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Rotarian honoured for 50 years of service

Russ Gerard was also a city councillor, a school trustee — and an aircraft electrician in the U.S. Air Force

A Kamloops Rotarian with a long history of community contributions has been honoured for his 50 years of service.

On Monday, the Rotary Club of Kamloops met to honour Russ Gerard, a former school board representative, city councillor, veterinarian and United States Air Force veteran, for his 50 years with the community service club.

Gerard joined Rotary in 1971, following in the footsteps of his father. He had just recently moved to Kamloops and had graduated veterinary school one year earlier.

“I never would have dreamed about being here for 50 years, but I’ve enjoyed every bit of it,” he told Kamloops This Week.

Gerard was honoured by a number of past Rotary presidents and members, calling the surprise occasion “unbelievable” while thanking well-wishers alongside his wife, Syndy.

In Gerard’s years of public service in Kamloops, he was a school trustee, and board chair, and an alderman (city councillor) in the 1980s and 1990s.

He was involved in projects such as the construction of Riverside Coliseum (now Sandman Centre) and the 1993 Canada Games, which brought a number of still-standing facilities to the city, including the Canada Games Aquatic Centre and Hillside Stadium.

As a Rotarian, however, Gerard said his proudest work has been with the organization’s PolioPlus campaign — an international campaign to end polio that began in 1979 and has already saved countless lives.

Gerard said his community service work has been driven by how he was treated over the years.

“I think this community of Kamloops and surrounding area has treated me royally . . . and I really appreciate all the help I’ve had,” he said.

Gerard’s history with Kamloops lines up with his community service in Rotary, but prior to that, he was under another kind of service.

From 1961 to 1965, Gerard served with the United States Air Force and would become an aircraft electrician during a critical time in history.

The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 brought the United States and Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war. At the height of that tension, Gerard found himself inside American B-47 Stratojets, wiring atomic bombs for delivery, should the crisis take a turn for the worse.

“Luckily, that settled itself and never came forward,” he said.

It wasn’t until after that scare he became interested in animals, after working on a farm on and off for six years.

“I became very interested in the animal kingdom and thought I could do a service with getting into veterinary medicine, and that’s what I did,” he said.

While Gerard is now a retired veterinarian, he still does consulting work in Kamloops and the surrounding area.