Benefit New book sets out to chronicle Mutual Life’s storied history
Proceeds from Jack Reynolds’ fourth book benefit the Child Witness Centre
WATERLOO REGION — It was quite the send-off.
It was Dec. 17, 2001, Jack Reynolds’ last day at Clarica Life Insurance Co., and employees had gathered in the auditorium at the company’s Waterloo headquarters.
But they weren’t there to fete Reynolds and a 33-year career at Mutual Life of Canada, renamed Clarica in 1999 after it demutualized. They were there to learn the company was being acquired by Sun Life Financial, with the loss of 1,500 jobs in the process.
It wasn’t quite the retirement party Reynolds had envisioned.
That story and dozens of others are captured in Reynolds’ new book “Life was a Mutual Affair,” an anecdotal history of Mutual Life — the title plays off a former advertising slogan.
“Mutual was a very unique company in so many ways and I thought it was a story worth telling,” said Reynolds, who held five vice-presidential positions and served as corporate secretary during his time there.
It’s a book he first considered writing while he was still with the company, but never got started. Now in his third retirement — since 2001, he served for a decade as executive director of the Child Witness Centre and also helped to establish a small book publishing firm — he persisted and completed the project, his fourth book.
Reynolds conducted dozens of interviews and poured through old publications and annual reports in compiling stories about Mutual’s 133-year history. “It’s kind of an interesting walk down memory lane.”
Reynolds shares tales of fellow “Mutualists,” from co-founder, travelling policy salesperson and politician Moses Springer, to the quirky coincidence that saw at least four sets of three sisters work for the company.
He walks readers through the construction of the landmark King Street South building that opened in 1912 at a cost of about $235,000.
And he outlines the company’s leadership in areas ranging from technology to employment equity. “When I landed there in 1967, there was, as in most companies, blatant discrimination against women,” he said. “We made a very conscious decision to change that.”
Proceeds from the book, which is available at Words Worth Books in Waterloo for $22.95 plus tax, will benefit the Child Witness Centre.
Serving Waterloo Region, Guelph and Wellington County, the centre supports young people who are victims of, or witnesses to, crime.
It’s also a partner in the Waterloo Region Child and Youth Advocacy Centre.
“The work the agency does is so vitally important in our community,” said Reynolds, who’s striving to complete a book on child victims in Canada’s justice system. “I felt really, really fortunate to have had that second career.”
Last year, the Child Witness
Centre worked with nearly 2,650 young people and their families, and received 590 new referrals to help children navigate the intimidating and stressful court process.
Increasing demands for the charitable organization’s services mean increasing financial pressures.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the support we’ve had to date, but we’re never done,” said Laura Muirhead, Reynolds’ successor as executive director.
Muirhead said Reynolds’ book represents the meeting of two “labours of love” for him — writing and the Child Witness Centre. “It’s amazing to see those two things coming together.”
Jack Reynolds holds a copy of his new book about Mutual Life of Canada outside the company's King Street South headquarters in Waterloo.