John Kopinak, the first-ever Chief of the Chatham-Kent Police Service, did far more than enforce the law.
The dogged community builder, who adopted Mitchell’s Bay as his home, was honoured posthumously Sunday for his tireless volunteer efforts.
“He loved people and he liked to do things to help,” said his wife Bev at the gathering.
Kopinak, who passed away in 2018, was formally recognized by the Mitchell’s Bay Area Association (MBAA) for his work. His name now graces a stone monument at the waterfront that recognizes local citizens for their dedicated commitment to the Bay.
Ray Trahan, who acted as master of ceremonies at the event, described Kopinak as a good friend who was extremely knowledgeable about many things.
“John was always helpful and very involved,” said Trahan, who is a MBAA board member. “Whenever there was a challenge for something that needed to be done, John did not hesitate to step up and do it, or, work with other members.”
The Kopinaks moved from Port Colborne to the Bay in 1998 when the veteran police officer was recruited to lead the newly amalgamated CKPS.
He served as the CKPS Chief for five years, taught at St. Clair College and was head of corporate security at Union Gas.
Kopinak was instrumental is founding the Chatham-Kent Children’s Safety Village and was also heavily involved with hockey. He and Bev owned the Port Colborne Junior B hockey team for five years, and he was also on the board of the Ontario Hockey Association for 20 years, serving as chair for five years.
He volunteered at St. Phillipe Church Hall, the local Kinsmen group, the Dover Rod and Gun Club, the Bay’s annual bass tournament; local car shows, and he helped the Mitchell’s Bay Area Association move forward and grow.
The St. Stephen’s Church Hall in the Bay also benefitted from Kopinak’s energy. He cut the grass every week, and he and Bev kept the building clean.
Trahan called the pair “a great team, always working together for the community.”
In later years, Kopinak turned his sights on fishing.
“We never wanted for fish in our freezer,” his wife joked.
During their 23 years in Mitchell’s Bay, the couple owned three different homes. It was well known that the retired chief was pleased to see the population of the hamlet grow, with young families and children moving to the community.
Sunday’s ceremony was attended by both of the couple’s children with daughter Kelly Calvert and her husband Tyler travelling from Calgary.
Son John Kopinak Jr. was also on hand. He and his wife Karrie live with daughters Emma, Erin and Allison in Tilbury.
Kopinak is the third name carved in the memorial stone, joining O.T. Myers and Lorna MacDonald.
Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice