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Obituary: John Race, 88, was community booster

Monte Sonnenberg

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

John Race, of Simcoe, was an enthusiastic supporter of all things Norfolk. He expressed excitement in March that Norfolk businesses are making common cause on important issues through the South Coast Business Coalition. Race died Wednesday at age 88. (MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER)

John Race, of Simcoe, was an enthusiastic supporter of all things Norfolk. He expressed excitement in March that Norfolk businesses are making common cause on important issues through the South Coast Business Coalition. Race died Wednesday at age 88. (MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER)

SIMCOE - 

John Race of Simcoe assumed the role of head cheerleader when the new Norfolk County was created 14 years ago.

At every opportunity, Race exhorted the towns and hamlets of Norfolk to pull together to make the new county a success.

Race was not shy about putting his money where his mouth was. Soon after the new county came into being, he staged a well-attended event at the German Home in Delhi titled Stand Up For Norfolk! Those who were there remember it as a night-long pep rally in honour of the county.

“That’s where John’s heart was – in Norfolk,” says Mayor Dennis Travale, who attended the event prior to joining Norfolk council.

Race died Wednesday at home from complications related to prostate cancer. He was 88.

Race was born New Year’s Day, 1926, in Brantford. His father, Dr. Wilfrid Laurier Race, was a dentist.

Race left Brantford Collegiate Institute in Grade 12 to join the Canadian military. He was in England preparing for combat in 1945 when the Second World War ended in Europe.

After the war, Race returned to Brantford and a job at the Universal Cooler & Fan Company. There, he met the late Hazel Hellyer of Waterford. They married in 1950.

In 1964 – after a brief stint with a construction company in Toronto – the Hellyer family invited Race to join their successful ginseng-growing operation in Townsend Centre. Race was involved with buying and selling ginseng until about three years ago.

Philip Race, of Brantford, said his father loved being a farmer and enjoyed Norfolk’s scenic rural vistas.

“He loved the countryside,” Race said. “He would not have been nearly as happy had the family stayed in the city.”

Race was devoted to his wife, who died a few years ago from Alzheimer’s disease. Race generously donated to Alzheimer’s research and support programs in the local area. The Alzheimer Society of Haldimand & Norfolk named its building on Norfolk Street North in Simcoe “Hazel Place” in honour of Race’s wife.

“The private John Race was not much different than the public John Race,” his son said. “He loved my mom more after she died than when he met her. The Alzheimer’s was very difficult for him.”

Philanthropy became a way of life for Race after he settled in Norfolk. He supported so many causes that it would be nearly impossible to list them all.

Race was associated with the Simcoe Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of Norfolk Sunrise. He took a keen interest in Rotary International’s campaign to eliminate polio in developing countries, traveling overseas several times to help with the effort.

While recovering from pneumonia in Norfolk General Hospital a month ago, Race was named honorary co-chair of an upcoming fundraising drive at NGH. The hospital has plans to upgrade its maternity ward and operating facilities. The hospital bestowed the honour on Race after he made a generous donation.

Politically, Race was a dedicated, long-serving Liberal. His absence was felt at a gathering Monday of the Haldimand-Norfolk Provincial Liberal Association in Delhi. Toronto MPP Eric Hoskins, a Simcoe native and Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment in the Wynne government, paid tribute to Race during his speech.

“He’s an extraordinary individual,” Hoskins said. “His health the last two weeks, as you know, has taken a turn for the worse. But even though he can’t be here tonight, I want to acknowledge him.”

Herb Ibbotson, of Delhi, has also been a long-time party stalwart. Ibbotson recalls many conversations with Race concerning their mutual interest in military affairs and horses.

“He had an interesting life experience,” Ibbotson said. “He was a very pleasant man to speak to and a firm believer in social causes. I’m very sad to hear he has passed away.”

The Thompson-Mott Funeral Home in Waterford is looking after arrangements. A funeral service will be said at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Simcoe Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Monte Sonnenberg

519-426-3528 ext. 150

monte.sonnenberg@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/montereformer

 


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