Saying good-bye to Struchan Gilson

It was back in 1974 that I first met Struchan Gilson.
As part of the Fun in the Sun celebrations, the Fort Frances Jaycees were hosting a water skiing championship. A slalom course had been constructed in front of the dock at Pither’s Point and Struchan showed up as a competitor.
With his slalom ski, he went out to compete against a bunch of local people. I don’t remember who won, but I do remember Struchan’s competitive spirit and wanting to enjoy the sport with others.
Since then, we have had a good friendship.
Shortly after the word of his sudden death spread around the community last Thursday, Ted Brockie sent over a picture taken early in the spring of 1978. Ted and Struchan already were recognized as first-class marathoners in Fort Frances.
The picture shows three runners, I being the third. The interesting story was that around a coffee table at the Rainy Lake Hotel, I had commented that it shouldn’t be too hard to run 10 miles.
That prompted an immediate response of a whole lot of nay-sayers to put money up that I couldn’t do the distance.
Thanks largely in part to Struchan and Ted, they paced me through the run, which remains the longest I’ve ever done. Together, the two helped put the confidence into me that I could finish. And I did.
It is one of those things you remember.
Struchan and I continued to cross paths over the decades—on the recreation board and parks board, later on the committee of adjustment, and most recently on the recreation advisory board and working with the Rainy River Futures Corp.
As someone once said, Struchan’s first concern, whether as a coach, volunteer, or councillor, was the question, “Are we doing this in the best interest of the community, or the team?”
Often criticized for the size of his soccer teams, Struchan’s philosophy was that he wanted more people to play and love the game.
As a councillor, he felt tremendous responsibility for the maintenance of facilities and their upgrades, as well as the programming that went into the community. As a councillor, he constantly made the point that something that was good for Emo was also good for Fort Frances and the district.
And anything that was good for the district was good for everyone.
It was a message he worked hard to convey to all those he worked with in the political arena. He understood that you couldn’t just be a citizen of Fort Frances, but you also were a citizen of the district.
Struchan built his teams with a plan, bringing players along and providing stimulating practices. And he had confidence that the plans would work.
In municipal politics, Struchan always was looking to put plans together for the long-term health of the community and the district.
Plans to maintain and upgrade water, sewer, and roads, plans for recreational services to meet the changing demographics of the community and the district, and plans to attract and grow businesses to provide more job opportunities for the youth of the area.
For someone who really had planned to come to the community and district for a short time, he and his wife, Pat, put down long tap roots into the community.
He will be missed.

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