TRULY A TEAM: Brooke-Alvinston mayor and wife honoured for public service
Brooke Alvinston Mayor Don McGugan loves being in the middle of the action.
The veteran of farm and municipal politics can be seen at local and county council meetings, public forums, farm dinners and just about any other event where people come to share ideas and solve problems. It’s something he’s loved to do for decades.
But it is never just the mayor. Constantly nearby is his wife, Anne.
It’s not just that the pair still love each other after over 45 years of marriage, as McGugan puts it “I can’t do it without her.”
And he means that quite literally.
Forty years ago, while he was working at Dow Chemical, McGugan was having trouble seeing. After some investigation, doctors said he’d contracted a virus which attacked his eyes. It caused scarring and reduced McGugan’s vision to the point he was uncomfortable driving and had trouble reading the walls of books in his home near Alvinston.
So Anne stepped up to the plate. She was already doing the work on the farm while McGugan was at at the plant in Sarnia. Now, she was hoping in the car first thing in the morning and driving him 45 kilometers to the front gate of Dow each day and later returning to pick him up. For a while, McGugan car pooled with other neighbours but often Anne – sometimes with kids strapped in the back seat – made the trip. She even delivered McGugan to the plant during bitter labour strikes, driving through picket lines.
As McGugan became involved in farm politics and later municipal politics, Anne would drive him to those too, often staying to listen or doing some work she brought from home. “There’s always a bag of stuff,” she jokes.
But it is not just driving McGugan around. Anne reads his agendas for him and does research on the computer for him.
McGugan knows the value of his wife’s work. “Not every lady would do this…I would not likely be as patient of an individual as she is.”
It’s a point that was brought home to Anne years ago. “I had a neighbour lady say if it was her, she would have been gone a long time ago.”
But for Anne, it seemed to naturally evolve from the work on the farm and she has grown to love it. “I’ve met people I would have never met before, I’ve walked through doors I never would have walked through before maybe even been places I never would have been before; and new experiences. It’s been a journey.”
So when the McGugans were invited to a recent awards ceremony at Brooke Alvinston Public School recently, it was natural that they would arrive together. It was what the school and staff at the municipal office had planned.
The McGugans were both to receive the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for the community service work they do together. The couple, who spend a lot of time at the school, didn’t have a clue what was coming when they walked into the assembly.
“I think the township instigated a cover up,” jokes Don, noting his children, including a daughter in North Carolina, were involved in keeping the surprise. “I told her it was a scheme well hidden.”
The presentation of the award to Don and Anne were made at the assembly. They received over 100 handmade cards congratulating them on the honour. Both were humbled and surprised.
Anne was particularly shocked, thinking it natural for her husband to receive one. “I certainly was surprised to get one.”
And the pair admit it is rather fitting that the couple that does so much together would be honoured in the same way.
And after the ceremony they were on the road again, both wanting to see what else was happening in the community around them. “We have somewhere to go almost every day,” says Don. “And if we can’t find a place to go, I’ll make it up.”
– Heather Wright