BARRY’S BAY – On August 23 at St. Francis Memorial Hospital, well-known communal figure Bob Kulas was the recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for volunteer service.
The 74-year-old left Barry’s Bay when he was 16 years of age and returned again in 1989. After 39 years of military service, he continued doing contract work for the Air Reserves. Working in the Reserves for about three years, Kulas moved on from there and went into retirement, and got involved with local politics, and has been ever since.
From a young age, Kulas learned to be financially responsible.
“I left home to go to Ottawa with five dollars in my pocket and the train ride cost four dollars and 10 cents. At that point, I said ‘I’ll never come back here until I’m really self-supported’ and I didn’t,” Kulas noted.
Always wanting to stay involved with the community, Kulas learned to give back to his community from a young age, due to the insulated nature of small towns.
“It’s something that’s embedded in you from a young age. Living in a small community, you tried to help every way you could,” Kulas noted.
Kulas also spoke of his connection to the community through Wilmer Matthews, who has served on both the St. Francis Memorial Hospital Foundation board and the Champlain Region Local Health Integration Network board.
Matthews and Kulas have had many areas of common ground over the years, as they have both been prominent figures in the realm of local health care.
Kulas referred to some impromptu meetings he would have with Matthews, where they would discuss community ideas, on a recurring basis, at a local gas station.
“We used to have these Sunday morning gas pump meetings. I’d go over to pick up my paper and he’d be buying his gas and we’d talk for an hour or two. We sort of had these visions of bringing everything together. We talked about the amalgamation process. Rainbow Valley, the Valley Manor and the hospital are working together. It’s slowly working its way to that,” he said.
Carole Kulas, Bob’s wife, has also inspired him onward through the years as he felt very privileged to receive the award.
“It’s a great honour. It all means something,” Kulas noted.
Being involved with local council since 1997, Kulas has embedded himself into many layers of the community.
Serving on the board for the Valley Manor, the St. Francis Memorial Hospital Foundation and many other committees, Kulas has a colourful volunteer resume.
Local MPP John Yakabuski was on hand to congratulate Kulas for his many communal efforts.
Yakabuski began by delivering a brief history of the Diamond Jubilee Medal.
“This is the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, and one of the things that was instituted here was a Diamond Jubilee Medal, of which there would be a number of recipients throughout the country,” Yakabuski noted.
Having been given 14 medals to distribute, Yakabuski asked for nominations from the community at large for worthy recipients who have excelled in volunteerism.
The name of Bob Kulas surfaced immediately.
Wilmer Matthews, who sits on the board of the Health Integration Network of Champlain, also offered some touching words about Kulas.
“I won’t make you cry, Bob,” Matthews started.
“I’ve been thinking back about Bob’s contribution to seven years of volunteer service, mainly through health work, but always leaving a substantial footprint as to wherever he’s been and always at a governance level,” Matthews said.
Matthews also touched on how Kulas has been instrumental in getting the Valley Manor on very sound financial footing, as part of his role on the board at the manor and the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC).
“We are always asking, ‘How can the CCAC meet the needs of these seniors?’ Well, who better to have there than someone who knows the community, other than Bob Kulas? He applied and he was accepted. So now, we have Bob on the Champlain board. He is a strong voice for rural areas like ours. We are very fortunate and it was a pleasure to nominate you, Bob,” Matthews stated.
Story continunes in the August 29 issue of The Valley Gazette.