Brockton Citizen of the Year Gala has a surprise ending, March 4

BROCKTON – The Citizen of the Year gala put on by the Walkerton Kinsmen had more than a few surprises for those in attendance, but one of the evening’s events took even the Kinmen by surprise.

When the name of the Citizen of the Year was announced, amid cheers and a “drumroll” from the audience, what started out as an acceptance speech turned out to be exactly the opposite – Willie Dales turned down the honour, asking that the Kinsmen use the donation (to the winner’s charity of choice) for a worthy project of their choice, and that the winner’s plaque for the 2023 Citizen of the Year be redone with the names of all 11 nominees on it.

However startling, it was a gracious gesture by a modest man who volunteers for the love of his community, and who has a deep and genuine respect for others who do the same.

This year’s gala revived an event that hasn’t been held for about 15 years. The last person to be honoured was Joe Rys.

For the 2023 gala, the community was asked to nominate a person who is “generous, well-rounded and who makes a genuine, positive contribution to our community.”

The nominating committee consisting of Kym Hutcheon, Sarah Anstett, Wayne Holman, Tom Spitzig and Steve Travale had a difficult job to do, as did the organizing committee of Holman, Spitzig and Travale.

Tables sold quickly for the March 4 gala – voluntarism is something that’s celebrated with great enthusiasm in Brockton.

Following the formal dinner in the banquet hall at the Best Western, came the part of the evening everyone had been looking forward to, beginning with messages from local dignitaries.

MP Ben Lobb commented on “how remarkable it is to be nominated for an award like this.” He spoke about how volunteers and community groups make a big difference in a community.

MPP Lisa Thompson said the event “celebrates what really matters – the heart of the community.” She went on to say that Brockton “has so much going on… there’s a special vibe around here.”

County Warden and Brockton Mayor Chris Peabody gave a shout-out to the Windsors and their excellent hotel, and to the Kinsmen. He commented on the fact all members of council and many staff were present at the gala. “We know the importance of volunteers and are proud of all the volunteers here tonight,” he said.

Each of the 11 nominees was introduced, and what a group they were, representing numerous organizations and causes, from every corner of the municipality and every walk of life. Each individual was worthy of being in the running for Brockton’s Citizen of the Year.

Matt Berry: The Brockton business owner is best known for the spectacular Christmas light display he puts on for all to enjoy. He coaches hockey and soccer, and supports local service organizations.

Christine Brandt: This Walkerton Kinettes member has been active with the BIA, is a member of St. James Anglican Church, a member of the physician recruitment and retention committee and a volunteer with Run 4 Health.

Maryanne Buehlow: This dedicated volunteer is a founding member of the Walkerton Food Bank where she continues to volunteer, and a strong member of Sacred Heart Parish and the Catholic Women’s League. Among her numerous other volunteer causes are Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, hospital gift shop, Brucelea Haven, Maple Court Villa, Grey Bruce Huron Disability Transportation Committee and South Grey Bruce Literacy Committee, homecomings, and Victoria Jubilee Hall.

Brian “Willie” Dales: This dedicated volunteer is active in many Cargill and Walkerton events, in particular, the Dirt Pigs Ball Club and Foundation, Cargill and District Community Foundation, Cargill and Walkerton homecomings and the Walkerton Capitals Jr. C hockey club, as well as the Walkerton Soccer Park.

Donna Dentinger: The manager of Walker’s Landing supports her church, local businesses, and community events such as the Dirt Pigs ball tournament, homecomings, Jr. C hockey games and more. She’s known for her baking.

Janice Hawkins: Since her retirement, she’s volunteered at the local hospital, Good Food Box, Anglican Church, town hall and at events including the Dirt Pigs tournament and Little Royal Fair.

Morgan Inglis: Along with 35 years volunteering with the Walkerton Agricultural Society (current president), he has belonged to the Walkerton Rotary Club and Walkerton United Church. He’s chaired the Antique Car Show.

Myrna Inglis: She was the unit leader for the Girl Guides of Canada, has volunteered with the local hospital foundation, Run 4 Health and radiothon, and is a member of the agricultural society, curling club, St. Paul’s United Church and Rotary Club. She’s also a longtime member of the physician recruitment and retention committee and was the local organizer of the MedQuest program.

Don Moore: The former administrator of Brucelea Haven has continued to work for seniors in his retirement, is a longtime Rotarian, volunteers at Victoria Jubilee Hall and assists with County Towne Players. He also serves on the Brockton parks and recreation committee and is instrumental in the tree planting program and river trail system.

Tom Traversy: He is a longtime Rotarian, member of Grey Bruce Singers, Royal Canadian Legion, curling club and St. Paul’s United Church. He often sings with Pat McNinch, to raise funds for Homes for Heroes.

Marlene Zettler: For over 10 years, she’s volunteered with the Cargill and District Community Foundation, and is always helping with any job that needs doing. She’s also involved with the Cargill Lawn Bowling Club and co-chairs this year’s Pickin’ by the Pond. She produces the Cargill Cash Calendar and spearheaded the Cargill library building committee, assisted with four homecomings, is current president of the Cargill CWL and assists at Walkerton Knights of Columbus events.

Three semifinalists were named during a short video, with presentations by those who had nominated them: Maryanne Buehlow, Willie Dales and Marlene Zettler.

And then it came down to one, the Citizen of the Year. But that one had other ideas, hence the surprise ending to a wonderful evening – a genuine celebration of what’s best in Brockton – its volunteers. Dales said it best in his “non-acceptance” speech: “If there were no volunteers, there’d be no Christmas lights at the 4/9 corner, no food bank, no fall fair, no agricultural society, no beautiful downtown… no Pigstock, no Kinsmen… or any other organization.” He went on to say, “We are blessed we live in Canada… Ontario… Brockton… blessed to have great volunteers.

The Kinsmen Club of Walkerton, with almost 30 members, is one of the largest Kinsmen clubs in Ontario. The club was founded in 1935, and is also one of the longest-running Kinsmen clubs in the province.

The club is always interested in new members – speak to any Kinsmen to learn more about this organization.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times