Posted by Nick Aroutzidis on Jun 15, 2019
June 20, 2019: Hospice presentation Lunch at Hospice site.

Today at Rotary:  Today’s speaker, Diane Sewell, spoke with passion and exuberance about the subject of her book, R. Thomas Orr – A Lifetime Devoted to Stratford. To read a biography of R. Thomas Orr (Tom) is to read about the history of Stratford, the two are intrinsically entwined. 
 
 
The Orr family’s arrival in Stratford pre-dates Confederation as Tom’s father, also Tom, arrived in the area with his wife Fanny in 1855; the town had a population of around 1000 people, and it was surrounded by wilderness. However, they persevered, and they prospered and in 1870 their sixth child R. Thomas Orr was born.
 
Tom Orr’s motto was “do the best you can with what you’ve got where you are.”  He certainly adhered to that credo.  It was Tom’s personal initiative and persistence that convinced Andrew Carnegie to make a donation big enough to build Stratford’s first public library. Today it is Canada’s oldest surviving Carnegie building still operating as a library.
 
In 1900 there wasn’t a single paved road in all of Ontario. Not surprisingly it was Tom at the forefront of the local movement for better roads. Through hard work, and presumably a good dose of charm, he managed to enlist the support of 24 neighboring towns and cities to help him convince the government to build a paved highway linking Toronto and Sarnia. And here’s the catch: the route was to come right through Stratford. Today the people of Stratford, its industries and our thriving tourist trade all depend on the good roads R. Thomas fought for over 100 years ago.
 
Tom was also stubborn – in a good way.  The Battle of the Bandstands in 1929 perfectly illustrated his tenacity, resolve and foresight.  Tom insisted the new bandstand should be modern in design, built in the shape of a shell and placed down along the river across from a grassy slope which would create a natural amphitheatre. Others wanted something different and it created quite a controversy.  Tom’s plan won the day and not long after that, the CNE in Toronto and Victoria Park in London built their own new band shells patterned after Stratford’s.
 
 
One of Tom’s greatest triumphs and his enduring legacy to the people of Stratford was his work to create an exceptionally beautiful park system. R. Thomas Orr, more than any other single individual, is credited with having the vision and the tenacity to create and protect what MacLean’s magazine in 1953 called “a park system unique in North America.” 
 
 
Scribe: John Wright
 
 
Guests: Today we welcomed: Nancy Orr, Jeff Orr, Sue Orr, Nicole Orr, Jane Orr, Frances Evans, Mary Collier - Delton Area Rotary Club, Michigan, Dan Jeska - Delton Michigan, Laura Pogson - Festival City Rotary Club
 
Foundation Draw: Donated by an Anonymous donour (Gift certificate CTC $50 ), and won by Pat Redshaw.
 
Make-ups: No report. 
 
June’s Attendance Committee:  Dave Scott (I/C), Gary Lingard, Paul Siberry, Pat Shewen, Doug Page, Pat Feryn, Jerry McEwin, Lisa Breault, Kevin Silver.