Re­mem­ber­ing Hec

Pete Fisher looks back at the life and legacy of Hector Macmil­lan

Northumberland Today - - NEWS - PETE FISHER

TRENT HILLS - If you were lucky enough to cross paths with Hector Macmil­lan like I was - it was un­for­get­table.

Hector passed away on Tues­day morn­ing from pneu­mo­nia. He was one of a kind, one in a mil­lion, maybe more.

He served his com­mu­nity for 14 years and was a two-time War­den for Northum­ber­land County, but most of all, he was a fighter.

Fighter for any in­jus­tice he thought was wrong. Loud and proud. It didn’t mat­ter who he was tak­ing on or the level of gov­ern­ment.

There were many bat­tles for Hector. With Macmil­lan be­hind you, rest as­sured there were many vic­to­ries.

We all know about Macmil­lan’s bat­tle with cancer over the last sev­eral years. It wasn’t di­rectly the cancer that took him, but com­pli­ca­tions from it. But don’t kid your­self, Hector scored many vic­to­ries. Most of them pub­lic. Ei­ther lo­cally or na­tion­ally. Start­ing with tak­ing on the Min­is­ter of Health and Long Term Care, Eric Hoskins at the As­so­ci­a­tion of Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of On­tario in Au­gust 2016.

“Mr. Min­is­ter why are you killing us? Are you re­ally going to just let me die?”

Macmil­lan did his home­work and stated that a nano-knife IRE ma­chine was sit­ting at Princess Mar­garet hos­pi­tal “col­lect­ing dust,” used only five times while the pro­ce­dure is be­ing per­formed daily in more than 250 hos­pi­tals around the world, with 50 in the United States.

It sure looked like Hoskins was left scram­bling for words. A doc­tor him­self, Hoskins stated he had to rely on spe­cial­ists.

But it was a shot across the bow for Macmil­lan. Me­dia at­ten­tion from across the prov­ince then took no­tice of what was hap­pen­ing.

Hope­fully things will change for the bet­ter­ment and the for­ti­tude of Macmil­lan.

I tried to con­tact Hoskins for com­ment re­gard­ing Macmil­lan’s death.

Didn’t get very far. His press sec­re­tary, Laura Gal­lant, said “Our of­fice has learned of this sad news. The min­is­ter is out of the coun­try at the mo­ment and we will not be pro­vid­ing a pub­lic com­ment.”

Ap­par­ently, wher­ever in this world the min­is­ter is, they don’t have ac­cess to phone lines or e-mail.

It would have been a nice, sim­ple ges­ture for Hoskins to come out, and pub­licly say things are bet­ter in this prov­ince be­cause of what Macmil­lan did for oth­ers.

I think this is why Macmil­lan hated the word “politi­cian.”

He was an elected of­fi­cial, by the peo­ple and def­i­nitely for the peo­ple. You may not like the an­swer he gave, but it was never sug­ar­coated. He stood for what he be­lieved in, and who could be faulted for that?

A friend of Macmil­lan’s in Ol­cott Beach, New York, Gina Red­den, said he liked the word “rep­re­sen­ta­tive.”

Peo­ple like Macmil­lan are rare, she said - she’s right.

It was May, 2012 when Macmil­lan and I headed for Ol­cott Beach in his 1971 lime-green Chal­lenger at 5 a.m. to boost the small town of 900 peo­ple in their quest to be­come the Ul­ti­mate Fish­ing Town spon­sored by the World Fish­ing Net­work. On the back wind­shield of his car, “Ol­cott Beach, NY or Bust!!”

Ol­cott Beach was sup­port­ing Hast­ings with their votes, and Hast­ings was re­cip­ro­cat­ing.

It was a quiet Sun­day morn­ing when Hector picked me up and we ven­tured out. It was easy to tell the car was his pride and joy.

I could al­most hear Step­pen­wolf blast­ing in my head, “git yer mo­tor run­ning. Head out on the high­way, look­ing for ad­ven­ture and what­ever comes your way.”

When we it Toronto, we were one of the “few” cars on the high­way on the quiet morn­ing and we did find a bit of ad­ven­ture. Un­for­tu­nately for me, but I’m sure Hector savoured the mo­ment, but we met a much newer Chal­lenger.

Macmil­lan was up to the task and the race was on. Speed doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily scare me, but I’m sure there are still my fin­ger marks in the dash­board on the pas­sen­ger seat of his car as I was hold­ing on while Hector punched the 425 horses un­der the hood. I glanced at the nee­dle on the speedome­ter. I couldn’t see it!

True to form. He didn’t give up and the other driver backed off - thank­fully.

In Ol­cott Beach, we met many new friends, in­clud­ing Gina Marie and her hus­band Eoin. Hector kept up that friend­ship over the years till his death.

Stella Tothill Wil­son wrote on Face­book about his death, “we had such great times with Hector, he was an Ol­cott Kid with­out ever liv­ing here!!”

“I will miss see­ing and talk­ing to Hector, such a great man and friend to all.”

MJ Par­lier added, “We from OBNY (Ol­cott Beach, New York) will be ever grateful for his friend­ship, and it’s been my hon­our to know him for these past few years. What a kind, brave, self­less man who served his com­mu­nity and left the world a bet­ter place. We will miss Hector as as long as well live.”

As a side note, both towns won that year and were crowned the Ul­ti­mate Fish­ing Towns.

Talk­ing with Trent Hills Fire Chief Tim Blake on Tues­day, he said, if Macmil­lan made a mis­take, he was man enough to ad­mit it. Can any­one name an­other “elected of­fi­cial” that would do that?

Macmil­lan wasn’t an of­fi­cial mem­ber of the fire depart­ment, but he did any­thing that was asked, at any time of day and night. When noth­ing with open in the early morn­ing hours at a barn fire, Macmil­lan took it upon him­self to drive to Peter­bor­ough in heavy fog to get the firefighters food.

The men and woman on the fire depart­ment cer­tainly ap­pre­ci­ated ev­ery time they saw his face at a fire scene. They knew they would be taken care of and were ap­pre­ci­ated.

In De­cem­ber, 2010 the Royal Cana­dian Mint an­nounced they would be rec­og­niz­ing fallen sol­diers by com­mem­o­rat­ing a High­way of He­roes coin after first re­fus­ing.

A mo­tion was put forth to hon­our the fallen sol­diers, but the Mint de­cided it would be too dif­fi­cult to pro­duce a coin.

Macmil­lan heard about the ef­forts and was the first mayor to sup­port the idea along with his coun­cil unan­i­mously en­dors­ing the mo­tion.

News of the Trent Hills mo­tion trav­elled across Canada with other com­mu­ni­ties join­ing, in­clud­ing Port Hope and Cobourg and even Toronto.

It was Macmil­lan who got the ball rolling and cre­ated national at­ten­tion - with­out him, there wouldn’t be a High­way of He­roes coin. It’s that sim­ple. And some of the money raised from the coin went to the Mil­i­tary Fam­i­lies Fund and the Afghanistan Repa­tri­a­tion Me­mo­rial in Tren­ton.

In March, 2011, Macmil­lan an­nounced he had esophageal cancer.

Like oth­ers di­ag­nosed with an un­fa­mil­iar dis­ease, he ed­u­cated him­self. Scared, but coura­geous he spoke to me at a restau­rant in Camp­bell­ford about what lay ahead.

“It’s just an­other chal­lenge I’m meet­ing head-on” he told me. True to his word, he did. “I will carry on do­ing what I do ev­ery day and I will get my treat­ments.”

Macmil­lan said some­thing to me that day that de­fines the per­son who he was and what his com­mu­nity of Trent Hills and be­yond should re­mem­ber him by.

“I love my job and I love my mu­nic­i­pal­ity.” It lit­er­ally says it all. But after the di­ag­no­sis, Macmil­lan added, “I know I’ve sac­ri­ficed a lot of my fam­ily life for my job and my mu­nic­i­pal­ity and I still will, but I’ve cer­tainly moved my fam­ily way up the pri­or­ity list.”

Hector was mar­ried to his de­voted, lov­ing and sup­port­ive wife Sandy.

She along with his im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­bers in­clud­ing his mother Mar­garet, sis­ter Jill, his daugh­ters Leeann, Mindy, Adam and Peter, their spouses and grand­chil­dren were his rocks. His life. But I think Hector’s com­mu­nity was just as much his fam­ily and he loved it and did the best he could for the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Trent Hills and Northum­ber­land County when he was War­den.

The cou­ple bought Trent Val­ley Lanes in Camp­bell­ford a few years ago.

Since then, I think it’s al­most re­ju­ve­nated him. When I went there, they both were work­ing hard at it. Plans were in place. I think Hector loved con­vers­ing with peo­ple and no bet­ter way then to own a bowl­ing al­ley.

I last texted Hector on Sept. 28 ask­ing how he was do­ing. “Been bet­ter that’s fo sho.” At that time he said he lost too much weight. My ad­vice to my friend was to hang around me for a few days.

He sent me a smi­ley emoti­con with dark sun­glasses, and that’s the last I heard from him.

I didn’t talk to him daily or even weekly of late, but he was al­ways in my thoughts.

It was a shock when I heard the news on Tues­day. It still is. Hector was a war­rior in life, tak­ing on so many bat­tles that he be­lieved in. He was the per­sona of what an “elected of­fi­cial” should be.

He’s saved lives in his pub­lic health care fight to right a wrong. He never stopped work­ing. In all the years I’ve known him, he never ever took a mo­ment to rest be­cause of his bat­tles.

After many bat­tles, and many vic­to­ries it’s time for you to rest my friend. You’ve earned your place in heaven many times over. Pete Fisher is a Northum­ber­land To­day jour­nal­ist.

PETE FISHER/NORTHUM­BER­LAND TO­DAY FILE PHOTO

Hector Macmil­lan at his bowl­ing lanes in Camp­bell­ford in Au­gust, 2016, after he went pub­lic with his cancer bat­tle and his frus­tra­tion with the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment. The mayor of Trent Hills died Tues­day from pneu­mo­nia.

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