Jeff Green | Apr 02, 2009
Back to HomeFeature Article - April 2, 2009 Inie Platenius: death of a community animatorBy Jeff Green
Inie Platenius in 2002, after being named Portland District volunteer of the year
Back in the 70’s, Inie and Peter Platenius bought an old farm on the Craig Road, near Verona. Peter taught at Queens and Inie taught high school and they set about making their farmhouse a more comfortable place to raise a family.
Living on Craig Road suited their interests well, because it gave them all the space they needed, gave them a rural community, and ready access to Kingston. Inie came to rural Frontenac County from the US, via Kingston, and she has chronicled in print several of her experiences as an outsider moving to the “hardscrabble land” (to use her phrase) at the meeting point between the Shield and the Limestone substrate.
The Plateniuses were part of a wave of “back to the landers”, and it took a bit of time for them to become part of the landscape, but over time they did that, each in their own way.
By the time Inie died on Monday of this week, after a 23-year battle with cancer, it had been well over 30 years since they made that move. They raised two sons, and helped raise the community as well. Inie was cherished by a community of people that extended the entire breadth of Frontenac County and beyond.
She was integrally involved with the Blue Skies Music Festival, and Blue Skies in the Community, the Triangle newspaper, the Verona Lions Club, the Verona Festival and the Verona Community Association. She also wrote, directed, and acted in plays in Kingston, and with the North Frontenac Little Theatre.
The shape, the very character of all of the institutions listed above was materially affected by Inie's intellect and hard work. More than that she gave them a part of their soul. That's why in addition to Peter and her close friends and family, it is hard to think of these organizations and groups without thinking about her.
It's the same for us at the News. When David Brison bought the paper in 2000, he gave Inie a quick call to ask her if she would take over the Verona column. Two and a half hours later (neither David nor Inie were short-winded) they had reached an agreement. Inie would write what she wanted to write and David would print it. That arrangement has remained in place until a couple of weeks ago.
Working on “the column” as she called it, was something that fit in with everything else Inie did, from buying as much food as possible in Verona and at the farmers’ market to shopping at the hardware store, the IGA or Local Family Farms and Jitterbugs.
We have never been under any illusions about Inie and her column. Although she certainly was supportive of the News, she was using us to help people from Vereona communicate with each other.
The thing about Inie that sticks out for me is the level of interest she took in everything. She took a complete interest in what was going on. She did not drift in conversation, and was not afraid of emotional truth, whether that meant sharing a laugh or sharing a cry.
I remember someone describing a Blue Skies Festival meeting. It got pretty heated, they said, “Inie cried.” There was a short pause, and they said, “but then again, Inie cries”.
We use the word “community” pretty loosely in the community newspaper business, but Inie took it very seriously. For her community was defined both geographically and culturally.
In the Trudeau era, government grants were given out to community animators, whose job it was to make thing happen in city neighbourhoods and rural communities. The very idea seems quaint from today’s perspective, as if any one individual could possible bring a community to life. But, if there was anyone I've met who truly animated communities, particularly the village of Verona, that was Inie.
Late last spring, as she was undergoing chemo-therapy, losing hair, and growing weaker, Inie decided to take on directing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with the North Frontenac Little Theatre. She knew she might not have the strength to complete the job herself, so she drafted John MacDougall as her co-director. (She later claimed it was all MacDougall's idea). The very audacity of the project - Shakespeare in Sharbot Lake - and the nerve to take it on when she knew she might be dying, was pure Inie; ambitious, slightly outrageous, and theatrical.
The show will be a tribute to her, one of many that will take place in the coming weeks and months.
A memorial dinner, celebration and jam session for Inie will take place at the Verona Lions Hall on Saturday, April 4, starting at 4:00 pm.
Just like Inie’s life, the evening will be full, full of laughs and tears.