This year’s inductees in the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame will include several faces from close to home. Elmira resident Susan Bryant will be honoured for her 25 years of environmental activism, while education pioneer Reverend James Sims and humanitarian Peter Hallman will receive posthumous commendation.
A Scottish immigrant who settled in Hawkesville, Reverend James Sims (1812-1880) was the first superintendent of schools and chairman of the Board of Public Schools for Woolwich and Wellesley. In the early years of Waterloo County, he strongly advocated for schools in newly settled areas of the townships.
Breslau resident Peter Hallman (1950-1999) served as a volunteer manager and corporate sponsor for baseball teams in Kitchener and Waterloo – notably the Waterloo Twins, Canada’s longest established men’s fastball team. By day an executive at the Economical Insurance Company, his greatest legacy is as a philanthropist, with contributions to the United Way, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and Grand River Hospital. He co-founded the Centre for Family Business, was president of Hallman Eldercare, and served with the Breslau Recreation Association and Breslau Mennonite Church.
Hallman died in a motorcycle accident at age 48. Today, the Peter Hallman Ball Yard in Kitchener is named in his honour.
Susan Bryant has a familiar presence in Woolwich since 1989, when she became one of the founders of the citizens group APT Environment. The group called attention to toxins in Elmira’s water supply caused by the Uniroyal Chemical plant (now Chemtura), and in the years since, Bryant has become one of the region’s foremost experts on water contamination. Currently she serves as an executive member of the Grand River Environmental Network and at the Township of Woolwich Environmental Enhancement Committee (TWEEC).
“This was a pretty old-fashioned, small town community, and Uniroyal had been operating since the ‘40s, so people felt a loyalty to the company,” Bryant recalled. “Environmental issues were not on the front burner at all at the time. The community was very embarrassed by what happened, and people reacted in different ways to that embarrassment. … There was a feeling we should just keep our mouths shut and not spread the dirty laundry.”
Today, Bryant said she accepts the award on behalf of the people she worked with at APT Environment. She added, however, that while water conservation issues are better understood than in 1989, the world has a long way to go.
“It’s a resource we have to do a much better job protecting. Once it gets contaminated, you can’t clean that up. You can mitigate it, but it’s done.”
The 2014 Waterloo Region Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place April 27 at the Waterloo Region Museum. Others to be added to the list this year include Kitchener environmentalist Lillian Croal, boxer Johnny Kalbhenn of New Hamburg, former NHL hockey player Kirk Maltby of Cambridge, veteran sportswoman Helen Nethercott of Kitchener and conservation group Heritage Cambridge.