A former Shuswap teacher-librarian, emergency program volunteer and amateur radio enthusiast is being remembered for his tireless volunteerism.
The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) and the Shuswap Emergency Program (SEP) are paying tribute to the late Ron Essex, referred to as one of SEP’s most tireless volunteers.
According to a June 1 CSRD media release, Essex had been a dedicated emergency support services volunteer since the Silver Creek wildfire of 1998 and he assisted in the formation of SEP. Essex attended his last volunteer meeting just over a week ago.
“Ron always had this, ‘I’m here, what can I do to help?’ attitude. You would give him a task and you knew he would get it done,” says Cathy Semchuk, SEP facilitator.
The CSRD release noted Essex was willing to step in on a moment’s notice to fill any role in an emergency, although he particularly enjoyed his associations with Shuswap Amateur Radio Club, working in logistics and documenting everything in photos.
“A self-described pencil-pusher, Essex was always the team member who could be counted on to get paperwork done − and done right,” reads the release.
Already the recipient of several awards, in 2017 Essex received a Public Safety Lifeline Volunteer Award for lifetime achievement from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, recognizing him for his longstanding commitment and service through amateur radio clubs.
In 1993, Essex earned his basic qualification in amateur radio and joined the Shuswap Amateur Radio Club (SARC) and the Salmon Arm Seniors Radio Club.
He retired in 1998 after 35 years of teaching in the public school system, the last 31 years as teacher-librarian in what was then Shuswap Junior Secondary. About a month later, SARC was asked by then emergency program co-ordinator Gordon Pelletier to provide assistance with future emergencies. The call for help came sooner than anyone expected with the July 29 ignition of the Silver Creek fire on Fly Hills. Through the event, Essex did radio work and helped with public information phone lines.
Essex would provide vital support in emergency responses to several future wildfires.
In 2005, Essex was named the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) Communications Volunteer of the Year. In the same year, he received a Certificate of Special Recognition from PEP. In 2014 the Shuswap Amateur Radio Club awarded him a lifetime membership.
“The Shuswap Emergency Program wishes to extend our condolences to Essex’s family, friends and fellow volunteers. He will be missed.”
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