Ex-resident being honoured as volunteer

Duane Hicks

Former Fort Frances resident Cliff Huber has been chosen to receive the City of Thunder Bay’s highest volunteer honour, the “Spirit of Thunder Bay Award.”
Huber will be presented with the award, which recognizes individuals who have “shown extraordinary leadership, innovation, and meaningful voluntary contributions, and whose volunteerism has improved and enriched the community of Thunder Bay,” at a reception on May 2.
“You [do] different things over the years and you don’t really think of the awards or what have you, so this came as quite a surprise,” said Huber, who was born in Winnipeg but spent his childhood and young adulthood in Fort Frances before moving to Port Arthur in 1962 to attend teachers’ college.
He remained in Thunder Bay for his entire teaching career, but maintains fond memories of Fort Frances and keeps in touch with local families and individuals, usually visiting a few times each year.
Last year, Huber was nominated for the “Spirit of Thunder Bay Award” by the Retired Teachers of Ontario’s Political Action Committee (RTO PAC) District 2 awards committee.
He was interviewed a number of times by the committee, which then put in an application with the city.
“It’s really a very honoured award to receive, and it makes me reflect on all the fine people I’ve had the chance to volunteer with over the years,” noted Huber, 70, who has volunteered in Thunder Bay in numerous ways over the past 50 years.
When asked why he keeps doing it, Huber replied that he grew up with the attitude that “you give back to society and you try to make society a better place.”
“With our political action committee over the last 12 years, we’ve met with dozens of people in all fields and our motto has been, ‘We’re here to learn. How can we help?’” said Huber.
“That’s the philosophy our PAC committee has taken.
“I’ve been a lifelong learner. I taught history and it’s been a lifelong hobby, as well,” he added, noting he still visits Fort Frances resident Glen Gunderson once a year and they spend five or six hours straight talking about history and philosophy.
Huber has been chair of the RTO PAC for eight years now, and involved with the committee for several more than that.
He’s worked on issues related to the planned closure of two nursing homes—Dawson Court and Grandview Lodge—in Thunder Bay, and also spearheaded the push for local control of nursing homes as non-profit institutions.
A citizens’ committee then was formed, bringing together retired groups, long-term care advocates, and workers and volunteers from homes.
Because of this, the Centre of Excellence for Integrated Seniors’ Services projects were given to the St. Joseph Care Group by the Ministry of Health in 2008, and the resulting supportive assisted living units and new long-term care facility continue to benefit the community.
Huber also spurred on the RTO PAC to lobby for a divided highway from Thunder Bay to Nipigon, which was announced by the provincial and federal governments in July, 2008.
This not only has made it easier for Northern Ontario residents to travel to and from Thunder Bay for appointments, but benefitted the regional and local economy.
As RTO PAC chair, Huber worked with the City of Thunder Bay to make it a safer community for everyone and more “age-friendly” for seniors.
In this role, he also met with Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre staff for the benefit of all patients, and led the committee to advocate for a proper view of a wind farm development.
Huber also has served as a board member on the Lakehead Social Planning Council and ARC Industries. He has volunteered to teach English to immigrants at the Ontario Hospital, and assisted beginners and seniors with their computer and Internet usage skills.
Huber also has been involved with the Lakehead University Alumni Association for about 15 years, sat on the alumni magazine editorial board for a few years, and even helped marshal during graduation day.
Over a 30-year period, Huber has helped with local, provincial, and federal political campaigns, and over a 32-year period coached a total of 100 teams in seven sports, plus chess.
“Normally, I don’t really reflect on too many of these things, and I honestly haven’t sat down to go over, year by year, all of the different activities,” he admitted.
“Something comes along and you get asked to help out or do something, and you just go ahead and do it, and get into something else.
“It’s been about 50 years I’ve been volunteering,” he added. “When I think of it, it’s been a long haul but it’s been very worthy.”
Huber chuckled that he’s going to be slowing down a little in the near future.
“In the last few years with our PAC, I’ve been to 90 meetings and events, and this is all volunteer,” he remarked. “You drive around here and there.
“I just need a little change of pace for a year.”