Long-time reeve given warm sendoff

The man who devoted more than a quarter-century of his life to help develop Chapple was roasted good-naturedly by friends and colleagues Friday afternoon at the Chapple Rec Centre.
Former reeve Cecil Wilson retired for health reasons Jan. 2, having served as reeve since 1989. Previously, he had served as the clerk for Chapple from 1962-76.
Like his 25th anniversary party last year, Wilson’s retirement party was filled with laughter and good-natured ribbing. And he gave as good as he got.
“I feel so pleased to hear my own eulogy,” he joked after well-wishers thanked him for his dedication to the township and district.
When told he’d be missed, Wilson countered, “Anyone’d miss a sore thumb.”
His laughter rang loudest as he worked the room like the quintessential politician he is. Wilson will turn 80 this year, but still retains the energy that helped improve Chapple.
Some of his feats include landing Voyageur Panel and Nuinsco in the township.
Well-wishers from as far away as Kenora, Dryden, and Atikokan wished him well. NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton sent a letter and a book titled “Allegiance, The Ontario Story.”
The book contained photos of the Rainy River and Stratton hotels—places “I’m sure you’ve been once or twice,” Hampton joked.
“Everyone in the Rainy River District knows of your hard work,” he noted, adding he’ll miss Wilson’s “sage advice.”
Photos on the wall documented his years working on council. A prominent photo was of Wilson and Rainy River First Nation Chief Jim Leonard in their motorized canoe, which helped them garner a third-place finish in the annual Chapple-Manitou race.
Another photo was from the August, 1997 opening of the Voyageur Panel mill.
Mill manager Percy Champagne credited Wilson for getting the mill for Chapple. “I wouldn’t be working here if it wasn’t for Cecil,” he said.
In an interview after the roast, Wilson was modest about his accomplishments.
“The mill was going to come. We could supply a good location on the river. Water and sewer was available,” he reasoned. “We had all the ingredients and we put up a good argument.”
He also made sure to credit Dan Wright, former economic development officer for the Rainy River Future Development Corp., for his help with the project.
Wilson was equally as modest of his role in securing Nuinsco’s drilling project.
“Just one thing led to another. They started to draw wells. We had to look after our sewer so it was feasible to put both in at the same time,” he explained.
Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield had no qualms in singing Wilson’s praises. He said that through Wilson’s hard work, Chapple had a better economy.
Emo Reeve Russ Fortier presented Wilson with a plaque to show his township’s appreciation. “I hope I can still pick your brains once in a while,” he remarked.
Chapple Coun. Rick Neilson thanked Wilson for the way he conducted council during the four years he’s served on it. “He’s always made it so much fun [with his] sense of humour,” he said.
“I wasn’t laughing with you,” Wilson retorted with a laugh.
When the roast ended, those on hand gave a standing ovation to their beloved reeve. After he cut his “Happy Retirement” cake, he proceeded to work the room—a politician to the very end.