Next Friday night, Santa will arrive in the village of Wellesley for the 21st annual Christmas Thyme in Wellesley Parade and the Tree of Light celebration. And two of Wellesley’s most prominent citizens will be at the centre of that celebration as Albert Erb is this year’s parade marshal, and Ron Futher has been selected to light the tree. Both men were informed in November, and say it will be a great honour to participate.
“I don’t know why I was chosen, but I didn’t ask any questions,” laughed Erb, former mayor and councillor of Ward 1.
“I’m honoured. I was very surprised when I was chosen,” said Futher. “Hopefully the weather will be nice and we’ll have a good turnout.”
While both men were humble in their responses, their selection should come as no surprise to those who live in Wellesley.
Erb was a constant face in township politics as he was a councillor from 1963 until 1980 when he became mayor, and he held that position until 1991.
Born and raised in Wellesley, the 90-year-old Erb has undertaken countless projects to improve the look and feel of Wellesley. Whether it was running the breakfast at the Apple Butter and Cheese festival with his wife Irene or planting more than 1,000 flowers around their old home on Henry Street, Wellesley has certainly benefitted from his personal touch.
Erb also said he was the first to suggest hanging Christmas lights from the lampposts in town while he was a councillor, and he even undertook the enormous task of upgrading the park and pond – a “pet project,” as he called it – that was renamed the Albert Erb Conservation Area in 1994.
From installing the first fountain to buying the first five swans, it was a large undertaking, he said.
“That took quite a few years, we did a little bit every year until we got it to the point where I wasn’t ashamed of having people come and look at it.”
As marshal of the parade, Albert and his wife will ride at the front in the fire truck as it makes its way through the streets of Wellesley, starting in front of the public school at 6:45 p.m. before turning south on Nafziger Road and finishing up at the park.
Beyond waving to the crowd, Erb isn’t too sure of what to expect, but is looking forward to the ride nonetheless.
“Well, as long as they drive slowly. Nothing too swift,” he laughed. “I’m not getting out and dancing on the truck.”
The parade committee chose Erb, and it was a pretty clear decision, according to one of its members.
“He has been a staunch leader in the community for many years,” said Jean Horne. “He and his wife have been involved in many things, from ABC to whatever event was happening in Wellesley, they were there and were excellent supporters.”
Waiting for Erb and the rest of the parade-goers in the park will be Ron Futher, who is responsible for lighting the Tree of Light located in Albert Erb Park right next to the pond.
Having the honour of lighting the tree will likely be Futher’s final official act as the outgoing Wellesley Citizen of the Year.
Chosen earlier this year, the Citizen of the Year award is given annually to someone in the community in recognition of outstanding achievements and unselfish contributions to their fellow citizens, and Futher certainly fits the bill.
The 76-year-old Futher has called Wellesley home his entire life and became a pillar of the community. He spent 53 years as a licensed funeral director at the funeral home started by his father back in 1933. He also spent 42 years as a member of the Wellesley Fire Department, 10 of those years as chief before his retirement in 1999.
There is also the matter of the 30-plus years he’s been a chartered member of the Wellesley Lions Club, and the 40-plus years spent on the Board of Trade.
Futher was also the first clerk-treasurer for the newly incorporated Village of Wellesley, but his municipal career was cut short after only one year due to the death of his father in 1962, when he took over the funeral home fulltime until about three years ago when he sold the business.
Futher also gave a talk about the history of the Wellesley Fire Department back in October and plans to give more in the future.
“Ron’s a very prominent citizen of Wellesley and he’s done a lot for the community,” said Marilyn Bisch, the head of the Tree of Light Campaign, of why Futher was chosen to flip the switch.
The bulbs for the tree were for sale throughout the community for $5, the proceeds of which will go directly to Meals on Wheels and the Community Action Program for Children. Donations will still be accepted up until Dec. 31.
The fun begins next Friday, Dec. 9 at 6:30 p.m. with a live nativity scene next to the Wellesley Pond, followed by the parade at 6:45 which will start in front of Wellesley Public School. A second nativity scene will follow at 7:20 p.m. and Futher will flip the switch for the tree-lighting ceremony at 7:30.
“I’ve been practicing for it every night before I go to bed,” said Futher with a laugh.