As Carleton County mourns the sudden death of community leader Brian Hayden, they also reflect upon his lasting legacy of commitment to family, friends and community.
They also know he leaves a void that can’t be filled.
“He’s a big, big community figure,” said lifelong friend and Woodstock resident Stuart Kinney. “His death leaves a big void in the community.”
Hayden died on Aug. 18 after suffering cardiac arrest at the Vancouver airport.
The 70-year-old’s sudden death shocked his family, friends and community. Still, they reflect on the vibrant community leader’s life that delivered positive change that will live forever.
From the children in Woodstock Minor Hockey and Woodstock Skating Association to seniors at the Carleton Manor, the collective and individuals benefited from Hayden’s devotion to their needs.
Kinney noted Hayden’s role in the CanSkate program, where he helped and encouraged children to take those first scary steps onto the ice.
“Brian was just so generous in helping those young kids acquire confidence and feel a sense of achievement,” he explained.
At the other end of the spectrum, Kinney, a long-time board member at Carleton Manor, would don a Santa Claus or Easter Bunny costume or share his sense of fun to improve the lives of often overlooked seniors.
“Brian had a lot of room in his heart for people in those circumstances,” he said.
Hayden’s efforts as a community leader followed many paths — a local government advisor, a business leader, an advocate for children, seniors and indigenous needs and charitable, church and sports organizers.
Born in 1953, the Woodstock High School grad obtained his Bachelor of Science from Mt. A in 1975 before returning to his beloved Carleton County.
In 1978, he married Susan, whom he met at university. Together, they raised a family, pursued business interests and devoted their lives to community projects and organizations.
Kinney said Brian and Susan worked side by side on many pursuits and shared a common respect for family, friends and community. He said the couple practised hospitality openly and generously.
“Their home was a focal point in their community for gathering,” Kinney recalled.
Upon his return from university, Hayden joined his father’s car dealership and then moved into real estate. Twenty-seven years ago, he and Susan opened Hartford Realtors and later Hartford Modular Homes.
Through it all, Hayden devoted time and energy to the community, including many years as a leader in the Woodstock local service district and the regional service commission.
Former Woodstock Mayor Art Slipp said vital community facilities such as the AYR Motor Centre stand as a monument to Hayden’s gigantic impact on the greater Woodstock region.
Slipp explained Hayden travelled door to door to convince residents in Woodstock’s neighbouring communities about the importance of the proposed Carleton Civic Centre’s positive impact on the area.
“He was instrumental in drumming up support in the local service districts,” Slipp said.
He said Hayden played the same role during the expansion of the sports facility into the AYR Motor Centre.
The former mayor explained Hayden led the way in bringing four of the six LSDs, representing 90 per cent of the population, on board.
“I believe without his support, the expansion wouldn’t have happened,” said Slipp.
Hayden, with decades of experience with the Western Valley Regional Service Commission and as chair of the Woodstock LSD advisory committee, played a pivotal role in guiding last year’s amalgamation of the town and local service districts.
He and Slipp sat together on the transition team.
“His input certainly led to a much better transition than what we would have had without his leadership and support,” said Slipp.
He said Hayden’s remarkable knowledge of every corner of rural Carleton County proved pivotal in determining ward boundaries for the expanded Woodstock.
“We asked him to take the lead in defining the boundaries of the rural wards,” recalled Slipp.
Slipp and Kinney grew up in the same Woodstock neighbourhood as the Haydens. They both noted the foundation for Hayden’s strength of character lies in the neighbourhood’s commitment to family and community.
Kinney recalled the particularly close generational bond between three families: the Haydens, the Parkers and the Kinneys.
“We were very, very close. We spent a lot of time together. Vacationing together. Had Saturday night dinners together.” said Kinney.
He had a front-row seat to watch Hayden’s strength of character develop. He said his friend’s love of fun and silliness, boundless energy and desire to help others was grounded in his commitment to family, friends and community.
As noted in Hayden’s obituary:
“Brian possessed seemingly boundless energy for all aspects of the social, cultural, and political life of his community. His involvements over the years included Woodstock Minor Hockey Association, St. James United Church, Woodstock Rotary Club, Carleton Manor, Carleton Manor Foundation, Woodstock Figure Skating Club, Children’s Wish Foundation, Western Valley Regional Service Commission, and the Woodstock Local Service District.”
Brian Hayden was predeceased by his father and mother, Ivan and Carrie Hayden; his daughter Amanda Reynolds and granddaughter Grace Reynolds; aunts and uncles Don and Irma Parker; John Fream, James and Dorothy McBride; Sam and Emma Hayden; cousin David Fream, father and mother-in-law, Michael and Marie Conoley; and brother-in-law Tim Conoley.
He is survived by his wife Susan; his son Gregory and daughter-in-law Susan and their children Kinley and Ivan; his daughter Katie and son-in-law Chance McGrath and their children Abigail, Breanna, and Isabelle; son Daniel; daughter Rachel and her children Jaxon and Huxley; son-in-law Chris Reynolds and his wife Andree; his brother Bob and sister-in-law Elaine and their children Matthew, Ivan and Amy; brother Rick and sister-in-law Lynne and their children, Jeff, Michael, and Kristina; and his brother Brent and sister-in-law Pam and their children Connor and Mackenzie. He is survived as well by sisters-in-law Karen Conoley and her spouse Thomas Hintze, Maureen MacNabb and her spouse Larry; as well as aunt Greta Fream; and numerous cherished cousins.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun