By Vanessa Balintec
Ronald Mark thought it was a prank when he received a call from the secretary of the Governor General Julie Payette telling him he won the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.
“I felt I didn’t deserve it” said Mark. “I was shocked. I thought it was someone pulling my leg. But I was in tears by the time it was over.”
The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers is awarded to Canadian citizens who have demonstrated exemplary commitment to volunteerism. Passion dedication and a commitment to community are the driving forces behind those who are awarded with the medal.
“I know what it’s like to do without sometimes” said Mark. “I’m just trying to help people.”
According to his wife Margaret the organizations that he volunteers with all sent in letters for his nomination. Members of the Masonic Order at the North Entrance Lodge the 4Cs the United Church and the Shrine Club all worked together with her to nominate Mark without his knowledge.
“It was sometime in 2017 or 2018 … it took a long time I know that” said Margaret who volunteers as a librarian for the United Church. She knew right away by his confused tone while on the phone with the secretary that he was talking about the award. “He knew nothing about it. He said ‘Just a minute I’m going to give you to my wife she can talk to you.’”
The Masonic Foundation serves as a pillar in his volunteer and community life. He volunteers with its branches such as the Eastern Star and the Scottish Rite along with the local Masonic lodge which he’s been with since the 1970s and the Shrine Club since the late ‘90s. Mark received the William Mercer Wilson Medal an award for volunteerism in the Masonic community close to three weeks ago.
Mark has been volunteering his whole life.
“When he was younger before we had a family he used to drive [kids with disabilities] down to SickKids Hospital for pool therapy” said Margaret. “Before that he’s coached hockey softball for boys and girls. He was an equipment manager for a softball league for years and we stored all the equipment and spent all winter repairing and buying new equipment. We did that for a few years then we moved up here.”
Despite Mark’s love for volunteering there have been times when his volunteer work has worried his family.
“They sometimes say to him ‘Dad you’re doing too much you have to learn to say no’” said Margaret about their three children. “But that’s kind of a word not in his vocabulary. I think they’ve taken some of that [volunteering] from him too.”
Although he’s been volunteering since he was 18 he said Margaret’s support has allowed him to continue.
“She’s always encouraged me to do it too” said Mark about volunteering. “We’re going to be married 60 years in October. I don’t know how she puts up with me – she should get a medal. Been behind me 110 per cent.”
His friendships in Haliburton are part of what he loves about the community.
“This is a great community to live in” said Mark. He’s visited Haliburton his whole life eventually moving to the area with Margaret in 1992.
“I know everybody in town. Everybody cooperates up here it’s great. I love it up here.”
Mark thanks the mayor of Dysart et al for presenting his award during the May 28 council meeting and gives credit to the organizations he volunteers for for all their help.
“I’m getting to the age where I have to slow down now” said Mark who’s turning 82 in August. “I’m getting old but I keep going.”