Mahone Bay Centre naming room for well-loved couple

by Brittany Wentzell

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Heather and David Abriel as Mother and Father Christmas during Mahone Bay&#8217;s annual Father Christmas Festival. The Abriels died in a car accident in February. The Mahone Bay Centre is hoping to raise money and name a room after the well-loved pair.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Dr. David Abriel and a baby during photoshoots at the Father Christmas Festival.</p>

The Mahone Bay Centre wants to not only upgrade a room in the over 100-year-old building, but also honour two prominent Mahone Bay residents in the process.

The Mahone Bay Centre, a former school, plays host to an array of community events and meetings. Naming rights are a relatively new thing for the centre, but one of the rooms was named for Ralph E. Hennigar in 2015 after the Hennigar Family gave a large donation in his name.

That inspired the centre to do their latest round fundraising in the name of Dr. David Abriel and his wife, Heather.

"A couple of us got together and thought 'Why not have every room in the centre named after a prominent or well respected citizen or citizens," said John Merchant, a member of the fundraising committee for the centre. "The Abriels name came up first."

David Abriel, 63, and Heather Abriel, 64, died on February 2 after their vehicle collided with a truck on Highway 103 near Ingramport.

David, a palliative care physician who worked in Lunenburg, Bridgewater and Liverpool, and Heather, a teacher, are both remembered not just for their work in their careers, but for playing Father and Mother Christmas in Mahone Bay's Father Christmas Festival.

Merchant says people would come to the centre to see the Abriels as they served cookies and hot chocolate and even adults would get their photos with the pair.

The aging building requires constant upkeep and many rooms have been upgraded in the past. The one that will be named for the Abriels is often referred to as the "seniors" room and is often used for a variety of meetings and events.

"(The money) will go to a number of essential improvements and upgrades that the centre but that room in particular need," said Merchant.

The fundraising committee hopes to raise $25,000 for upgrades and will name the room for the Abriels. The fundraising campaign launches on October 14 with a community potluck at the centre and music.

Merchant says the music isn't set in stone yet but they're hoping that musicians who played with the Abriels. The husband and wife were a part of a local band called Midlife Crisis, which was known for playing up and down the South Shore.

"Music was an extremely important part of their lives," said Merchant.

The centre will also unveil its plans for the room during the launch event with a digital rendering of the upgrades. Donations to the cause will be published on the centre's website.

Naming rooms for community members is something volunteers are hoping to continue into the future of the centre. The room will formally be called the Heather and David Abriel Room.

With files from Michael Lee.

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