Town names four Freemen

Art Skipsey, John Collins, Ann Klees and Leo Klees honoured at special ceremony

Qualicum Beach honoured four of its own Wednesday, naming them as Freemen of the Municipality for their many years of service to the community.

John (Jack) Collins, Art Skipsey and Leo and Ann Klees were celebrated.

The meeting was kicked of by a performance by town crier Len Mustard and wife Marie.

Mayor Teunis Westbroek said the decision to honour the four was unanimous.

“In recognition and appreciation of their dedication to the Town of Qualicum Beach, council is honoured to  concur Freedom of the Municipality to these individuals,” he said.

The first to accept her medal and framed plaque was Ann Klees, who was praised for making the first flower basket for the town, serving as a school board trustee, opening Outreach 69, starting senior games and serving as chair for six years and working with the Brown Property Society for eight years to raise money to buy the Heritage Forest.

Klees received high praise for starting a petition campaign that eventually resulted in the construction of The Gardens in Qualicum Beach.

Her husband, Leo Klees was next, receiving recognition for his work as the town’s clerk, the equivalent of the current chief administrative officer role.

Klees started with the town in 1966 and continued until 1990, working with four different mayors, Charlie Darkis, Bruce Brown, Orlan Rye and Art Skipsey.

During that time he helped prepare the town’s first official community plan and provided more sewer and water services and paving roads.

“Leo was instrumental in the acquisition of the golf course and helped negotiate a deal with the Brown family that is of enormous benefit to the community,” Westbroek said. “Leo also had a very innovative approach to acquire town lots as development occurred.”

Klees also worked as a councillor for three years and helped council and staff with the creation of a new town hall and library complex.

Klees was clearly pleased to be recognized, but he stressed he didn’t do anything in isolation.

“We did our best, but we had some good councils in the years I was there,” Klees said. “It’s very nice to be recognized. Very nice.”

John Collins — known to most of the community as Jack — was called up to accept his award for all the work he did in Qualicum Beach since arriving in 1969.

Collins’ first involvement with the community was with the curling club, which was also used as a skating rink in off weekends. He spent many hours there with local kids, sticks and pucks.

Collins was first elected to town council in 1979 and stayed with council for the next 18 years, 12 as a councillor under mayor Art Skipsey and then two terms as mayor himself.

Collins was involved in many of the projects that have come to be integral to the nature of Qualicum Beach, including the purchase of The Old School House, the purchase of the golf course, the building of the Civic Centre, construction of the Eagle Park care facility, the addition of a runway and office at the airport, creating the BMX bike park, extending Memorial Avenue to connect with the Inland Island Highway, and more.

“Is it ever a special day,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the staff and I can’t say enough about the councils. I thoroughly enjoyed my 18 years. Qualicum Beach to me is God’s country.”

Finally, former mayor and museum sparkplug Art Skipsey was called up.

Skipsey moved to Qualicum Beach in 1966 and became president of the Moorecroft Society. He was elected as mayor in 1975, a position he held for 13 years.

It was under Skipsey’s leadership that the first OCP was drawn up. Skipsey contributed money to all the new facilities that were started by community groups during his tenure, including Echo Players, the lawn bowling club, TOSH and the Civic Centre.

A longtime Rotarian, Skipsey was instrumental in starting the Parksville-Qualicum Foundation.

Since his retirement, Skipsey has been anything but idle, serving as president of the Qualicum Beach Historical Society for the past eight years.

Although pleased at the recognition, Skipsey took the honour somewhat in stride.

“I don’t crave recognition because I’ve had so much,” Skipsey said.

“It doesn’t really matter to me one way or the other. But when somebody else gets recognition for the work you did, sometimes the fur goes up a little bit.”




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