Veteran Sam Van Gunst led the hundreds in attendance in the singing of O Canada at the Remembrance Day ceremony in 2017 at Veterans’ Park. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Red Deerian to receive national volunteer medal

40 years of volunteering commitment

A Red Deerian will be receiving the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteering, bestowed by the Governor General.

Sam Van Gunst, 82, said when he got word from Ottawa in February, he thought the call was some sort of scam.

“I didn’t believe it was the Governor General’s office,” said the senior, who has opted not to travel to Ottawa for the ceremony that would have taken place within two years.

Instead, his medal will be sent to the Lieutenant-Governor for a ceremony in Alberta.

The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers recognizes the remarkable volunteer achievements of Canadians from across the country in a range of fields.

“That’s quite an honour,” he noted.

Van Gunst spent about 40 years helping newcomers and working with the local Legion during its annual poppy campaign and Remembrance Day activities. He also served as an honour guard at veterans’ funerals and visited residents at seniors’ care facilities.

He only recently retired from his volunteer duties.

Van Gunst said visiting seniors was his favourite volunteer activity. He recalled that before the Dr. Richard Parsons Auxiliary Hospital was shut down, one resident always made sure to sit beside him during the Thursday night sing-a-longs.

“She’d be sitting right in front of the elevator, waiting for me to get off. She’d give me a big hug. She’d ask me, ‘Are you going to sing tonight.’”

“When we came out of there, I’d say I feel good about this. I’ve helped somebody.”

He went on to become a regular volunteer at Red Deer Nursing Home, where he helped feed elderly residents.

“I was there until the last day, when they closed the doors,” Van Gunst said.

He also visited veterans and residents at other larger seniors facilities, but eventually, all the walking became too much.

Related:

Lending Cupboard in Red Deer receives Seniors Service Award from province

Inspiration Awards show Red Deer agency and Lacombe woman are on right track

In 2012, Van Gunst received the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation, which is awarded to those who perform service to the veteran community and/or individuals who represent commendable role models for their fellow veterans.

In 1955, at age 18, Van Gunst joined the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry as part of the Canadian Armed Forces and was a peacekeeper in Germany for three years.

His family came to Canada from the Netherlands in 1949, after Canadian soldiers liberated the country at the end of the Second World War.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Red Deer stamp-collecting event a hit, local club expected to start in fall

Postage stamp-loving Red Deerians can expect to have a place to gather… Continue reading

Red Deer woman one of three arrested by Sundre RCMP

The 19-year-old had numerous arrest warrants out of various jurisdictions

Businessman and volunteer named 2019 Citizen of the Year

John Donald’s parents and sister were each honoured previously

School leader named Red Deer Young Citizen of the Year

Leading by example at Hunting Hills High School

Suspects shot at pursuing police during crime spree

No police officers were injured in May 17 shooting

WATCH: Sunnybrook Farm Museum in Red Deer welcomes spring

Sunnybrook Farm Museum is celebrating spring in Red Deer. On Saturday, the… Continue reading

Cast your votes for the Best of Red Deer

Nominations for the Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are officially… Continue reading

Stan Lee’s former manager arrested on elder abuse charges

LOS ANGELES — A former business manager of Stan Lee has been… Continue reading

BCUC sets out process for gas and diesel price inquiry, set to wrap Aug. 30

VANCOUVER — The British Columbia Utilities Commission says it has set out… Continue reading

2 hikers rescued after darkness sets in on trail near Cypress Mountain

North Shore Rescue says it rescued two hikers caught in the darkness… Continue reading

Canada beats Czech Republic to advance to gold-medal game at world championship

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Canada’s latest win at the world hockey championship left… Continue reading

Rimouski forward Lafreniere, Prince Albert goaltender Scott earn CHL awards

HALIFAX — Rimouski Oceanic star Alexis Lafreniere has been named the Canadian… Continue reading

10 wounded as gunmen open fire outside New Jersey bar

TRENTON, N.J. — Authorities say at least two gunmen fired into a… Continue reading

Mississippi rep accused of punching wife issues statement

JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi lawmaker accused of recently punching his wife… Continue reading

Most Read