I heard the news as I was driving to work this morning. Former Wolfville mayor Bob Stead died on Saturday of bladder cancer.
I didn't know the man to any real extent. My only story about him and me goes back to almost exactly 28 years ago. It says something about the man, so I will relate it here.
In January of 1986, I resumed my studies at Acadia University after having worked at Canadian Forces Base Greenwood for a few months in the Fall of 1985. You have to understand that my university education was funded by student loans and part-time jobs. In that order.
I didn't know this, but because I had taken a co-op work term, I would have to start paying back my student loan for a couple of months. It also meant that I would not be entitled to the full student loan disbursement because I would only have been a student for four months rather than eight. Long story short, I would only get got half the money I was hoping to get, and that put me behind the financial eight ball.
The place where you pay your tuition put a hold on my payment because the student loan folks were playing hard ball with me. It was not a good situation. I was told about Bob Stead, who was working at Acadia back then as a student liaison officer, sort of an ombudsman for students having troubles with the provincial student loan program. That was not his job title, but it gives you an idea of what his role there was.
I met with him, pretty upset. I had other things to worry about, like a full course load, and didn't have time to worry about how I was gonna pay my tuition. He sensed I was angry and got on the horn with the student loan people toot sweet, calming me down and dealing with them at the same time. While he was on hold he told me how a university education was something that only about 20-25% of Canadians would ever have. He also told me about a man and his son who were in the next room. The father worked for a big company then in the news for some controversial thing or another that I've long since forgotten. He was a part of that story, but had taken time out to deal with some academic issue his son was experiencing. Bob Stead had a calming manner about him that in turn calmed me down and helped me see the big picture, and that the situation confronting me was not the end of the world. Which it wasn't.
After a short while, a week or so, my issue was resolved. I was able to pay my tuition because my student loan came in. And I went on busting my gut to chip away at earning my degree. Thank you, Bob Stead.
Bob Stead, I'm sure, went on to help many more people like me in the subsequent years, until his retirement from Acadia in 1997. Rather than rest on those laurels, he decided to become mayor of Wolfville, serving until 2012. Months later, he was diagnosed with the cancer that claimed his life two days ago.
What Bob Stead did for me so long ago meant so much to me. It may have just been another day at the office for him, but not for me. I have to wonder how many other lives he touched in a positive way over the years, and how many of those people appreciated and respected him for it. I hope that he knew how much he was liked and respected by the people who knew him and even the schleps like me who had one-time dealings with him over the decades of his public service. I hope that, from time to time, he reflected on all the good he did and all the people he helped. And I hope that brought him some measure of peace and happiness.
Rest in peace, Bob Stead. And to his husband Danny, my very best to you during this difficult time.
See you tomorrow.