Bailey, Cowley give back at holidays - Christmas 2018
BY DENNY SCOTT
For the Bailey-Cowley family, Christmas has changed a lot over the past few years, but the focus is always on ensuring everyone has a Merry Christmas.
Recently elected-Reeve Bernie Bailey and his wife Angela Cowley, principal at Maitland River Elementary School, say their priorities are on serving their communities.
Bailey, in his first month as reeve of North Huron, is finding that this is a very busy time.
“It’s been very busy,” he said. “Every day I have a meeting it seems.”
Between getting the new session of council going and overseeing the municipality as reeve, he said that life has been busy.
“Next year will be a very, very tough year,” he said. “Council and staff are aware of that and getting ready to move forward, but it’s been a very busy few weeks.”
For Cowley, the lead-up to Christmas marks long hours at the school.
“My priority is getting Christmas organized at the school,” she said.
She highlighted several initiatives that the school participates in as being of extreme importance at the school.
“We collect for the Christmas Bureau at the school, and parents and students help to fill the CKNX Relief Truck,” she said, referring to the project undertaken by Buzz Reynolds, who sleeps in a transport truck trailer until it’s filled with non-perishable food items. “Then we also do a concert or Christmas show at the school every year.”
The project she most wanted to highlight, however, was what’s called the Elf List at the school.
Working with the Fire Department of North Huron (FDNH), Cowley and school staff create a list of children from families that may need some help putting gifts under the trees.
A list featuring the gender and age of each child is generated, she explained, and members of the FDNH deliver presents to the school every year.
“They come and are labelled to ‘boy, age nine’, or ‘girl age seven’ and so on,” she said. “The parents are invited to come to the school and receive a gift after hours, which helps make sure all the children at the school enjoy their Christmas.
“It’s so nice to see,” she said. “It’s really humbling and makes you aware and appreciative of Christmas.”
Both Cowley and Bailey said that, when it comes to life, their priorities are work, family and everything else, in that order.
“We’re self-admitted workaholics,” Cowley said, adding that both of them have mothers over 80 years of age that they visit during Christmas.
Bailey used to run Sunrise Dairy in Wingham, he said, which was a large company to operate. Eventually, he decided it was time to simplify his life, which led to him becoming The Appliance Doctor, a mostly-one-man company.
The change allowed him to focus on his family and on Cowley, letting him work at home more, including landscaping and being the chef of the household, except on Christmas Day when Cowley takes over those duties.
While things have changed over the years, Christmas was a very important day in the Bailey household when Bernie was growing up.
“It was the only day when no one worked at the dairy,” he said. “It was the only day that we said there was no business today.”
He said that, like himself and Cowley, his parents were workaholics, so it was the one time of the year that family was the real focus.
This year will be the third year that the couple won’t have children in the house, which they say has taken some getting used to.
“While we’re enjoying the relaxation that comes with Christmas being just us, it’s been something I had to get accustomed to,” Cowley said. “The kids and grandkids come for dinner, but for the rest of the day, it’s just us.”
The couple has four grandchildren between two and 16 years of age, and Bailey and Cowley say they are a blessing.
Cowley said she spoils her grandchildren on Christmas, but makes sure that doesn’t undo the messages of responsibility and respect she preaches the rest of the year.
“Those messages are more important, but Christmas is a special time,” she said.
The focus on family makes sense, Bailey and Cowley said, because that’s what brought them together.
While the couple has been together for over 20 years, they were only married a couple years ago, and before that Bailey says Cowley fell in love with his children before they were ever an item.
“Angie knew my late wife,” he said. “She sent beautiful letters to her when she was sick, which I read to her. You might say we’re a bit of an unconventional family in how that came to be.”
Now that the children are starting their own chapters of life, Cowley says that she and Bailey can enjoy each other more, which has produced some “hidden and wonderful” aspects of their relationships.
“We both have huge leadership roles,” she said, adding that the couple tries to make sure they are mindful of each other’s stresses and are conscientious about the responsibilities they both shoulder.
Gifts are also a favourite subject with the two, as Cowley admits that Bailey comes up with the most sentimental gifts.
“He gets me things I didn’t know I wanted,” she said.
One year Bailey gave framed pictures to each member of the family, complete with a personal letter. Cowley’s had the backing of the frame upside down, which prompted her to fix it, discovering the letter.
“He’s always thinking of great gifts like that,” she said.