Bob Shirley

Local Hero: Bob Shirley is a hopelessly addicted community do-gooder.

November 18, 2012 | | Back Issues | Community | Local Heroes | Winter 2012

Bob Shirley: One of our 2012 Local Heroes

Community Service Addict

We’ll just come right out and say it: Bob Shirley has a little problem. He’s a hopelessly addicted community do-gooder. A one-time farmer and self-employed go-to guy on wells, pumps and “basically anything to do with water,” Bob was first elected to Mono council in 1976 when he was 32. He eventually spent 17 years in municipal politics, as councillor and deputy reeve. For nine of those years he was also on Dufferin County council, including a term as warden in 1993. It’s easier for him to list the committees he hasn’t been on than those he has: “Not roads.”

Bob describes the warden’s position as his most important role, but it never meant he was above getting his hands dirty. At the time, Dufferin County Museum and Archives was under construction and, as warden, Bob not only oversaw the project, but “was out there doing landscaping and stone work.” In 1999, when the historic Corbetton Church was moved to the museum site, he got out his tools again to help with the restoration.

More recently Bob returned to Mono council for a year and a half as a temporary appointment to fill a vacancy, but he wasn’t ready to run in the next election. “I decided I could make better use of my time than politics.”

Born on the Frank Island farm, beside Orangeville’s Island Lake, Bob has demonstrated a lifetime of commitment to the Credit River. He has served as a member of Credit Valley Conservation for 34 years, 25 of those also on the Island Lake management board, which he currently chairs.

In recent years, he has also acted in a variety of positions for Friends of Island Lake, an organization spearheading construction of a fully linked and accessible trail system on the site. As usual, this affable hard worker has his sleeves rolled up, helping to prepare the boardwalk for installation.

Bob says he’s most proud of his two daughters and his grandson, and this year he went to new lengths to prove it. At 68, he donated a kidney to his daughter Paula. He says the rule is usually “not after 65, unless you’re physically in really good shape.” The transplant was a success and Bob is offhand about it – “I had hardly any pain at all.” Citing the eight-year wait his daughter would have faced for a non-familial donor, the high odds of a successful transplant, and the low risk of complication, he adds, “I don’t know why more people don’t get involved.”

This month, Bob received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal “in recognition of contributions to community and country.”

Like many addicts, he is trying to break his community contribution habit, and make more time for other interests, including his extensive antique tractor collection. But he’s still in the “tomorrow, tomorrow” stage of recovery. He has given up a number of responsibilities, but estimates he currently spends 75 per cent of his time on Friends of Island Lake. “One more year,” he insists. By then the trails will be finished. After that, “I’m going to work on my hobbies. Period. It’s my time.” But right away, there’s a qualifier: “If people leave me alone.”

Sure, Bob. That’ll happen.

About the Author More by Jeff Rollings

Jeff Rollings is a freelance writer living in Orangeville.

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