White, pie and ice cream at Barry’s Bay Dairy, Sunday lunches at the Balmoral Hotel or at Scotty’s Lodge on Spectacle Lake – I’m even old enough to remember going with my Dad to buy blocks of ice in sawdust for the ancient ice-chest in our family cottage. But when my husband and I began planning our move to the Valley seventeen years ago, I had the pleasure of finally getting to know some of the people who ran our local establishments. Above: Gerard O’Malley, with friends and business partners Connie and Neil O’Reilly at Metro’s 25th Anniversary in 2019.

We lost one of them last Saturday when Gerard O’Malley died. The sad news reached me in the UK where we are visiting family members, and it prompted quite a few memories. After my sister had introduced us in Metro, I frequently enjoyed a cheery greeting from Gerard when shopping. Later when I worked at the Railway Station, Gerard often attended the openings of South of 60 art exhibitions there. His interest in and support for the local arts community was clear, not just from the sponsorship that Barry’s Bay Metro extended to South of 60, but also from him taking the time to visit the gallery. For example, when Kim Hanewich showed her series of paintings based on produce items she had purchased at Metro, he was there to praise and encourage her. And to lead a lively discussion about fruit and vegetables while sipping a glass of wine.

And Gerard’s support was not just for the artists in the Valley – he got behind many community events and causes. I recall attending an Access Work Services event at the Opeongo Seniors Centre. It was inspiring to hear him speak to a packed room about the importance of employing people with challenges to employment. Gerard made us understand the value of the contributions that those employees made to Metro and the pride they rightfully took in their work.

When we began The Current in 2018, Gerard was among the first to offer support. Barry’s Bay Metro provided shelf space for us to distribute the monthly print versions of the paper as well as placing ads. When the pandemic forced us to eventually cease hard copy distribution, Gerard and his partners continued their support for free community news with online advertising.

This week, the Valley says goodbye to Gerard. The last visitation at Heubner Funeral Home in Barry’s Bay takes place this afternoon from 1pm to 4:30pm, and the funeral Mass will be held at St. Hedwig’s Church tomorrow – Thursday, February 29 at 10:30am. Spring interment will be held at Our Lady of the Angels Cemetery, Brudenell. For those who can’t pay their respects in person, St. Hedwig’s will live stream the funeral Mass on their website. Click HERE for the link to their website.

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