This Friday, June 10th, and 11 a.m., the Town of Mattawa is hosting a dedication ceremony to honour Mel Edwards. The ceremony is at the corner of Poplar and McConnell Streets, and all gathered will witness the unveiling of an honourary street sign reading “Mel Edwards Way.”
Caren Gagne, Mel’s daughter, mentioned in a recent release that “it is with a humble heart that we the Edwards family will be witness to such a wonderful dedication to our father’s commitment to Mattawa.”
“He loved his town and its people,” she added. Gagne approached town council last November with the idea of dedicating a street after her father, who passed thirty-five years ago, and council were quick to support the idea.
Recognizing Edwards’ contributions to Mattawa is an honour, Mayor Dean Backer said. His work as a councillor and mayor will not be forgotten, and the mayor mentioned that Edwards will be remembered “as a great family man who along with his wife touched and cared for many families during the toughest times.”
“Their dedication, compassion and professionalism will forever be remembered by the people of Mattawa,” mayor Backer emphasized.
Mel and his wife, Carole, settled in Mattawa in 1953. Edwards was a WWII veteran and was held as a POW for three and half years. Once established in Mattawa, he opened the M.O. Edwards Funeral Home on McConnell Street and raised six children.
A few years after the funeral home was established, Carole opened Edwards Flower Shop in the spring of 1960, and in 1972, the couple purchased The Mattawa Recorder. One year after the purchase, Mel decided to enter municipal politics.
In June of 1973, Edwards began what would become a 12-year career at the council table. He served as councillor and was also deputy mayor, so when then Mayor S.F. Monestime passed away in 1977, Edwards stepped into the role. He was re-elected as mayor in the next two elections.
He served “his town and ratepayers with a positive, selfless, and caring leadership which he gave in the sincere interest of his community and its residents,” the municipality highlighted in its release.
Carole also served on council from 1965 to 1967 and again from 1988 to 1990. She was also active in many organizations within the community, including the North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority, the Chamber of Commerce, the Mattawa Historical Society, and the North Bay Mattawa Housing Authority. Carole Edwards passed away in July 2003.
“Our father taught us what it was to respect each other,” Gagne said. “He taught us how to be family, with integrity, and how to love and laugh. May God take care of him in Heaven as he did us while here on Earth.”
All are welcome to attend Friday’s ceremony. Members of council, other local dignitaries, and members of Edwards’ family will be in attendance. “He will be in our hearts and a part of this town forever,” Gagne added.
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca