Muskoka Mosaic: Veteran father inspires participation
Introducing Norm Stapleford
Norm Stapleford knows the value of giving back to the community and hopes to inspire others to do the same.
HUNTSVILLE – If there’s one message George Stapleford passed along to his children, it’s the importance of community participation.
“My father was very conscious of what the community does and how important it is to give back to the community that helps us through our lives,” said Norm Stapleford.
His father served in the Second World War as a signalman in the army infantry. He was captured early in the war and held prisoner for nearly five years.
“There was a period of time when mom didn’t know if he was alive or dead,” said Stapleford.
Two years after the war ended, Stapleford’s parents flipped a coin to determine whether they would move to Canada or Australia. Canada won.
Shortly after moving the family acquired Canadian citizenship. Stapleford was one of four of his six siblings born in Canada. His older sister was born in Ireland and his older brother in England.
The family moved to Muskoka in 1955 when Stapleford was three years old.
He’s always had a passion for aircraft and while still in high school worked for Northland Aircraft Service working on antique and historic planes. One of the aircraft he worked on is in a museum in Ottawa.
“It bothers me when I see it because it should be flying,” he said. “It’s just a fascination more than anything. It was the hope that when I worked at the airport that I might get the opportunity to fly. As a 13-year-old that’s a big deal.”
He met his wife, Colette, when he was 26 at the old Voyageur restaurant along the highway where she was a waitress and he worked at the gas bar. They’ve been married for 33 years.
“She’s a very patient woman,” he said, when asked what their secret is. They knew each other for about a year before getting married and have two children, John and Julia.
When his children were growing up Stapleford volunteered with the local boy scouts and air cadet organizations.
He continues to volunteer with air cadets, after taking a brief hiatus a year and a half ago.
“I missed the kids,” he said. “These young people are amazing and as you get older you appreciate what they do ... We think of these people as being children, but they’re not. They’re just young people. Their ambitions, their hopes are amazing and we should spend more time listening to them because they can teach us.”
Over the years Stapleford has also volunteered with the local Royal Canadian Legion branch, Operation Red Nose and community policing.
Huntsville was the first Ontario community to bring in Operation Red Nose, which started in Quebec. It’s a program that helps residents get home during the holidays if they’ve had a few drinks.
“Being involved in the community has been a big part of my life over the years,” said Stapleford.
His year off volunteering with air cadets gave him a lot of time for himself, a feeling he wasn’t use to. He spent time reading and fishing but couldn’t stay away from community involvement.
“I missed the people, I missed being out,” he said, noting he takes a lot of satisfaction from volunteering. “We’re very fortunate. Huntsville is a community that has an abundance of volunteers, people that go out of their way to help others. We don’t blow our horn enough.”
He sees his part as just a small role and is proud of the community he calls home.
“I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” he said. “People in this community devote their time and their energy, not expecting to get anything in return, and they love it. Most of them do it without any thought of any payback.”
The biggest thing Stapleford has learned throughout his life is that you never stop learning.
“You’re never too old to learn,” he said. “And being involved with people, the more people you meet, it’s going to expand your abilities.”