2017 Community Builder honouree

WINCHESTER – It was standing room only at Morewood’s fire hall Thurs., March 1 as friends, neighbours, and family gathered to celebrate the Township of North Dundas’ 2017 Community Builder Award recipient – Bill Smirle.

The location was an ideal choice, given that among his many endeavours in the municipality, serving the area’s fire service was chief among them, be it standing on the frontlines or representing the steering committee as its secretary.

A last minute cancellation last November delayed Smirle’s receipt of the honour, but the mark was eventually met.

Nancy and Bill Smirle.

Like the award winners before him, Smirle’s resume is a lengthy one thanks to his more than 60 years of work within the community.

Highlights include his time on North Dundas council, the Morewood Recreation Association, South Nation Conservation (SNC), the Morewood Remembrance Day committee, the North Dundas Chamber of Commerce, the Dundas Federation of Agriculture, both the Winchester District Memorial Hospital’s board of directors and the foundation’s board, and the Dundas Manor board, to name but a few.

Stormont, Dundas, and South Glengarry MP Guy Lauzon’s executive assistant, Adrian Bugelli (left), and MPP Jim McDonell honoured Smirle with scrolls from their respective houses of government.

“I first met Bill on [the hospital’s] renewing the vision campaign… His passion for the hospital was evident, but his passion for the community was even more clear,” Councillor Al Armstrong, the event’s emcee, said.

Then, Armstrong added, it was Smirle’s presence at North Dundas’ former St. Lawrence Street headquarters, when he spoke passionately in defence of the Old Town Hall’s revitalization.

“He was articulate and detailed in his attention,” Armstrong said.
Former Osgoode Ward councillor Doug Thompson, who served alongside Smirle on the SNC board, was equally praising of man her calls a friend.

“I’ve known Bill for 60 years, having grown up on family farms near Morewood, and then I got to know him more as a firefighter, a teacher and principal, church warden and a prolific fundraiser,” Thompson said. “He really is the most deserving recipient of this honour.”

Smirle alongside North Dundas councillors Tony Fraser (middle) and Al Armstrong.

Both Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry MP Guy Lauzon, who was represented at the ceremony by his executive assistant Adrian Bugelli, and MPP Jim McDonell presented from their respective levels of government, while North Dundas politicians handed out a plaque for Smirle to keep and one to hang on the wall of the municipality’s council chambers.

“I’ve always appreciated Bill’s advice, and his questioning,” Mayor Eric Duncan said. “His is an important style of leadership.”

When it was his time to address the audience, Smirle was evidently humbled by the honour, noting he “owes so many thank you’s.”

“I almost didn’t recognize myself [when the list of work was read], but I really have had so much support through the years,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to know people with abilities and forethought.”

Smirle’s recognition for the award was first announced during his hometown of Morewood’s Meet Me on Main Street event last summer. It now hangs among other achievements, including a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and a Stormont, Dundas, and South Glengarry Canada 150 Service Medal.

North Dundas’ 2017 Community Builder Award-winner, Bill Smirle. Press Photos – Uhrig

“Don’t ever forget that we’ve had good times and bad times, but when one door closes, another opens, so be ready,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate.”