Bill Stewart: Freedom Fighter

Yesterday, we said goodbye to our friend, Bill Stewart.  Stephen Kushner delivered his eulogy, which i’ve posted below for the people who were not able to make it to his memorial service.

But before you read the eulogy, I encourage you to read his own message written 40 years ago as High School Student’s Union President – Bill’s values and beliefs have clearly never changed – he trully was a Freedom Fighter who believed in personal responsibility and we will carry his legacy on!

Bill Stewart

Goodbye friend – you will be missed!

Stephen’s words begin here:

Where do I begin, Bill? Where should I start? And how can I do this without your wise counsel, your editing, your way with words? Listen, you do the first draft, I’ll do the second, we will let it age for a few days and we will go from there. These were my thoughts when Bill’s family honored me with the request to capture Bill’s life, his joys, his sorrows, his accomplishments, his loves. Well, Bill, let’s start at the beginning.

Bill was born to Ruth Hanna and Robert Stewart on December 31, 1956, some almost 57 years ago. They were a family of five with brother Doug and sister Fran. Fran and Bill were both strong minded individuals enjoying the frequent tussle of political debates and discussions. Doug was the out doorsie type and Bill, Doug, and their father enjoyed many a fall outing in duck season. Bill’s mother, Ruth, instilled in Bill a love for history and perhaps had a hand in Bill pursuing a history major in order to ensure his mother’s discussions were not of a revisionist nature. Summers were easy times at the cottage in Lac La Non, fishing, and enjoying carefree summer days.

Around the family table, discussions of politics were frequent and enthusiastic, but Sundays were more refined with afternoons of bridge. Family was number one for Bill’s parents and these values were deeply instilled in Bill and values that he passed on to his own three children. And what beautiful children they are: Leah, Sheena, and Kristen. For Bill, nothing was more important than his girls. Raising his children to be caring, generous, compassionate, and self-reliant was so important to Bill and boy did Bill and his first wife, Joanne Blackstock, ever hit a home run in raising these three gorgeous daughters.

Leah, the most like her father, remembers the small things. Like walks to the park and hot chocolate after tobogganing or going to the candy store with a dollar and seeing how much candy she could buy. Bill instilled values in Leah that she holds precious to this day and Bill was so proud of her choice in her husband, Jeff Yanew, and first grandson, Nathan.

And Sheena loved her travels with her dad. A highlight was their trip together to Vegas to see Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young and that special moment when they bumped into Graham Nash and Bill was able to get a picture with one of his music idols. The trip to Thailand and Cambodia was truly special and Bill regaled the office with stories about how much fun he had getting drunk with his daughter, going to the Tiger farm, and that 150 km multi-bus 9 hour trip in Cambodia. Sheena, your dad was so happy when you fulfilled your childhood dream to get an education degree and he would often talk of your wonderful marriage to Grant and the business conquests and how excited he was about the youngest addition, Oliver, to the Stewart-Sanderson clan.

Kristen, you know you were the most challenging for your dad. You knew how to get your dad going, push his buttons, and for some period he wasn’t really sure how you would turn out. But I can tell you, because I know, how so very happy your dad was about your marriage to Josh Durwood and how sensational a mother you have turned into for both Anthony and Rayleigh.

And here is a little tidbit about Bill. He would find time to call his girls every day and have a chat because his daughters were always on his mind and in his heart. But enough said about the girls, husbands, and grandchildren.

It is time to talk about another of Bill’s abiding passions, Saturday morning grocery shopping. Grocery shopping for Bill and his girls was a Saturday routine executed with the efficiency of a well run political campaign. First you did the data analysis of the constituency (read the flyers for the best bargains). Then you plotted out the route where you could get the most votes (figured out which stores you were going to visit). He gathered the volunteers (rounded up the girls). Once the door knocking (shopping) was completed, back to the campaign office (home) to close up shop until the next campaign (unload the groceries). And then start all over again when the next election is called (go shopping when the food runs out). Yes, for Bill, shopping and politics were strategic activities: not for the faint of heart and completed knowing full well that the state of the nation (ensuring two well stocked freezers) was at stake.

Weekends at the Stewarts were special times and Sunday evenings were everyone’s favorite. Bill would do the cooking and on Monday mornings I would hear about his gastronomical successes. Sunday dinners were compulsory family time together where laughter and easy conversations were the norm. And political discussions were strictly forbidden. For any of the other six nights, political discussions were fair game, but not Sunday family dinners.

I mentioned, Joanne, Bill’s first wife and I must tell you more about Joanne and Bill, family, and values. Joanne and Bill were married for some 11  years. And while the marriage did not last, the friendship did. Joanne and Bill held family dinners together on Sundays long after their marriage ended and Bill said to me that they remained best of friends. Bill was the rock for the family and he continued to be a rock for Joanne. Joanne cared deeply for Bill and when Bill had a brief illness Joanne could be called on at any hour of the day and night to help her friend Bill. And Bill was so compassionate to Joanne when she was diagnosed with lung cancer and Bill was there. Joanne’s last months were spent initially with Leah and then with Bill at his home where he comforted, cared for and supported her to her last day. You see, Joanne was Bill’s friend and for Bill, friends take care for each other.

Bill, it’s time to get serious and talk about how you got to play in your sandbox every day for the past 23 years. So, my turn to talk about our beginning. I met Bill through student politics in grade 10. Bill was the President of his high school and I was the grade 10 representative. Bill was already a political pro, having been a VP in junior high in grade 7 and president of his student council by grade 9.

Yes, his political skills and successes started early and he loved people, ideas, social causes, righting wrongs and injustices. Bill loved politics. That was his passion.

Our friendship got deeper in University. Bill rushed with Phi Delta Theta fraternity and I followed two years later.

Bill was a Political Science and History major, pursuing an Arts degree and we decided to join forces and run on a slate as 2 Arts representatives on Students’ Council. We were told we were the under dogs with no chance of winning. But what do pundits really know? One year after winning that election, we combined forces once more to run for the Executive of the U of Alberta Students’ Council; Bill as president, I ran as a VP, and a person Bill suggested run with us as another VP joined our team – my future wife, Kaysi. After Students’ Council, Bill went west to pursue a Masters in Public Administration at the U of Victoria.

We kep t in touch. Bill moved north with the Territorial government in Yellowknife and later Rankin Inlet, then left to the big city of Toronto working for the Ministry of Housing for the Ontario government. Bill loved his work and worked long, hard hours.

We continued to keep in touch over the years. And in 1989 Bill visited Edmonton and I told Bill about a new position that opened up, Executive Director for the Merit Contractors’ Association in Saskatchewan. I remember Bill saying, “What do I know about labor relations?” I said, “No problem, you will learn” and wow, did he ever.  In 1998, Bill joined Merit Contractors’ Association of Alberta as its General Manage and later became Vice President Government Relations. As VP, Bill got to play in his sandbox every day, from early morning and often until late in the evening and on weekends.

You see, politics was Bill’s passion. His driving force in life was to make a difference, to make the world a better place. The Merit philosophy of self-reliance, of reward for hard work, of taking care of your people with fair wages, benefits, pensions, and opportunities resonated deeply with Bill’s core values.  Bill found a place where values, beliefs, passion, and work melded together.

Bill immersed himself in politics and in work, contributing to public policy development in construction, authoring over 30 articles for Merit’s Open Mind magazine as Bill was an exceptional writer. At the same time, he sat on Conservative Association boards provincially and federally, served as President of the Calder PC Association, and was active in too many political campaigns to mention. Yes, Bill has knocked on more doors supporting candidates than many sitting MLAs.

And Bill contributed to many many successful elections, sat on numerous committees, was always up for a discussion be it internal party reform or the big issues relating to debt, health care, or education. He touched the lives of hundreds of politicians, aides, bureaucrats, and campaign volunteers. He could just as easily engage the premier or future prime minister in a political discussion as he could Merit’s custodian, Nicolas, or any of the administrative staff at Merit. Bill was a people person with no pretensions and he had time for anyone. He was genuine, sincere, and loved a good discussion or debate. He also gave his time generously to The Hope Mission, The Mustard Seed and Women Building Futures.

Michael Cooper, who is running for the federal Conservative nomination in St. Albert was Bill’s most recent rising star and he was already working hard to help this bright young Conservative lawyer begin a political career.

Bill was no stranger to achieving success. And what was success for Bill? You see, Bill was a Free Enterprise Freedom Fighter. In his Twitter account, he also claims to be an aspiring food and wine connoisseur of the gluten free persuasion. Our Bill was no aspiring freedom fighter, he was the real McCoy.

Bill believed in worker choice legislation, union transparency, workers’ controlling how their dues could be spent, and secret ballot votes, and respect for democracy in the workplace.

He was thrilled to see the Federal Conservatives embrace these policies, the provincial PCs adopt some of these in their last election platform, and Wild Rose Party endorse some of these policies just a few weeks ago at their convention.

As a freedom fighter, Bill was a man of ideas, a persion of deep belief and conviction. And his way of changing the world was through political activism. Ideas are powerful and Bill was a freedom fighter extraordinaire.

Bill was respectful of those who gave their lives in battle and November 11th Remembrance Days were always very important for Bill. He would wear a poppy and attend one or more ceremonies honoring our fallen soldiers. Bill’s life was devoted to fighting injustice, and for me, November 11th, the day Bill passed on, will always be a more meaningful memorial day. I will think fondly of a very special freedom fighter. Enough of political battles and wars and fallen heroes.

It is time to get on with the really good stuff: Bill the romantic.  My good friend had fallen deeply in love with his new wife, Vera Leanovitch. So, now I get to tell you about a love story. While on a European October Fest vacation, 5 years ago, Bill was visiting a museum in Prague and was distracted by a beautiful woman who spoke English with an exotic accent. His itinerary was quickly changed to include a visit to Belorussia. I remember him returning from that trip and speaking about Belorussia and I was quite confused as to why a person doing an October Fest trip would end up in Bellerose.

This began a beautiful love story with some eight rendezvous to Bellerusse and other trips to Budapest, Vienna, Krakow, Barcelona, Banff, Jasper, Vancouver, Victoria, and Calgary.

When separated, Bill and Vera would talk daily on skype. On a romantic trip to the beautiful city of Budapest, on one knee Bill proposed, holding out a wedding ring. And once Vera figured out what he had just mumbled, she said “of course!”

And so began a wonderful transformation. Bill and Vera were married for a little over two years and were together in Canada for fourteen months. And those fourteen months were the longest honeymoon I have ever observed.

Bill and Vera were deeply in love and the logical, political activist was also a passionate, considerate, gentle, kind loving husband.

Vera talks of how sweet Bill made sure that there were fresh flowers on the table every day for her, how they found joy in each other’s company. Simply, these two were deeply in love.

And, oh, how we saw changes in Bill at the office. Bill had an extra bounce in his step. He went from being an OK dresser to a sharp dresser. Even Premier Redford once complimented Bill on one of the new sweaters that Vera had picked out.

Bill would often go home for lunch to spend that extra hour with Vera. He could even be seen leaving the office as early as 5 pm.

The Merit family saw a person who had always been upbeat, now  glow, excited about life and all its possibilities, talking about his new love, Vera, and planning for their future together.

Planning meant dancing lessons for old twinkle toes every Tuesday night, and Russian language classes so that Bill could better engage with Vera’s family.

And speaking of Vera’s family, I must tell you the story of when Bill stole Vera from her family, he wrote the kindest, warmest letter to the family promising that he would take care of their Vera and that they should not worry as she was precious and would find happiness in her new home. That was the kind of person Bill was.

Hey, Bill, I have probably talked long enough and said some things I shouldn’t have. I know from now on any help from you will be of the inspirational type. So, we ALL will have to manage with one less freedom fighter on the ground, but with one more angel on our shoulders. Good bye my dear friend.

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5 Questions with NGC Online Presence Sub-Committee Chair, Christina Rontynen

My first Calgary Stampede blog post of the year. Enjoy everyone!

5 Questions with NGC Online Presence Sub-Committee Chair,
Christina Rontynen

You can call it Stampede love – or just plain old Calgary love. I couldn’t resist interviewing Christina Rontynen for this blog. We recently got engaged. We didn’t meet through the Stampede but we are on the same Stampede Committee and we have many fun Stampede memories.

When we met we clicked because our passions were the same – including getting people engaged with their communities. That’s why the Next Generation Committee (NGC) was such a great fit for us. The NGC is all about engaging Calgarians with the Stampede!

The NGC is made up of two sub-committees: Project Execution and Online Presence. Christina is the chair of the Online Presence sub-committee.

Here is my interview:                                      

1. What is the Next Generation Committee all about?

The NGC is all about engaging new audiences with the Calgary Stampede. It isn’t just about engaging young Calgarians but all Calgarians. In the past we have targeted 18-30 year olds, brand new Canadians, young families from Calgary’s suburbs, and this year we are targeting Calgarians in 100 years through our very cool Time Capsule project. If you have Twitter you can follow along with Time Capsule project through our #CSTimeCapsule hashtag.

2. What one item would you put in the NGC Time Capsule if you could stand to part with it?

I have this amazing belt buckle from my Dad. He used to wear it when he was a little boy playing cowboys with his friends. It has a bunch of little guns on it and is completely vintage and awesome. It is the perfect Stamepde accessory and it, to me, speaks to the fact that the Stampede is generational. It’s a family affair.

People can propose their own Time Capsule ideas by emailing the NGC. If you have something you’d like included in the Time Capsule and it has a neat story behind it please email us at: calgarystampede.ngc@gmail.com

3. What is your ideal Stampede day?

Best Stampede day is always Parade Day! Wake up early, find the perfect spot and watch the energy and excitement of Stampede come alive. After that it’s about finding a pancake breakfast – and putting lots and lots of syrup on the pancakes (of course)! Then a trip down to Stampede Grounds – I love making sure I’m there for the Rodeo and of course a greasy, yummy dinner at a kiosk afterwards. Then it is playing some Midway Games, enjoying the Coke Stage, and waiting until the fireworks show.

4. Who are you most looking forward to Stampeding with this year?

Well you of course Peter!! Our first Stampede being engaged! Very fun.

But I’m also looking forward to hopefully bringing your niece and nephew! Seeing the Stampede through the eyes of kids is the best!

5. What is your favorite Stampede treat?

Gosh – this is a hard one. I love the classic mini donuts but this year I will not leave without trying all the new food for 2012; including deep fried wagon wheels, sausage on a stick and those deep fried veggies.

Thanks for playing along Christina!

Happy Almost Stampede Everyone!
PP

Originally Posted on the Calgary Stampede Blog on May 23, 2012 – found here.

Next Generation Committee Wants to Tell Your Story … in 100 Years

I just posted on the Calgary Stampede blog about an awesome project that Peter and I are taken part in this Stampede. The Stampede Time Capsule (#CSTimeCapsule) will be telling the Stampede’s story from the last 100 years to Calgarians 100 years from now. It’s pretty exciting stuff … and there are plenty of opportunities for all Calgarians to leave their mark on the time capsule.

Here’s my post ….

Last weekend I had that pleasure of attending the Stampede 4 Corner Event in southeast Calgary. I was there with my fellow Next Generation Committee team members not only promoting our latest project but as a Calgarian getting excited for Stampede.

The smell of pancake breakfast, the western garb, the smiling faces, the country music … I had tingles on the back of my neck as soon as the event started. It really marked the start of Stampede season for me.

The 4 Corners events are the perfect blend of Stampede and community. The community crowd was gathering not only for the free Stampede breakfast but also to support local community organizations and cheer on community entertainment.

It really is the perfect event to tell Calgary about the Next Generation Committee’s time capsule. You haven’t heard of the time capsule? Check out the news release for more information, but in a sentence the time capsule is the Next Generation Committee’s way to captured the first 100 years of the Stampede and share it with the Calgary 100 years from now. Pretty exciting actually!

How exciting? Well I watched a child no more than 6 drop in her favorite Stampede memento into our time capsule at the 4 Corners event. Her eyes were wide as she exclaimed, “off to the future!!” Now that’s exciting!

Click to read more.

– CR xo

Habits

This blog was written on Thursday, June 2, 2011

AHHHH!

That is the sound of my abdominal muscles today as I sit at my desk and feel the burn from last night’s work out at World Health Club. It was my first time back at this whole fitness thing in a long while … last year was a great year for physical activity and Christina Rontynen. I was swimming, squashing, working out, attending fitness classes. I had made it a habit and a part of my routine.

Then life happened – as it does for all of us.

I was in the final stages of my thesis, on a job hunt and in the midst of starting my own company. Needless to say the end of the day was meant for sleeping and shutting my brain off. My habit of physical activity had been broken.

Over the last 5 months I have finally learned the concept of the “skinny jean”. I’ve never owned a pair of jeans that I wore on my “skinny” days – my jeans were my jeans. Now I have several pairs. Ha. And no … my “skinny” is not an unhealthy “skinny”. Like most over achieving young women I’ve been down that path and understand that healthy lifestyle and healthy weight are important.

All this being said yesterday marked the first day of starting new healthy habits. It was day 1 of … RONTYNEN GET BACK INTO SHAPE SO YOU CAN ENJOY LIFE. Yes, that’s me yelling at myself, drill sergeant style.

Habit is also the answer to the riddle that @ppilarski posted over the weekend.

Habits aren’t necessarily physical activity. They are anything from bad food habits (hopefully you’ve been following @Carter_BBold’s cleanse via twitter. Loving it. Especially last night’s mention of cheese platters everywhere) to bad work habits.

What habit are you going to strive to change? Let’s start an evolution & let’s have some fun this summer. Yes there is a lot going on … from festival season to political leadership races but don’t get too bogged down. Take my advice and take time to create healthy habits in your life and break the unhealthy ones … and remember to form some fun habits with your honeys’ too. @ppilarski is certainly joining me on the physical activity kick.

CR xo

A riddle for our readers – “Who am I?”

We came across this riddle today and wanted to share it with our readers.

I am your constant companion.

I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.

I will push you on to success or drag you down to failure.

I am completely at your command.

Half the things I do you might just as well turn over to me and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.

I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me.

Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.

I am the servant of all great individuals and, alas, of all failures, as well.

Those who are great, I have made great.  Those who are failures, I have made failures.

I am not a machine; though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a human.  You may run me for profit or run me for ruin; it makes no difference to me.

Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will placed the world at your feet.  Be easy with me and I will destroy you.

Who am I?  Let us know what you think and stay tuned for the answer in a couple of days!

PP and CR

PCinYYC Representin’ the Calgary Stampede Online

PCinYYC are always looking for ways to get involved in the community. After all we are advocates for community engagement and passionate about Calgary.

We’ve recently been given the opportunity to sit on the Calgary Stampede‘s Next Generation Commitee (NGC). This committee works to attract and engage the next generation of audiences as patrons, supporters and volunteers of the Calgary Stampede. The NGC is mandated to assist the Calgary Stampede in leveraging emerging and non-traditional promotions, marketing, social media, and online tools to promote the Calgary Stampede brand and events.

We are so excited to be a part of this team … and lend some of our time and blog space to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

Here is @ppilarski‘s first blog for the Calgary Stampede blog – it’s focused on the Calgary Stampede Lotteries … did you know you can already be buying your tickets and avoiding line-ups at the grounds in July?

Hope you’ll follow along as we dive into another #yyc adventure.

CR and PP

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Do you feel lucky, punk?  Well …. Do ya? (May 13th, 2011 by Peter Pilarski)

Because the 2011 Calgary Stampede Lotteries advanced ticket campaign is on now!  And this year the Lotteries feature more than $1.4 million in prizes, including trucks, boats, a fifth-wheel trailer, luxury vacations, a dream home and more than $310,000 in cash! 

What is fantastic about the Calgary Stampede Lotteries is that by giving yourself a chance to win by purchasing tickets, someone else can feel lucky too. 

Read More … on the Calgary Stampede blog