Anyone who has lived in Kimberley for any length of time knows the name Jack Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe, a former Kimberley City Council member for 29 years, has sat on more boards, directed more projects, and delivered more volunteer hours than just about anyone.
“Jack Ratcliffe is best known by most for the 29 years he committed to Kimberley City Council,” said Mayor Don McCormick. “That in itself is a tremendous contribution to the community. But Jack’s giving to the community extends far beyond City Council. Jack is a very humble man – never seeking recognition of any kind and he always minimizes his role when he receives it. He has quietly helped make Kimberley a great place to live.”
Ratcliffe just recently stepped down from his last volunteer position as a member of the Kimberley Library Board.
“I figured 92 years old was a good retirement age,” Ratcliffe said.
He also says of all his countless volunteer hours, “It’s not work if you enjoy it.”
Ratcliffe was elected to Council in 1982 for the first time. It is a point of pride to him that in 11 elections, he topped the polls nine times and came second twice.
Technically, Ratcliffe wasn’t born in Kimberley, because his mother headed back to Alberta with her four kids to deliver him, but then the family returned to Kimberley, where he grew up.
He had a 40 year career with Cominco, at various operations, finishing in Kimberley, and retired in 1986.
“It’s hard to believe I’ve been retired for 40 years,” he said.
Not that those 40 years were spent relaxing. He was on the Library Board for 36 years, on the Kimberley Community Development Society Board for 30 years, the Kimberley Health Centre Society for 14 years.
His first volunteer position was with the Nelson Hospital Board 65 years ago.
“I was the young guy then,” he said.
He has been treasurer for the United Church in quite a few communities, including Kimberley, for 59 years.
In addition, he coached basketball, and spent a lot of time volunteering with the Air Cadets.
He was on the Kimberley Hospital Board and the School Board, which led him to the steering committee which founded the East Kootenay Community College, now College of the Rockies, in 1973-75.
“I stayed on that board for five years,” Ratcliffe said.
He was also a director of the Skills Centre.
“When the old ski club went bankrupt, I joined that board.”
Ratcliffe negotiated with the bank for a fair price for the ski hill, then sat on the board for the ski hill for five years with Max Sykes, Barry Peterson and others.
He was also on the Chamber of Commerce and Home Support boards, and worked for both the Winter Games societies.
It’s almost true that it would be a shorter list to say which organizations Jack Ratcliffe wasn’t involved with.
“Practically everywhere I worked I was treasurer,” he said, a natural since his career was as comptroller for Cominco.
One thing Ratcliffe did every day was walk from his home in Chapman Camp to city hall.
“It was one mile and a tenth,” he said. “A brisk walk was good and the walk home was a good unwinder. The guys on Rotary could set their clocks by me.”
Ratcliffe received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and was given the honour of carrying the Olympic torch down Overwaitea Hill when it came through Kimberley. He was awarded the Super Trustee Award from the Library Trustee Assoc., and a long service award from the Chamber.
“My efforts were well rewarded,” he said.
He says one of the keys over the years was working with truly excellent people.
“In my long term at the Library I worked with two excellent librarians, Bev Varty and Karin von Wittgenstein, the ski hill with Brian Rhodes and Dwayne Bloom. Part of the reward was working with such great people.”
The City is establishing a community service award in Jack Ratcliffe’s name and on Monday, November 9, 2020, he became its first recipient.
The Jack Ratcliffe Commitment to Community Award will be presented once a year. Award winners will have made a significant impact on the community through extensive volunteer time commitments and contributed talent, energy and skills to support community growth, visibility and/or opportunities. They must be a resident(s) of Kimberley (no age restriction); and must have made a long-term commitment to the community (at least 3 years).
Award recipients will have their name engraved on the “Jack Ratcliffe Commitment to Community” plaque placed in City Hall; they will receive an award; and they will be able to make a donation of $500 to their registered not-for-profit or incorporated charity of their choice. Jack Ratcliffe has chosen the Kimberley United Church as his charity of choice for the 2020 donation.