It was an affair of the heart that brought a local Rotarian to Pelham.
Born in Montreal and raised in eastern Ontario, Annie Holtby attended university at Queen’s in Kingston, and then did a teaching degree at the Ontario Teachers College at the University of Toronto.
“I travelled to British Columbia the summer before I started to teach, and fell in love with the natural beauty of Whistler,” she said. “I returned to Ontario and taught for a year, then I headed back west, and taught in Whistler, before returning yet again to Ontario, having received a job offer at Rideau High School in Ottawa.”
Eventually she got a call from a friend in BC about some land that had become available, so Holtby and her family headed back to BC, where she continued to teach high school English.
“While I was in Ottawa, I had started to learn Transcendental Meditation (TM). It really made a huge difference in my life.” said Holtby. “My kids noticed, as did people that I worked with. While out west, I decided to take some time off to train as a TM teacher, and then started work as an administrator at Selkirk College, a public community college in southern BC, travelling between campuses in Grand Forks and Castlegar, and other places in West Kootenay. I worked for the college for 25 years. There was a lot of travel, and I spent a lot of time in my car, but I kind of liked it. I told the college’s librarian that I must be their best customer for taking out audiobooks. I worked weekends and evenings, which was fine with me.”
Holtby’s relationship had foundered while in the west, but she found new love back east.
“Peter and I had been high school sweethearts,” said Holtby. “He worked for General Motors for 35 years, and retired in 1999. When we reconnected, he tried it for a year out west with me, but he missed his kids. I told him I didn’t want to go back east to a big city. Peter said he had found a place in Fonthill on Canboro Road, which was fine with me, because I had been to Fonthill in the mid 1960s and liked it. We made the move in 2007. I've got three girls and 10 grandkids still out west, so I do try and get out their most summers.”
Holtby joined Rotary in 1994, while working in British Columbia.
“It was the first year that women — four of us — were accepted into that club, and there was some opposition,” she said. “Nine male members actually left the club. Eventually, the attitude changed, and most men admitted that the introduction of women had brought new energy and life to the club. When I moved to Fonthill, the first person I called was the president of the local Rotary chapter, Maureen Walker, in order to meet some people in the community, and get involved.”
Holtby has been involved with Rotary‘s annual TV auction since her arrival in Pelham, along with Summerfest, bingos, and purse auctions, and has been the long-time foundation chair for the club. Internationally, Rotary has raised some $50 million for relief efforts in Ukraine, according to Holtby.
She was active in group-study exchanges for Rotary in the past, and had opportunities to travel.
“Through Rotary, I spent seven weeks in India in 2002, and loved it,” she said. “One of the places I visited was Rishikesh. It’s situated on the banks of the Ganges River, and is a pilgrimage town for Hindus. It's also where they teach people in India to become TM teachers.”
Rotary is her second family, said Holtby.
“We spent 13 years going to Florida, and I was involved with Rotary down there. The Indian Rocks Beach chapter [close to Tampa Bay] made me an honorary member. It’s a great club. We sold our place in Florida during Covid, and now take holidays to Mexico’s Pacific coast, around Puerto Escondido. It’s great for walking.”