The annual Shaunavon Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Banquet was filled with humour, emotion and plenty of love as friends, family and the community in general came out to honour this year’s recipients of the award – Ken and Merle Shaw.
Saturday night’s gathering was a tribute to a couple that has had a huge impact on their community.
Shaunavon mayor Sharon Dickie, in her presentation, described Ken and Merle as “humble and unassuming . . . not looking for accolades and not seeking attention for what you do for this community. But it does not go unnoticed.”
More than a dozen official presentations – and almost as many impromptu speeches during an open microphone segment – were made from people looking to honour the dedicated couple, who were as famous for their friendly and welcoming personalities as they are for their generous volunteerism and community support.
One of the most poignant presentations – during an evening brimming with highlight moments – came from Grant Selvig and Al Hansen, two former employees of the Shaws who shared a number of humorous anecdotes and personal stories.
Grant joked that he always believed that Ken “should have been on the bomb squad for his ability to diffuse a bad situation.”
“They never got mad, they never swore and they never had a bad day,” he added.
Grant and Al – who both worked about 16 years for the Shaws – spoke in glowing terms about the enormous influence Ken and Merle had on both their professional and personal lives.
The Shaws – who came to the community from Morse in 1976 after Ken accepted a transfer to become the community’s Imperial Oil agent – were renowned across the Southwest for their friendly disposition and extraordinary customer service.
“At work, they treated every customer the same, whether they did $10 or $10,000 in business,” said Grant in his nomination of the Shaws for the Citizen of the Year Award.
“You knew if you ever needed anything, Ken and Merle would be there for you,” said Al.
Both Al and Grant spoke about how they felt more like family members than employees and that Ken and Merle “would never ask you to do a job without proving to you that they had done it themselves.”
Al recalled how, on the day he came into Ken’s office to hand in his resignation, he felt like a school student who was taking a bad report card home to his parents.
“That was the hardest day of my life because I respected you guys so much,” he stated.
Both men said the lessons they learned while working with the Shaws continue to be a driving influence in their lives today.
Other presentations during the evening – many of them from organizations where the Shaws have volunteered and supported over the years – were made on behalf of Shaunavon Pioneer Senior Citizens Association (Lawrence Pommier), Shaunavon Hospital Auxiliary (Myrna Pearson), Shaunavon Curling Club (Janelle Wickstrom), Minor Ball and Minor Hockey (Mike Elmgren, who also co-nominated the Shaws for the Citizen of the Year Award along with Grant Selvig), Shaunavon Hometown Club (Gordon Speirs) and Rock Creek Golf Club (Rick Schneider).
Mike and Grant also presented Ken and Merle with special medals, just like the Shaws presented to numerous young athletes over the years through the Esso minor hockey program. Ken, by the way, received the Most Improved Award, while Merle got “Most Dedicated.”
Letters of congratulations were also read, among them tributes from MLA Wayne Elhard, Merv and Linda Toewes (Merle’s brother), Lee and Terra Lee Toewes (nephew), Trevor and Kelli Pollock (nephew), Patti Wass (long time family friend), Berta and Paulette Legault (long time friends), Carolyn and Peter Illerbrun (long time friends and former employee and the Shaunavon Silver Blades Skating Club.
Longtime friends – Brian and Marilyn Gatchene, and George Coates (and his wife Myrna) also made brief presentations during the open microphone session to honour the Shaws and share a few personal insights into the couple’s devotion to family and friends.
Allen and Joyce Pollock (Ken’s sister), also expressed their pride in the Shaw’s nomination for the Citizen of the Year award.
Other special friends attending Saturday’s gathering – many of them with connections to the family during their time in Morse – included Leonard and Marjorie Spate, Lloyd and Myrna Gammel, Fred and Linda Wall, and Larry and Ilene Redekopp.
A dozen past Citizen of the Year award winners were also in attendance.
Brady Berg, an “unofficial, adopted grandson of the Shaws,” also spoke about the couple’s ever-present welcoming nature, and Shaunavon farmer Gerald Girodat also congratulated the couple.
One of the more humorous moments came during a video greeting from “Stella,” the curling fan extraordinaire who wrote a special song to mark the occasion.
The Youth Junior Curling program – in a presentation made by junior curler Hannah MacNeil on behalf of Wendy Thienes – used Saturday’s gala to announce that a new curling award was to be established in Ken’s honour. The Shaw Sportsmanship Award will be presented annually to the junior curler displaying the most enthusiasm, patience and respect and encouragement to others, all attributes that Ken brings to the rink. A plaque with the names of each winner will be located at the curling rink and annual recipients will receive a medal to keep.
The grandchildren of Merle and Ken also spoke to the crowd and came up with what was perhaps the most memorable line from the celebration.
“We just want to say you put the Shaw in Shaunavon,” said grandson Kyle Caswell, along with his sister Heather.
“I wish I had come up with that,” laughed emcee Joanne Gregoire.
The Shaws three children – Pam, Lola and Darren – also had a beautiful tribute to their parents.
Pam noted that it was great to see so many people speak about and celebrate the “generous, loving and supportive” nature of Merle and Ken – attributes that they have been well-aware of their whole lives.
Mark Anderson of the Shaunavon Chamber of Commerce made the official presentation of the Citizen of the Year Award while the last words of the evening came from Merle and Ken themselves, who thanked everyone involved with Saturday’s celebration.
“Thank you to our family and friends . . . all those who gave great words of encouragement tonight, you made the evening very special.”