Originally published in the December 12, 1995 issue of Country Weekly magazine.
The local paper can’t write enough stories about her.
“Some weeks we were running a story every day,” said Dave McGee, managing editor of the Timmins Daily Press, which reports on the Northern Ontario town. “She’s held in pretty high esteem, sort of local girl makes good.”
The remarkable success of Shania and her album *The Woman in Me* has Timmins, known as “The City With the Heart of Gold,” swelling with pride.
Her old friends can’t stop talking about her. “There’s definitely a sense of pride whenever her name comes up, and a lot of excitement,” said Cynthia Hagen, a close friend of the star since 10th grade and president of the Shania Twain Fan Club. “Everybody feels like they’re part of it ‑‑ like an extended family.”
“Everyone calls her Timmins’ sweetheart,” agreed Corrina Wrona, anchor for MCTV television and a former Shania schoolmate.
“We’re all proud of her,” said Romeo Derasp, Shania’s uncle, a fiddler who first backed the aspiring singer in a band when she was 8. “We give her our best.”
Shania returns the affection. “Tell everyone back in Timmins that I love them and I’m thinking of them,” said the star, who now lives in New York state.
Hometown friends and acquaintances had little doubt Eileen Twain would eventually find her own pot of gold beyond the borders of the gold-mining town. (Shania is a stage name she adopted — it means “I’m on my way” in Ojibway and salutes her Native American ancestors.)
“I always knew she would amount to something,” said David Hartt, the former keyboardist of Longshot, Shania’s first professional rock band. Hartt recalls that band members were first enthused when they watched the 16‑year‑old perform on a local telethon and immediately arranged for an audition through a mutual friend.
“We wouldn’t let her leave until she promised to join the band,” he said with a laugh. “There was such power in her voice. It was such an adult voice for someone so young.”
Doreen Yakabuski, Shania’s 12th grade English teacher at Timmins High School, also recalls her strong determination.
“She sang sometimes two or three nights a week and would come to class the next day tired,” she recalled. “But she would always make a point of getting the work from a previous class or get the work ahead of time, and made sure it was done and hand it in. She was a conscientious student, although music was the love of her life more than English literature.”
That love is matched by the affection Timmins now shows her.
“There is a movement afoot to name a street after her,” said Dave McGee. “There’s a scenic lake downtown and a trail where people walk around in the summer months, and there’s a proposal to name that after her. The local joke is maybe they’ll call it Twain Lane.”
Whatever the future holds for Shania Twain, Cynthia Hagen said, the singer’s success has given the 47,500 people of Timmins a bright outlook.
“It’s given people a lot of hope and encouragement in different ways,” Cynthia said. “Coming from a remote northern community, it’s made people realize that if Shania can do it, anything’s possible. She’s a real inspiration.”
photo courtesy Shania Twain