The Order of Canada is the highest honour to be awarded to a civilian. This award goes to select people who have made extraordinary contributions to our country. We (the diocese of Kootenay) have one very special man among us. Howard Soon.
Howard Soon is a well loved member of St Michael’s Cathedral in Kelowna along with his wife Wendy since 1980. Apart from just being a member, Howard is very active in the Church. He is seen most Sundays greeting everyone who walks through those doors. He has a gift for making everyone feel welcome and loved. Having not been Baptised as a child, back in 1976 he was both Baptised and Confirmed when he married Wendy, at St Helens in Vancouver.
The journey to where he is now starts in London Ontario, at Labatt Brewery. Howard spent three years (or winters, as he says he counts in winters) at Labatt. He then moved to Winnipeg where he completed a college course in Wine. By 1980 he had moved to Kelowna to work with Calona Wines and 2 short years later was made assistant winemaker. Calona Wines was started by W.A.C Bennett and Pasquale Capozzi, two very well known Kelowna businessmen in the 1930’s.
I got a chance to talk to Howard about his journey in winemaking recently. He was very clear to say that winemaking is the perfect mix of art and science, and that winemakers have the ability to create something beautiful. Howard told me that he did not always want to be a winemaker, but he did always love science. He always wanted to be able to make things; wine just happens to be the opportunity that presented itself to him. So that is what he did. He worked for Calona Wines or Sandhill Winery more specifically for 37 years. Although he has 4 children of his own, Howard told me that none of them wanted to go into the winemaking business. Because of this, he made it his mission to mentor other young people who were interested in the field. “Winemaking is a way of thinking” Howard told me, “I am picky on who I train.” I full heartedly believe this is why Howard was nominated and awarded the Order of Canada. His ability to connect with people and his passion for his field of work are unmatched.
To be awarded the Order of Canada you have to be nominated by someone, then after extensive background checks someone from the government (Samantha Lafleur in this case) will phone you. It is tradition to phone and not email the person nominated. “Mr Soon, I would like to offer you an appointment to the Order of Canada”. These words brought up one huge question for Howard, he tells me “why me?”. Well, I would refute with ‘why not you?’. Not only has Howard shaped the winemaking industry in Kelowna, but he has also shaped the hearts of all the people around him. As the supplier and creator of our communion wine for many years (as long as I can remember and I have been attending for 21 years) he has not only cared for the people around him but he has also been a huge part of how we worship within the Church. I could think of no one better to receive the 2019 Order of Canada Award than Howard Soon. The first (and best) Winemaker to be awarded this honour.
“Be the best you can be, your skill was given to you by God”- Howard Soon