Never a dull moment for citizen of the year


Shirley Burnham has been busy.

Burnham will be presented with the Bruce Power Citizen of the Year Award Saturday night at a gala dinner at the Best Western Governor’s Inn.

“It’s quite a surprise,” said Burnham Thursday afternoon. “The whole thing is a bit overwhelming. I had to hop on the computer and see exactly what the award was for.”

Citizen of the Year is awarded by the Chamber of Commerce to a person who has demonstrated strong citizenship with outstanding contributions to the community in the past year.

In Burnham’s case, it could be for her contributions over several decades.


Shirley Burnham, Kincardine's citizen of the year, works at a computer Thursday. (Josh Howald photo)

She worked at the hospital for 30 years before retiring in 1998. She was treasurer of the Hospital Foundation Board for 10 years, when it was a volunteer position. She helped start the annual Radio-Thon hospital fundraiser, which is in its seventh year.

She has also been doing tax returns for Kincardine’s senior citizens and low-income families through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program run by Revenue Canada. The program is sponsored by the Kincardine Area Seniors Advisory/Action Committee (KASAAC). Burnham acts as secretary for KASAAC, which provides several different services for area seniors.

“Last year I did 100 (tax returns),” said Burnham. “I’ve met all kinds of interesting people through the program, and we seem to do more every year. It’s a badly needed service.”

Another project dear to her heart is Widows Beyond Bereavement, which she formed after the death of her own husband, Mike. The group meets each Saturday morning, walking in the summer and having coffee and breakfast at the Bruce during the winter months.

“It isn’t a pity party,” said Burnham, noting that the group doesn’t offer counseling or guidance. “It’s just about getting out and having a good time.”

“I’m not sure, but I think it may have been one of the gals (from Widows Beyond Bereavement) that nominated me,” she laughed. “I know I’m in good company. I worked with (2008 winner) Norm (Dunsmoor) for 25 years at the hospital.”

She was a member of the Kincardine Recreation Committee when the Davidson Centre was built, and her own children were involved in minor sports. She is the past-president of the Kincardine Branch of the Cancer Society, and a board member of the Paddy Walker Heritage Society. She is also a current member of the Hospital Foundation.

So why does Burnham spend so much time helping others?

“To be honest, I do it for a selfish reason,” she said. “After I retired (from the hospital), I just missed the public so much. I just wanted to get out and keep myself busy. All these things help me just as much as they do other people.”

She was born in Ripley, but is quite proud of her Kincardine roots, and said that between her and her late husband, she is related to “half the town.”

 Burnham will be joined at Saturday night’s banquet by her four children, and a grandson excited to share in her moment. After helping with the 2008 Old Boys and Girls Reunion, she will be pleased to watch the organizing committee collect its OPG Environmental Award.

“So much work went into that, and everything went so well,” she said. “I was hoping Laura (Haight) and the committee would be recognized.”

Other awards will go to Janice McKean, Canadian Tire Farm Business of the year; Chris Showalter of Tramonto Pasta, Kinfarm Tire Young Entrepreneur; Corabelle’s, Bruce Telecom Service Excellence; Margreit Van Erp, Steelback Brewery business person of the year; The King’s Pearl, Municipality of Kincardine New Business of the Year; Steelback Brewery Inc., Sobeys Business of the year; Mel McGuigan, Meridian Lifetime Achievement; Royal Canadian Legion Branch #183, Nuclear Waste Management Award of Merit. The efforts of Kincardine youth Jorie Elliott will also be recognized by the Chamber.