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Macleod residents get Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal

Gordon MacIvor

Frank McTighe

Conrad Vanhierden

Gordon MacIvor strides briskly between headstones at Fort Macleod’s Union Cemetery, recounting history all the while.
His energy and community involvement are among the reasons he was selected as a recipient of a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, one of three awarded to residents of Fort Macleod.
Gazette editor Frank McTighe and dairy farmer Conrad Van Hierden, also well known for their community involvement, will join MacIvor on Thursday, Sept. 6 at a ceremony to accept the medals from Macleod MP Ted Menzies on behalf of the federal government.
As the name implies, the diamond jubilee medals celebrate the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II and are being awarded this year to Canadians in recognition of community service and past achievements.
Official letters to recipients provide few specifics, noting only that the medals “serve to recognize and honour outstanding community achievements and contributions by Canadians.”
“The award focuses on citizens who have extensive volunteerism and have served their communities in exceptional ways,” the letter stated.
Volunteerism and community service are evident in each recipient’s life and work.
MacIvor, branch manager with ATB Financial in Fort Macleod, is an active member of the Fort Macleod Historical Association, past-president of the Rotary Club, a Mason, a volunteer at the Empress Theatre and the former economic development director for the town, among other things.
“I was stunned. I said to my wife, you’re not going to believe this,” said MacIvor upon recounting his reaction to news of the medal.
“Do I really deserve it? Because I’m just doing my thing in the community. Yes, I’m very active, but to be nominated and recognized, well, thank you.”
MacIvor moved to town from Calgary in 2004 for the economic development job.
“My passion is history. That’s what actually brought me down here. Every time you turn over a rock, you find something new.”
In his former job, MacIvor was instrumental in attracting two major motion pictures to film in Fort Macleod. Brokeback Mountain and Passchendaele were both partially filmed here, and other movies have used the location since.
MacIvor was also the point man on the police college project and was reeling from the news last week of the project’s cancellation by the provincial government.
Balancing his many interests with his job and family life can be tricky, MacIvor admits.
“You do this at night. You’ve got your day job during the day and it’s either in the evening or on weekends or something, you putter here, putter there and try to get this done and that done.”
McTighe said he was also surprised to learn he was a medal recipient.
“I really don’t know why I was selected for it . . . but it’s a great honour. It’s really flattering to think that whoever nominated me felt like I’d actually done something worthwhile.”
As editor of the Gazette, which he and his wife, Emily, purchased in 2001, McTighe said he is an unofficial member of every group in town, as the one who covers and reports on events.
“We help promote events, we cover the events, we write opinion pieces supporting the worthwhile projects in the community,” he said.
In addition to direct community involvement, McTighe served for 15 years on the boards of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association and the Canadian Community Newspapers Association, and has held various executive positions.
He is also a member of the Alberta Press Council, an organization that promotes freedom of the press, responsible journalism and handles citizen complaints about Alberta newspapers.
The Gazette has won more than 70 provincial and national newspaper awards under McTighe’s tenure as editor, including the 2004 Fort Macleod Chamber of Commerce award for outstanding business.
McTighe has served on the Fort Macleod Health Foundation, the police college liaison committee, Empress Theatre board, Project Read literacy board, Willow Creek Community Adult Learning Society, historical association and Chinook Country Tourism Association.
As well, he has served on advisory committees for journalism programs at Mount Royal College, SAIT and Lethbridge College.
The day to day tracking and reporting of news is always the key job, said McTighe.
“It’s our job. We’re writing the first draft of history, right? That’s what we’re doing here. It’s nothing special. It’s just doing the things that we’re supposed to do as a community newspaper.”
The vibrancy of the community makes that job easier, he added.
“This is a great town. I thought it was going to be a pretty good place to be but it has been way better than I even anticipated. There’s a real interesting social fabric that’s part of this community that you don’t see at first blush.”
Conrad Van Hierden knows a lot about Fort Macleod’s social fabric too. The operator of Hilltop Dairy is also president of the Fort Macleod Crime Prevention Advisory Board and president of the Rural Crime Watch Association for the region.
But he is probably even better known for his fund-raising efforts to find a cure for ataxia-telangiectasia or A-T, a rare and deadly genetic disease that targets young people and robbed he and his wife of their son, Randy, in 2004.
He is president of the Canadian Chapter of the A-T Children’s Project.
Over the years of their involvement, the Van Hierdens have helped raise more than $1.4-million for A-T research through organized walkathons, golf tournaments, fishing derbies, dinners, silent auctions, bake sales and other events.
Van Hierden was in California earlier this week, volunteering in a fund-raising marathon in support of A-T. Those types of efforts are a way of life for the dairy farmer.
“It’s something that’s automatic,” he said. “Family comes first and then the work and then the volunteering.”
“But if you get the first two done quickly, then you’ve got more time to do other things. I do operate at a very fast pace.”
The rewards of his fund-raising efforts, augmented by the immediate and extended family, keep him going.
“We’ve seen progress in the research and we’ve also met a lot of great people and seen the faces of the A-T children, when they see and hear that there’s actually people working as hard as some of the volunteers work in raising money for research.”
Van Hierden said he vowed to continue his volunteer work after Randy died because of his son’s attitude.
“He inspired me in so many ways with the energy he had in dealing with the illness.”
The inspiration appears to have rubbed off on the Van Hierdens’ other children, Katie, Jennifer and David. They also volunteer for A-T events and other causes.
Van Hierden said he was surprised and pleased to learn about his selection for the diamond jubilee medal, and flattered to be in the same group as MacIvor and McTighe.
“It’s a good group of people to be winning it with, for sure.”