Gore Bay recognizes four individuals with Lifetime Achievement Awards

Four very deserving citizens of the Town of Gore Bay were presented with Lifetime Achievement Awards in a ceremony held last Saturday. Those receiving the awards include in photo, left to right are Nicole Weppler, Dr. Robert Hamilton, Dr. Shelagh McRae and Ron Lane who accepted the posthumous award on behalf of his uncle the late Larry Lane.

GORE BAY—For their significant contributions to the community of the Town of Gore Bay and surrounding area, four very deserving persons have been recognized by the town with Lifetime Achievement Awards. The four include Doctors Robert Hamilton and Shelagh McRae, Nicole Weppler and the late Larry Lane.

“It’s a very nice fall Saturday afternoon to present another series of Gore Bay Lifetime Achievement Awards. We are here to honour four special citizens of the Town of Gore Bay,” stated Gore Bay Mayor Ron Lane at the awards ceremony held this past Saturday in the community hall.

“President John F. Kennedy, in his inauguration speech, made the following statement which has since become famous: ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’,” said Mayor Lane. “Clearly, this was intended to inspire citizens to see the importance of civic action and public service. His historic words challenged his fellow citizens to contribute in some way to the public good.”

“Small towns like Gore Bay, despite the population growth of large cities, still form the backbone of our country,” said Mayor Lane. “We face many challenges in the maintenance and development of our community in order to make it the best place to live and work that it can possibly be. To deal with these challenges it takes the effort of everyone in the community to contribute in some fashion to our continued success and to ensure the generations to follow have a future here.”

“In the past, council has honoured our volunteers and our seniors in the presentation of annual awards in recognition of their contributions to their town,” said Mayor Lane. “However, there are also certain citizens in our community that go or have gone above and beyond in their efforts to benefit others in their own way whether it be in the course of their vocation, business or public office. Through a lifetime of contribution these citizens have had a significant positive impact on the Town of Gore Bay and have made a lasting difference.”

Mayor Lane explained, “council, in order to recognize this extensive contribution, created a Lifetime Achievement Award policy that will honour these outstanding citizens and thank them for all that they had done or continue to do.” Since 2015, council has presented this new Lifetime Achievement Award to six deserving individuals, both living and deceased.

“Council is not doing this because it has to but rather because it is the right thing to do,” said Mayor Lane. In addition to the awards presented Saturday, award recipients will be memorialized in an interactive display on the wall in the public lobby of the Gore Bay municipal building.

“To continue this policy and on the recommendation of the general government committee, the council of the Town of Gore Bay on behalf of its citizens has chosen to honour four more of its citizens, three living and one deceased, that by a lifetime of effort have made a lasting and profound difference to their community.

“Today we will honour and thank Dr. Robert Hamilton, Dr. Shelagh McRae, Nicole Weppler and Lawrence (Larry) Lane. These deserving individuals will be presented with this special award from their home town as a thank you to them on behalf of their friends, neighbours and fellow citizens for all they have done for their own community and beyond,” said Mayor Lane.

“It is my honour to present the first two awards today to Dr. Robert Hamilton and Dr. Shelagh McRae, a couple that really need n introduction since they are so well known in our area,” said Mayor Lane. “Today we recognize their individual and collective contribution for over 35 years to health care in Gore Bay and Western Manitoulin.”

Dr. Robert Hamilton and Dr. Shelagh McRae came to Gore Bay in 1982 with the expectation of staying for one year and here they are, 35 years later, continuing to help serve our community, Mayor Lane said. They made their home her with son’s Ian and Alec and have grown roots here in our community.

“Through their years of service, Dr. Bob and Dr. Shelagh provided 24 hour coverage for the community, including home visits which is rare in other communities and nearly unheard of these days. They also initiated a monthly clinic for First Nations communities on Western Manitoulin to better meet some of the health care needs there. Together they spent many years participating with the volunteer ambulance services, providing emergency services at all hours of day and night and looking after the residents of the Manitoulin Lodge Nursing Home,” continued Mayor Lane.

“Dr. Bob and Dr. Shelagh continue to work with local service groups, including the Rotary Club and the Lions Club to improve the health and wellness of the residents of the west end with this partnerships; they have been able to purchase such things as the x-ray machine, slit lamp for eye exams and other smaller diagnostic tools for the medical centre,” said Mayor Lane. “They have also worked to help support the CNIB eye van to come to this community. Both Dr. Bob and Dr. Shelagh have provided flu shot clinics at the office and in the community to improve access to this service. Along with good health goes exercise and they have made financial contributions to the Town to ensure that our youth have the equipment they need to keep physically fit.”

“They are always helping the community with recruiting future family doctors and not only teaching but they encouraged medial students to come and complete part of their training in Gore Bay which allows the students to experience rural family medicine and allows the opportunity to showcase all that Manitoulin can offer.”

Dr. Bob and Dr. Shelagh continue to advocate for our community including assisting in research projects that for rural communities keeping patients top of mind. “Bob continues to be Medical Director of the Manitoulin Lodge and Shelagh continues to be our local coroner,” said Mayor Lane.

“They have committed themselves to a life of service,” stated Mayor Lane. “Their generosity and thoughtfulness continue to be demonstrated in both their personal and professional lives through their actions, big and small on a daily basis.”

“I am very proud to be able to present two of this year’s awards to Dr. Bob and Dr. Shelagh who truly serve our community and add valuable knowledge and a wealth of experience to our local health care team,” said Mayor Lane. “Please join me in congratulating Dr. Robert Hamilton and Dr. Shelagh McRae on this Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Dr. Hamilton pointed out when and Dr. McRae arrived in Gore Bay in 1982, Pierre Elliot Trudeau was the Prime Minister of Canada. Technology was different at the time, with the Commodore 64 being two years from existence.”

Dr. Hamilton listed the doctors that had proceeded them in Gore Bay: Dr. Lloyd Johns, Dr. Dennie, Dr. Strain, Dr. Baker and Dr. Johnson, spanning over 100 years.

“Since 1900, there has been a resident physician in Gore Bay,” said Dr. Hamilton. “This Lifetime Achievement Award should be to the town for lifetime recruitment and retention of doctors. I can’t think of any small community that has had such success maintaining medical services. If Shelagh and I weren’t here there would others. It is something that all of you in this town have done that makes it a special place.”

“I think back to people like Larry Lane, Jack McQuarrie, John Lane and many others have contributed to and been such an important part of this town; the Smith family, and our service clubs: Rotary, Lions, Legion, church,” continued Dr. Hamilton. “All this effort from so many exemplifies desire, willingness and ability to provide for your community.”

Dr. Hamilton noted the support and positive impact that the First Nation communities of Zhiibaahaasing and Sheshegwaning, all the Western Manitoulin municipalities, ambulance personnel, pharmacies, nurses, front line health centre aids, personal support workers and family care givers have had on the community.

“My deep felt thanks a lot to Shelagh and our boys,” said Dr. Hamilton.

“First off I want to thank our parents for being so supportive and encouraging as we were growing up,” said Dr. McRae. “And to all those parents and friends who helped get our kids to thinks like hockey when we couldn’t take them.”

“We have been very lucky to have many, many very good people working for us,” said Dr. McRae, listing among those Heather Turner, Bev Chatwell, Heather Bain, Millie Pakkala, Kim Robinson, Taryn Strain, Gloria McAllister, Helen Crawford, Mike and Jean Gibbs and Mary Middleton.

“Since 2004, Dr. Chantelle Wilson has been absolutely marvelous having taken over a big share of the work,” said Dr. McRae, who acknowledged the people of Gore Bay and Western Manitoulin for their support, Dr. Hamilton and the couple’s two sons.

“It is really a pleasure to be here to present these two awards,” said Gore Bay councillor Jack Clark. He explained, “Nicole (Weppler’s) Gore Bay Museum life started in 1987 when she took over the curator duties from Gertie Noble. Almost immediately the museum began a transformation from a small town museum to a world class facility which rivals any in the province. And the transformation was not just the building itself but to turn it into a true cultural arts centre.”

“By 1990-91, Nicole was hosting art exhibitions by such local celebrities as Marg Claridge and Jack Whyte. These programs continued to grow, featuring numerous other local artists and played a major role in the creation of the Manitoulin Fine Arts Association. The museum also remains a major stop on the local Island art tour.”

“By 2000 the museum was beginning to reach its capacity for programming within the existing building and thus began Nicole’s dream for expansion,” said Mr. Clark. “In 2005 the new arts wing of the museum opened beginning a whole new age for the museum. This has allowed Gore Bay to provide a truly diverse range of entertainment and education. Despite some incredible grant writing and support from FedNor, the town, and more specifically the museum board was left with a bill for our share of almost $200,000–a seemingly insurmountable amount for the board to pay off.”

“Fortunately for us, insurmountable for Nicole meant it may take two to three years,” said Mr. Clark. “Through an aggressive schedule of musical concerts, fabulous dinner auctions and some of the most polite arm twisting I have ever seen the debt disappeared almost overnight.”

Mr. Clark noted that through the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Red Roof building at the waterfront had slipped into a stage of underutilization to say the least. Fortunately, like Martin Luther King, Nicole had a dream, actually another dream, and thus the Harbour Centre was created. It many not have been that easy but once Nicole puts her mind to a project it would only be a fool who would bet against her. What we now have is an incredible artist colony which is so critical for these talented people to prosper and grown and the William Purvis Marine Museum. One only needs to realize that road access to the Island only happened in 1950 to realize that an important part the waters surrounding our Island played in our history.”

“Over the years the Gore Bay Museum has been recognized for excellence at all levels, culminating in the Ontario Historical Society awarding our museum the 2014 Russel K. Cooper Living History Site Award. The award recognizes excellence in programming problem solving and site development. This is a tremendous accomplishment for any museum but for a small town like ours it can only speak to the drive and dedication of Nicole.”

Mr. Clark pointed out, “with so many major accomplishments on her resume it is far too easy to take for granted all the other things Nicole has done for the town,” noting her effort to bring cultural, music and educational programs to our town; her tireless work with the Manitoulin Writers Circle; a key organizer and supporter of the lace camp; she hosts a quilting/sewing/knitting program; being an incredible mentor for her summer students and interns.

“Sorry, but I have to talk about her teas. Nicole has put on high teas for numerous groups of visitors, dignitaries and retirements. If you aren’t likely to get an invitation from the Queen to have tea with her at Buckingham palace I can assure you this is the next best thing. Guaranteed you still have a hole in your bucket list if you have not been to one of Nicole’s high teas.”

Mr. Clark continued, “for most of the town, I suspect, we do not fully understand the contribution Nicole has made to our history, our culture, to the tourism and visitor opportunities, to the development of our artistic community and to the overall good of our town. Fortunately, and probably unfortunately for James (her husband), it has been almost 10 years since Nicole has taken on a new major challenge. I am pretty confident that the last chapter of this story has not been written yet.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, unquestionably the most gracious, proper and definitely the most humble lady I have had the pleasure to meet. Nicole would you please accept this small token of thanks from the citizens of Gore Bay for having made our town a better place to be,” stated Mr. Clark.

“Thank you very much,” stated Ms. Weppler on being presented with the award.

“I am not sure if I am the designated presenter for all the nominees from Barrie Island or just the ones with the last name of Lane,” said Mr. Clark. “Seriously though, I am honoured and privileged to be able to speak on behalf of and present this lifetime achievement award posthumously, to Lawrence James Lane.”

Mr. Clark explained, “Larry was born and raised on the family farm on Barrie Island—the sixth of six children. He always maintained that growing up in a large family on a small rural farm during the great depression contributed to shaping his life and establishing his values.”

“In 1942, Larry left the family farm and worked in St. Catharines for a year before joining the Canadian Army,” said Mr. Clark. “In 1944 he went overseas and then on to Europe where he saw action in Holland and Germany. In 1946 he was re-patriated and discharged as a sergeant, returning to Barrie Island with his wife Gloria. After a year of general trucking he began his 31-year career with Transport Canada at the Gore Bay Airport.”

Larry moved to Gore Bay in 1963 and began his career in municipal politics in 1972 when he was elected to council. After two terms and six years on council he ran for mayor and was elected in 1978. “This began a stretch of 19 consecutive years as mayor making him clearly the longest serving mayor in the town’s history. Six years on council, 19 years as mayor.”

Mr. Clark said, “the list of accomplishments over his career are numerous with many having significant impact on the quality of life in our town. To name a few, the new sewer system, the medical centre, the ambulance building, the boardwalk, the town offices, library and garage, the pavilion, the upgrades to the marina and the rebuilding of Main Street.”

“But Larry’s contributions were not limited to his work on municipal government,” said Mr. Clark. He served as chair of the non-profit housing board that oversaw the construction of Millsite. He was past president/secretary of the Branch 514 Royal Canadian Legion, he was an active member of the Rotary Club. He sat on the original board of directors that that built the golf course, an executive on the curling club, coached minor hockey, volunteer ambulance driver. The list goes on.”

“The write-up will probably suggest the Larry is receiving this award for being the longest serving mayor in Gore Bay’s history and having served a short stint on council. I truly believe this more than qualifies him for this award, but I believe that this award is really about the compassion for and the dedication which he showed to this town and to his country for over 60 years,” continued Mr. Clark. “Ron (Lane) could I ask you to accept this award on behalf of your uncle Lawrence James Lane.”

“Thank you for all the kind words about such a special person,” said Mayor Lane, who said his uncle was a fishing and golfing buddy, fellow Rotarian, and most important we were very good friend. We talked about life in Gore Bay and the world. And things would get more serious when Larry brought out his home made wine; in the winter you could use it for anti-freeze, it was that potent.”

“He contributed to the town in many ways and roles over the years,” said Mayor Lane. He was always positive about life and projects. He was extremely proud of being Mayor of Gore Bay, and the people he worked with over the years. He would be very pleased with this award. Thank you council for choosing Larry for this award, in the town that he loved very, very much.”