Michael Dawe went from preserving history to creating it on Friday night.
Dawe was named Red Deer’s Citizen of the Year, following in the footsteps of his father, G. Harold, who had received the honour 24 years before him.
The local historian with an encyclopedia knowledge of the city was honoured at the Citizen of the Year Spring Gala at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel.
Julia Maksymetz, 19, a Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School graduate and a third-year political science student, was tapped as the Young Citizen of the Year.
Dawe, 58, said he felt truly humbled to join the ranks of the previous recipients because he knows first hand what they did for the community.
“I feel almost staggered that I would be considered in that league,” said Dawe. “It’s a really nice feeling to get recognition in your home, your community among your friends . . . that’s a really nice re-enforcement.”
Dawe said the award is not about him but the wonderful people he has worked with over the years.
“There was a spirit of community spirit in our family,” said Dawe, a fifth-generation Red Deerian whose father was a Red Deer Public School superintendent and a co-founder of Red Deer College. His mother, L. Jean Hodgkinson Dawe, was an English instructor at the college.
But it was in 1979 when Dawe became the first permanent archivist for the Red Deer Archives that he began to consider his place in Red Deer. He still holds the position today.
“Once I got my career started I thought this is my home, this is my community,” said Dawe. “These are my friends. This really impacts me. I plan on staying. I should start getting involved in some things and help the community.”
Fast forward to 2014, Dawe continues to give back and to champion the city as a member on local committees, clubs and organizations.
To name a few, Dawe was a founding member of the Archives Society of Alberta, Red Deer Heritage Preservation Committee, Alberta Municipal Heritage Advisory Board, the Danish Heritage Society of Dickson and the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.
He has penned nine books and co-authored five literature articles. As part of Red Deer’s centennial celebrations, Dawe released Red Deer, The Memorable City, which is in its third printing.
Dawe counts working on the now-dissolved Red Deer Regional Hospital and the David Thompson Health Region boards to provide better health care in the region as one his most rewarding experiences.
Among his many accolades, Dawe has received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal 2002.
“If you really benefit from something, then give something back,” said Dawe. “When I see people like Julia and I realize all these very bright people who are coming along, it gives you really great comfort in thinking of what our city continues to produce and what our future holds.”
Maksymetz said she was incredibly surprised to learn she would join the list of award winners.
“It really reminded me of my foundation and the tremendous community that is here and the experience the community has given me,” said Maksymetz. “I feel very honoured. It is encouraging me to give more. I have to give back.”
Maksymetz said she was very lucky to have the opportunities that she has had in her young life.
In Grade 12, she was involved with a project to build a school in Male, Kenya, through A Better World. Her school team raised about $20,000 for the project.
“It was beautiful to see all the community support,” she said. “People were just wanting to give us money because it was an excellent cause.”
Maksymetz said she enjoyed working with all the community events in high school including serving holiday meals for low-income seniors and Central Alberta Women’s Shelter. She has been a Girl Guide Camp Leader, a member of the Red Deer Royals and a student leadership executive member.
At school, she wanted to improve student life for her student body which included starting a Think Recycle program at the high school.
Maksymetz is a recipient of the Violet Richardson Award which recognizes young women between the ages of 14 and 17 who are engaged in volunteerism within their communities or schools.
“I enjoyed being able to connect with citizens on that level and provide them with an experience that hopefully made their lives a little bit nicer, a little bit better,” said Maksymetz.
The 19-year-old will transfer to Montreal’s Concordia University from University of Alberta’s Campus Saint Jean for her third year in political science in the fall. Maksymetz is considering a career in either journalism, education or politics.
“I do really love Red Deer,” she said. “I could see myself continuing my life here. My family is here. I do live this community and I do feel like I grew up as it was just growing up as well.”
Presented by the Rotary Clubs of Red Deer, the Citizen of the Year and the Young Citizen of the Year Awards are given out each year at the spring gala. The awards are given to individuals who show a commitment to building a stronger city.
This year’s event featured four-time Olympic gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser as the guest speaker.
The two citizens of the year will have their names engraved in the bronze plaque underneath the Rotary Clock on the corner of Ross Street and 49th Avenue.