Fort Simpson couple share national honour at insistence of husband

John and Sharon Herring are a lot of things to the community of Fort Simpson.

John is the guy who shovels the snow at the church, works as a coroner, and is a former Justice of the Peace. Music is Sharon's domain — she plays for funerals, weddings and other ceremonies. They both spent decades teaching in the community.

The pair are celebrating 50 years in the North, and alongside that, a very special national honour.

John and Sharon Herring received the Senate Sesquicentennial Medal from former Senator Nick Sibbeston last Sunday in recognition of their "valuable service to the nation."

It's rare for two people to share this acclaim — it may even be the first time it's ever happened. But when Sibbeston called John up to let him know he'd been picked, he had a very important request.

"He wanted his wife Sharon to also be recognized [too]," said Sibbeston.

Sibbeston said he told John he wasn't sure if the medal program provides for two honourees, so he phoned Ottawa to float the idea.

"If you look at the medal today, it does says John and Sharon Herring," said John, with pride in his voice.

From fixing taxes to fixing glasses

John and Sharon first moved to Fort Simpson in the summer of 1973, but a truck carrying their worldly possessions didn't make it until October. So the couple spent their first few months in the community doing a lot of borrowing.

"Especially winter coats when it got into October," laughed John.

The couple says their situation wasn't a problem because the people of Fort Simpson were happy to help. And that support definitely goes both ways.

"We have lots of people with lots of things that need to be done," said Sharon. "Right now, it's income tax or it's notary public, or it's coroner work or it's people who need their mail read so they can understand it."

"Occasionally people come along saying they have a letter to write and they need some help, or somebody says they have a toboggan that needs fixing up," added John, which prompted Sharon to remember another way they've helped recently.

"Or I broke my glasses, so we need a new arm for my glasses," she said.

Sharon says it's hard to put into words how it feels to receive the Senate Sesquicentennial honour. But she did find one to describe it — humbled.

"We live in a wonderful community," she said.

"We have a lot of people here who are very dear to our hearts and it's just been a really, really good journey. Not without tears, not without hard things. We've wept with the community, we've laughed with the community and we've supported where we could. It's been like no other experience."