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Township loses a community advocate

Bob Waters, an Elmira lawyer, a former Woolwich mayor and long-time supporter of recreation projects, succumbed to cancer Monday. He was 69.

Waters was remembered this week as a man dedicated to community service, sometimes leading the charge but often quietly doing his part.

Bob Waters (second from right) was one of the co-founders of the Friends of Hockey organization that provided hockey equipment for kids in need. In this file photo, he got a helping hand from members of the Atlanta Thrashers when they visited Elmira last year.
Bob Waters (second from right) was one of the co-founders of the Friends of Hockey organization that provided hockey equipment for kids in need. In this file photo, he got a helping hand from members of the Atlanta Thrashers when they visited Elmira last year.

“Bob was involved in an awful lot of things in the community. A lot of the time it was behind the scenes – he didn’t want a lot of attention,” said current mayor Bill Strauss, who served on council with Waters, calling him a mentor.

Waters was a councillor from 1982 to 1986. He was named mayor shortly after the ’86 election when Ken Seiling vacated the post on being elected the chair of Waterloo Region. Waters then went on to serve three terms as mayor until 1994.

His tenure at the head of council included the difficult times that followed the discovery of contaminants in Elmira’s drinking water. Pollutants from the Chemtura Chemical plant – then known as Uniroyal – had seeped into the groundwater, eventually forcing the installation of a pipeline from Waterloo, which supplies water to the town to this day.

When the crisis first hit, municipal officials were kept extremely busy. Waters worked tirelessly at the time, said Seiling.

“We did a lot of things together at that time,” he said, recalling one night when he and Waters received some information about contaminated private wells. There was a snowstorm underway, but the two of them went door-to-door in the neighbourhood, warning residents about the risks.

“He stick-handled his way through that very well,” Ward 1 Coun. Ruby Weber, who also served on council during that time, said of Waters’ handling of the contaminated water issue.
More recently, she worked with Waters on the Fit for the Future campaign, the Woolwich Recreational Facility Foundation fundraising drive he chaired. The effort raised $5.6 million for new recreation facilities in the township, including the Woolwich Memorial Centre.
He was an avid supporter of Woolwich Minor Hockey and the Elmira Sugar Kings Junior B squad. As a co-founder of Friends of Hockey, he helped financially disadvantaged kids get into the sport.

Community involvement was always a priority for Waters, said Strauss. That was especially true for recreation programs. When he was mayor, Waters didn’t believe in lavish spending, but he always made sure there was something in the budget for recreation in the township.
“Bob did a lot for the community. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for you.”

His commitment to the township extended well past his involvement on council, added Weber, noting he was willing to work with everyone, to bring groups together.

“He was so easy to get along with. You could disagree with him, but he was always willing to work with you. I’ve got a lot of great memories about Bob, and I’m going to miss him. The community will miss him,” she said.

Born in Clinton June 17, 1941, Waters grew up in Toronto. Having attended Osgoode Hall Law School, he was called to the bar in 1968. Eventually settling in this area, he practiced law in Elmira for 40 years, along with partner Cynthia Hastings.

Waters is survived by his wife Lulu, son Tim and his wife Bev (Lockett) and son Rob and his wife Dana (Witmer).

A memorial service was held Friday at St. John’s Anglican Church in Elora, followed by a celebration of his life at the Elmira Legion.

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