Volunteering crucial to Doug and Jane Wismer’s lives

Jane and Doug Wismer of Silver Water are shown in photo at a recent 50th wedding anniversary drive-by celebration held in their honour in March.

SILVER WATER – Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, Doug and Jane Wismer of Silver Water are not bored; they are too busy as volunteers in the community to be bored.

“I know there are a lot of people that are extremely bored, being cooped up at home with the pandemic,” Mr. Wismer told the Recorder in an interview with the couple last Friday evening. “If you live in an apartment in the city, and everyone is supposed to stay at home these days, it is understandable being bored. But we are busy helping out where we can, so we aren’t bored.”  

“People ask if we plan our days. We do…until the phone rings,” quipped Ms. Wismer. “Some things just seem to fall into your lap and then you seem to keep these jobs forever,” said Ms. Wismer. 

Mr. Wismer is fire chief of the Robinson Township Volunteer Fire Department and has spent many years and countless hours keeping the department’s trucks in working order and training firefighters, especially new members of the fire department.

“I started on the fire department in 1980, it had been in existence for about 20 years by that time,” said Mr. Wismer. “So as of this year I’ve spent 41 years on the fire department. I think this is my sixth year being the fire chief.”

“Arthur (Addison) was over 80 when he retired as fire chief,” said Mr. Wismer, “and he had been on the fire department for 42 years. I’m determined to at least go as long as he did.” 

“I do all the secretarial paperwork stuff for the fire department,” said Ms. Wismer. This paperwork is required by the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office and is extensive, including monthly reports that have to be complete, answering and forwarding inquiries and other reports that must be completed on a regular basis. 

“We’ve seen new, younger volunteers step up to become part of the fire department,” said Mr. Wismer. “At one time it was claimed that we had the oldest fire department (in terms of the average age of individual members) but now we are down where the average age of our firefighters is around 48. These new guys are helping out a lot.” 

Mr. Wismer is and has been a member of the roads board, hall board and several farm organizations, as has his wife. 

“We have to work together as a team or we won’t succeed,” Ms. Wismer said. “Over the years Doug and I have also divided the family jobs; he doesn’t cook much, so I do that, and he looks after all the vehicles.”

Both Wismers have held, and continue to hold, significant leadership roles in St. Andrew’s United Church. “I’ve been the central fundraising treasurer for the past 25-30 years for the United Church Charge,” said Ms. Wismer.  

For many years, before COVID-19 shut things down in 2020, Ms. Wismer organized the annual Hunters Pancake breakfast, the proceeds of which went to support Manitoulin Health Centre. “This annual event was started by Peggy Noble, then Betty Rumley organized it for years. I took over about the time that I was a member of the MHC (hospital board),” Ms. Wismer told the Recorder. “We didn’t hold this event last year due to COVID-19 and I don’t know if we will be able to hold this year either.”

Ms. Wismer also provides food and dishes for fundraising events held in the community. 

The couple have both served in various capacities on the Silver Water Community Hall board over the years. 

“I was chair of the Local Services Board for a year,” said Ms. Wismer.

“For a number of years I baked bread for the euchre parties in the community,” said Ms. Wismer.   

“We look after the local cemetery too,” said Ms. Wismer. “For instance Doug mows the grass at the cemetery.”

“In a lot of municipalities the local cemetery is looked after by someone they have hired. In a small community like ours volunteers have to do this.”

Mr. Wismer added, “if you have a good snowblower, you know you are going to be well-liked.” For years he did the snowplowing at the community hall and the fire hall as well. Along with the family driveway, he pointed out. 

“Especially when I was working as a teacher, Doug made sure that I was able to get out of the driveway in the winter, by plowing it every day.” said Ms. Wismer. 

Without volunteering to keep them busy, “Doug would go nuts and would drive me nuts as well,” laughed Ms. Wismer. 

“Volunteering is a huge part of any community,” said Mr. Wismer. “There are lots of things in our communities where there is a need and many organizations that rely on volunteers.” 

“Both of our parents did a lot of volunteering,” said Ms. Wismer, “when you are younger and see that, it spurs you on to get involved as well.”

“There are a lot of people who want to help out,” said Mr. Wismer. “There are plenty of volunteers around, and even those that aren’t official volunteers, people just like helping out others.”

“In a small community everyone has to do their part in volunteering,” agreed Ms. Wismer.

Mr. Wismer pointed out, “one of the good things we are seeing in the community, in the last couple of years especially, is that more people are moving into the community and getting involved in volunteering. There are younger people stepping up to help out—which is great.”