Some might say it’s been a banner year for Jean and Lin Boileau.
There was their 60th anniversary celebration, including a trip to the church in Sleaford, England where they were married in 1942, and a Boileau family reunion.
Oh, and were named “Citizens of the Year” for Fort Frances last week.
But the modest couple said it’s just another chapter in their lives in the town they love, where “making a community the best it can be” is its own reward, according to Lin.
“I was talking to Bill [Gushulak, the 2000 ‘Citizen of the Year’] and I said to him, I think we’re ‘Citizens of the Year’ for 2003, not 2002, because we’re going to be doing even more in 2003,” Jean remarked Monday, who admitted she was surprised to hear they were chosen.
“All the years we’ve worked for the community, we never thought about getting this,” she noted.
“We just did what we did because we wanted to do it for the community,” added Lin.
Perhaps most recently known for being highly involved in “Friends of the Library,” the Boileaus said the “Citizens of the Year” honour has gotten them reminiscing about what they’ve done for the community they care so much about.
“We realized we’ve always been doing these things together. We certainly had some heated discussion over the years, but things always worked out,” laughed Jean.
“After all, we raised a family together.
“I came here in 1947, and in 1949, I was already doing things for the community. It was a small paper mill town [and] we wanted to bring in some culture,” she noted.
“Since then, I’ve grown with the town. We’re in a town to be proud of—this is something we talk of often.”
“People talk about spending so much money on things on, say, the [La Verendrye] Parkway,” added Lin. “[But] not many towns have a river you can drive along, walk along—it’s beautiful.”
“No matter where we’ve been, we’ve always bragged about Fort Frances,” echoed Jean.
Before the formation of the “Friends of the Library,” the Boileaus had been library volunteers, delivering books on a bi-weekly basis to Rainycrest residents for more than 10 years.
They also volunteered their time for the local Chamber of Commerce, acting as greeters or taking admissions at trade shows.
Jean also was instrumental in forming the Fort Frances Little Theatre and has directed and starred in plays for many years, including the production of “Cinderella” in 1999.
She also has formed a seniors’ acting troupe that has appeared at various functions to promote seniors’ issues and healthy living.
As president of the local Canadian Cancer Society for many years, Jean organized the first Terry Fox Run in Fort Frances and worked tirelessly for the cancer society for 15 years as a patient services co-ordinator.
Meanwhile, Lin remains a very active member of the Fort Frances Kiwanis Club. When he’s not selling tickets for the “Friends of the Library,” he often can be found at Canadian Tire or Safeway, selling tickets for various raffles for the Kiwanis.
“When our children were in school, they went to Sunny Cove Camp. I was too busy to join the Kiwanis,” he noted. “So when I retired, I had the time and I joined them to ‘repay’ them for all they had done for my children.”
< *c>Perfect choice
One person who certainly thought the Boileaus were the perfect choice as “Citizens of the Year” was head librarian Margaret Sedgwick, who nominated them.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said last week after hearing town council unanimously had approved the selection committee’s recommendation.
But Sedgwick’s praises weren’t so restrained in the thorough nomination she submitted.
“Each Boileau contributes significantly to the community on their own, and also as a team,” she wrote. “I am nominating this exceptional couple, not only as spearheads of the ‘Friends of the Library,’ but also as outstanding contributors to our town.”
Sedgwick also credited Jean, with Lin’s support, for creating “Friends of the Library” five years ago, when provincial government support for libraries was threatened.
“Since its inception, Jean has been the driving force behind this fundraising group. With master ticket-seller, Lin, at her side, she has led the ‘Friends’ to raise the incredible sum of over $75,000,” Sedgwick added in her nomination.
“Jean has the marvelous gift of persuasion. It is difficult to say ‘no’ to this lady,” she added. “As a result, she has secured great deals for library fundraising draws, including prints from famous artists and complimentary travel tickets.”
Two years ago, when Canada Safeway employees chose “Friends of the Library” as their charity for the year, the couple often could be found at the store, selling tickets, organizing celebrity baggers, and making sure workers were available for barbecues—a volunteer “dream team” instrumental in the local Safeway raising more funds that any other store between Thunder Bay and Regina for their chosen charity.
“Only a master escape artist could resist the ticket-selling techniques of Lin Boileau,” remarked Sedgwick.
“Fort Frances is truly fortunate to have the Boileaus, and I truly believe that they should be acknowledged for their exceptional contributions to the community,” she added.
“It was a unanimous choice,” said Gushulak, who sat on the selection committee along with Mark Kowalchuk (1994’s “Citizen of the Year”), Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, and Coun. Deane Cunningham.
“We were very happy to choose them,” Gushulak added. “With their 60th anniversary and all, it’s been a super year for them.
“I hope they can take it all in and savour the experience.”
The Boileaus will get to do just that in the coming days, first as participants in the Santa Claus parade this Saturday evening, and then when they officially receive their award at the town’s annual banquet coming up Nov. 29 at La Place Rendez-Vous.
The Boileaus are only the second couple to receive the “Citizen of the Year” award—the first being Florence and Woody Gray in 1990.
But they stressed they’re far from an unusual tandem in Fort Frances, citing Dick and Carol Lyons and Marg and Gord McTaggart as just two local couples equally deserving of such honours.
And the Boileaus wholeheartedly support the practice of the town having a “Citizen of the Year” to recognize volunteerism and community service.
“We’re always pleased with the people who are named. We know them and they’re good people,” said Jean.
“But think of all the people who have been nominated in the past. It’s an honour just to be nominated, but it’s a shame they can’t all be recognized.
“In a way, we’re accepting this on behalf of all the volunteers,” she added.
“You don’t do a lot of good stuff without a lot of good people behind you,” agreed Lin.
Some might say it’s been a banner year for Jean and Lin Boileau.