By James Rose

Special to the Pioneer

It goes without saying. The perks to living in the beautiful Columbia Valley are many. Mountains, lakes, a vibrant art and culinary scene, the list goes on. It is not, however, just the natural beauty that makes communities such as Invermere great. There are other subtler aspects as well. Identifying them is hard to put a finger on, and oftentimes, they are only realized after the fact.

Elinor Florence, a 20-year resident of the Columbia Valley, experienced one of these moments not long ago.

Ms. Florence is the author of a historical novel entitled Birds Eye View, that tells the story about an idealistic young Canadian woman who joins the air force in the Second World War and becomes an aerial photographic interpreter. Her work ultimately changes the course of history and her own life in ways she never imagined.

Ms. Florences novel has been very well-received fans from all over Canada, the United States, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand have written her to offer congratulations, support and admiration.

It was one gentlemans letter, however, and how it made its way to Ms. Florence, that reminded her why living in the valley so special.

In December 2014, Elinor conducted a book-signing in Radium, where she was approached by a woman by the name of Marcia Olson (who has a second home in Windermere). Ms. Olsons father, she said to Elinor, was in the air force and had flown with an Edmontonian friend named Tony Cashman. After buying a copy of Birds Eye View, Ms. Olson sent it as a gift to Tony, who liked the novel for its story and, in particular, its accuracy on certain details overlooked by the average wartime historian. Several months later, Tony phoned Ms. Florence, much to her surprise.

How did you find me? she asked him, as she hadnt given Ms. Olson her contact information.

I did it the old-fashioned way, with directory assistance! Tony replied. Without a computer, he relied upon a method all but forgotten in todays digital age.

But it was a letter from Tonys 90-year-old brother John, who lives in San Jose, California, that caught Ms. Florence completely by surprise. John Cashman, after receiving a copy of her book, decided that he would take a gamble.

After writing an eloquent letter to Ms. Florence praising her writing, he addressed the letter to Mrs. Elinor Florence (the author lady), noting on the envelope that he didnt have the street name or number or even a postal code. All he knew was that she lived in Invermere, B.C.

Upon receiving the unaddressed letter from California, the postal workers at Invermeres Canada Post, who know Ms. Florence, placed the letter in her post office box.

It was so very nice of (Canada Post) to make sure I got the letter! I went in to the office and thanked them and wrote back John thanking him as well, said Ms. Florence.

Since then, the two have been regularly corresponding. And if it was not for a small act of kindness made possible by the cohesive community that is Invermere, John Cashman and Elinor Florence would remain strangers to this day.