It’s hard to imagine two more different environments than Malta and Golden, but Shawna Gray spent time growing up in both before settling back in the Columbia Valley.
Gray moved to Malta with her family when she was in Grade 6. Her dad, Tony Wenzoski, got a job for an American oil company as a mechanic. Her father worked in the Persian Gulf, but that area was deemed unsafe for families and Gray lived in Malta with her mother Ethel instead. Her father would make frequent trips to visit them when he had time off.
The Maltese speak what Gray calls a “hodgepodge of languages” including Maltese and Italian, although English was widely spoken as well, so the language barrier was not an issue. Gray attended a British school and it was an interesting experience for her at the time.
“It was quite an eye-opener as far as the schooling. The education was top notch,” she said. “We also had to learn Latin. I started at the bottom of the class and finally the light bulb came on and I ended up near the top. It was a neat language.”
Her love of school, both abroad and in Golden, led her to make a curious decision when she became sick.
“I’ve always loved school. When I was little I even went to school with the chicken pox because I didn’t want to miss a day,” she laughed. “They were just on my stomach so I didn’t tell my mom.”
Gray and her family moved back to Golden when her father’s contract expired. Their trip back to North America was an exciting one, however, as her father treated her family to a trip aboard Queen Elizabeth 2, a massive transatlantic liner that took the nearly week long trip from Southampton to New York.
“As we approached the coast of the Eastern seaboard, there was a remnant of a tropical storm or a hurricane…the ship, as big as it was, was just rocking from side to side. There were very few people up for breakfast that morning, and I was one of them,” she laughed. “And I thought, okay, I’m not seasick, that’s good.”
Her time in Malta, an island country in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the trip on QE2 gave her a deep appreciation for the ocean, something that she continues to carry with her today.
However, Golden clearly had something that was lacking in Malta. Towards the end of her family’s long trip home, they stopped in Lac des Arcs in Alberta.
“It was our first real view of the mountains and we realized just how much we missed them when we saw them,” she said.
Upon returning to Golden, Gray found that a lot of her friends from before had changed and she was forced to get involved at school and make new friends as a result. She joined student council and the yearbook committee and remained very involved in extra-curricular activities throughout her time at Golden Secondary.
She remained involved in community groups following high school as well, and was on the Save the Civic Centre Committee and volunteered with the Golden District Arts Council, among others. She has four children, three daughters (Tamara, Charity and Jayna) and one son (Alan).
For 20 years she worked part-time for the Town of Golden as a fitness instructor and later worked part-time at the post office as well. Her job at the post office became a full-time gig in 2006, which is when she had to give up the fitness instruction, and she continues to work for Canada Post now.
In her spare time, Gray enjoys outdoor sports such as kayaking, hiking and cross country skiing. She has yet to return to her other home in Malta, something she hopes to do in the near future.