Gord Brown’s legacy honoured
On Brockville’s night of community pride, locals honoured a fierce community booster who left us too soon.
The Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce paid tribute Thursday night to the late MP Gord Brown, honouring him with the President’s Award.
“The legacy he left us is broad and lasting,” chamber president Pat Markovich told the crowd at the chamber’s 59th annual Awards of Excellence gala at the Memorial Centre hall.
“To me, Gord was a true public servant who tirelessly worked for the whole community.”
Brown, the popular MP who was elected three times to represent the local riding, died suddenly on May 2 of a heart attack; he was 57.
His widow, Claudine Courtois, and brother Jeff accepted the award, the first time that distinction has been handed out posthumously.
Courtois, struggling with her emotions, spoke briefly: “Keep Gordie in your hearts.”
And there was little doubt that it would.
The presentation included a moving video tribute to Brown, and the late MP’s good friend, Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister and local MPP Steve Clark, found it difficult to speak immediately after.
Clark said Brown also never tired of shouting this community’s virtues from the rooftops.
“For him, this was the best place to live in the entire country,” said Clark.
“Gord was really, truly, so very proud of being your member of Parliament,” he added. “I miss him every day.” “People will realize, in the years to come, all the work that Gord Brown did in the riding.”
Jeff Brown took the opportunity to talk up a coming event that would have been dear to his brother’s heart, the charity hockey game in Gananoque on Nov. 28 that now bears his name as a memorial.
Organizers hope the game will raise about $100,000, which will go to the United Way and toward the construction of the Gord Brown Memorial Canada 150 Outdoor Rink.
The night included briefer tributes to two other departed friends.
MC Bruce Wylie briefly eulogized the late Roger Clark, once a regular at city council meetings and a community volunteer, while former chamber president Laura Good paid tribute to the late Gord Phillips, a longtime friend of the chamber who oversaw its group insurance.
A highlight of the gala was the announcement of the four remaining winners.
The Brockville Country Club was named Business of The Year, while the Small Business of the Year is Alan Browns.
The Community Excellence Award went to outgoing YMCA of Brockville and Area CEO Diana Deakin-Thomas, while the city’s recently-reborn Communities in Bloom committee won the Tourism Award.
Alan Browns owner Dave Shaw provided some of the evening’s comic entertainment, joking that, while his King Street West clothing store is a downtown cornerstone, it is also “a breeding sanctuary for dozens of common pigeons.”
Awards such as Small Business of the Year shine an important spotlight on small specialty retailers, an endangered species in the age of online shopping, said Shaw.
“Your continued recognition … and support of small businesses will keep your community dollars in your community,” said Shaw.
Deakin-Thomas, who will soon leave her position at the local Y, broke with tradition by inviting the two other nominees to the stage with her: Police Chief Scott Fraser, representing the Brockville Police Service’s Connections Program, and Jane Fullarton, representing the organization she runs, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Leeds and Grenville.
Deakin-Thomas said she learned to appreciate the community with an outsider’s eye when she came here four years ago.
“Community excellence is fostered when one works, lives and plays in an excellent community,” she said.
She became emotional at the thought of her imminent departure, but said she will return here frequently, especially during the boating season.
Anne Barabash, representing Communities in Bloom, also recognized the other nominees for tourism, Culture Days and the Red, Hot and Blue Rockabilly Weekend, in her speech.
She praised the work of the Bloom volunteers, noting that, while “Communities in Bloom may sound pretty,” the work can be far from it.
“We know we’ll get our hands dirty and we welcome it,” she said.
Glenn Singleton, general manager of the country club, thanked the employees.
“I kind of liken it to a bit of a sports team where you’ve got different teams within the team,” he said.
That includes the front-line team and the management team. said Singleton.
“The most important team that we have is our club members,” he added.
“Without them, there wouldn’t be a club.”
Claudine Courtois, centre, widow of the late MP Gord Brown, and Jeff Brown receive the President's Award from Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce president Pat Markovich at the Awards of Excellence gala on Thursday night.