Community members gathered on April 13 to honour a respected volunteer, businessman, and all-round upstanding citizen John Morton, with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Created in 2012 to mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal is a tangible way for Canada to honour Her Majesty for her service to this country. At the same time, this commemorative medal serves to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.
Nominated by the Bella Coola Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, John was the recipient of the award for his decades of tireless contributions to the Bella Coola Valley community in many different ways.
“When we were notified by the Legion that we could nominate someone from our community, there was no hesitation,” said Legion President, Ron Richards. “John’s name immediately come to mind and though many others have done a lot for this community, it was felt no one could match what John has done over the years.”
John came to live in Bella Coola in 1968, marrying local girl Rene Kopas. In his own words, he says, “I grew up in a time when most things, in rural communities at least, only happened if volunteers made them happen, and my parents were almost always in the forefront of those efforts. So when I came to Bella Coola 45 years ago it seemed natural to join my family experience with that of the Kopas family, where Rene and her parents were great contributors to community endeavours.”
John and Rene went on to have one son, Ashley, whose video tribute to his father was played at the dinner. He spoke in particular about how his father imparted on him the concept of citizenship.
“Since John arrived in Bella Coola he has amassed quite a list of personal achievements,” continued Richards. “Many of us know he is extremely active as a volunteer, but few will realize just how much he has done over the years. The number of organizations and people he has helped is truly amazing.”
John has also been involved in Valley sports, particularly baseball. Having played fast-pitch since 1969, he organized teams, kept stats and schedules, arranged tournaments, umpired, and organized and participated in umpire clinics. He brought much of the same enthusiasm to volleyball, and has run the Terry Fox Run for 25 years.
His sharp business skills have been an invaluable asset to many community organizations. John has looked after the finances of the United Church, the Bella Coola Valley Museum and B.C. Central Coast Archives, the Arts Foundation, the Hagensborg TV Society, and the Alexander Mackenzie Voyageur Route-Centennial National organization. He has also assisted many individuals with their financial duties in other organizations.
John has also been involved with the Bella Coola Valley Little Theatre Guild, Lobelco Hall, and the Bella Coola Fall Fair for over 30 years. He has been a Credit Union Director for 33 years, and he also maintains his position as Service Officer with the Legion, of which he has been a member for over 40 years. John also served 10 years on the Retail Board of B.C. and sat as a Director on the Central Coast Regional District.
John’s friend and fellow Credit Union Director, Donna Mikkelson, made a special point of mentioning his contribution to the Valley’s cooperative financial services. “I believe that without his leadership in the late 1990s and his forethought and business sense, it’s possible that our community wouldn’t be fully serviced with a financially sound institution today,” said Mikkelson. “Think about that for a minute. It’s not a small thing.”
In addition, John has served as Master of Ceremonies on countless community occasions, and is often referred to as the ‘go-to’ individual for sound advice on a wide range of issues, always responding with reliability and professionalism. “There is no cheapness, dishonesty, or easy way out for John Morton,” said Richards. “When John gives advice or help, it is always what he believes is right in both a legal and moral sense and what will best serve all those affected.”
“John has done so very much in so many ways on behalf of this community, but for me, it was the way he took on all these challenges,” said longtime friend Kevin O’Neill. “He always brought an irrepressible energy and positive attitude to the table that was highly contagious, and served to encourage many more to volunteer to help…this has truly been John’s gift to his community.”
For those involved with the ceremonial dinner and presentation of the medal to John, it was especially satisfying to celebrate their friend, partner, and community leader together. “You have our sincere appreciation for all that you have done, all that you are doing, and all that you will continue to do for us and for our community,” said Mikkelson. “Long may you shine!”