If you need something done, ask a busy man” is without doubt a saying that perfectly fits Gerry Fagan’s disposition to help others.
For years he has been a tremendous force in the volunteer field in our community. Hundreds, if not thousands of people, especially seniors, have benefited from his giving spirit.
“My purpose is to help others who needs assistance, support or friendship,” says Fagan, a well known figure in Port Alberni, and, as many believe, one who is an example of what a true volunteer is and does for others.
Born in Victoria, the 70-something-year-old Fagan moved to Port Alberni more than 50 years ago and worked for Western Bakeries for 31 years until his retirement.
His early years as a volunteer began as a ball team coach for young players. And shortly after his retirement, he decided to assist the seniors of Fir Park Village and Echo Village by driving the residents’ buses. He literally spent hundreds of hours every month taking them to various community activities, such as concerts, shopping excursions, picnics and a variety of social programs in our community and beyond. He also gave his time to train new volunteer drivers as well as taking over the maintenance and care of the vehicles.
The residents of both homes also benefit from Fagan’s continuous giving of his time, beyond his duties as a driver, as he pays regular visits to them and takes part at weekly and special events.
His friendly personality made him a charismatic figure among the seniors, families and care givers. He was seen at dances, birthday parties, anniversaries and other social events.His driving work and social involvement with the seniors soon expanded to interviews he conducted with residents at Christmas time and then their publishing in the homes’ newsletters, thus, making these interviews historical memories of old time year-end celebrations.
These interviews led him to writing a book based on stories and passages of the seniors’ lives from their early years in the Prairies, the west coast or the Maritime provinces of Canada, and, in some cases, their lives in far away lands. Life and Times—Memories of the 20th Century was published in the 1990s and became a must read account of memories of past eras.
The publication was so popular in the seniors’ circles and their families that it sold out (over 700 copies) soon after its launch.
(A copy of Life and Times—Memories of the 20th Century is available at the Alberni Valley regional library.)
“I felt like a celebrity when people lined up for me to sign the book,” Fagan recalls.
After Fir Park and Echo Villages, Fagan continued giving his time and effort to other organizations. He became involved in the Alberni Valley Bulldogs hockey club as soon as it was established in Port Alberni, assisting with ticket sales, a position he still holds.
Also, he began volunteering at the Alberni Golf Course’s Men’s Club in the summer months; the Community Policing (Citizens on Patrol and Office Coordinator). Fagan and Mike Carter, formerly of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce, founded the “A.V. Ambassador” program to promote Port Alberni to the tourists visiting the west coast.
Fagan has been married to his wife Linda for 50 years (their golden anniversary celebration took place on June 6).
They have three children: two boys and a girl and are proud grandparents of three grandchildren.
Fagan’s volunteer resume keeps increasing.
Among others already mentioned, he provides assistance to the annual local Fall Fair (for the past 10 years) , and the annual A.V. Charity Golf Classic.
In addition, he writes about golf news in the local newspapers on a weekly basis; and for the last eight years, Fagan has helped the Canadian Cancer Society as an engagement coordinator at their local office on Third Avenue. His job is to recruit new volunteers for the society.
During his several decades serving individuals and organizations in Port Alberni, Fagan has been publicly recognized by those he has served. He has been awarded many certificates of appreciation, trophies and special awards. He values them all, especially his “Citizen of the Year Award”, by the residents of Fir Park and Echo Villages; the BCHL Volunteer of the Year Award; the AV Volunteer of the Year Award.
“I feel great satisfaction in helping others, especially those who are not able to get around,” he says.