Jack Robertson loved his community and did everything he could to contribute to its success but he never sought recognition for his accomplishments, say those who knew him.
Robertson, who spearheaded the creation of Rotary Stadium and was the founding president of the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame, died Sunday at the age of 91.
Robertson’s numerous achievements include chairing the 1995 Western Canada Summer Games in Abbotsford, serving as president of PacificSport Fraser Valley and co-founding the Abbotsford Police Foundation, on which he still sat as a director.
Robertson also served as a District of Matsqui councillor from 1988 to 1990 and from 1991 to 1993, and then, after amalgamation, as a City of Abbotsford councillor in 1995 and ’96.
He received the Order of Abbotsford in 2007 and was inducted into the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame the same year.
In 2012, he was a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Mayor Henry Braun, who first met Robertson in the late 1970s when he was president of Clayburn Industries, described him as a “great community champion.”
“I never heard Jack say a negative thing about our community,” he said.
Braun said Robertson was the type of individual who always brought people together. He was forthright with his opinions, but not in a way that was demeaning or negative to others.
Even after his retirement, Robertson, who celebrated his 65th anniversary last year with his wife Jean, maintained his involvement and interest in the community, and was knowledgeable about the issues facing the city, Braun said.
“He was a prince of a guy,” he said.
Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich described Robertson, who sat on the police board for 12 years – first in Matsqui and then in Abbotsford – as “feisty and fun to be with.”
“There was no doubt he also had a backbone of steel. I sensed he had no difficulty making up his mind and sharing his clear point of view,” he said.
Rich said he felt “strongly supported” by Robertson when he first came to Abbotsford as police chief in 2008, from Vancouver, and Robertson was someone who made him glad that he chose to come here.
“He was all about promoting this great community and building strong partnerships, so we could all make this place better,” Rich said.
Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong expressed sadness at Robertson’s passing, saying he was a “volunteer extraordinaire” who “touched the lives of thousands of citizens.”
He said he will miss sharing breakfasts and phone conversations with Robertson.
“His love for our community was exceeded only by his modesty and his preference that the spotlight shine upon others,” de Jong said.
Kevin Boonstra, president of the Abbotsford Police Foundation – which Robertson founded in 2005 with Dave Kandal and Spud Murphy – described Robertson as a “community leader in the best of all possible ways.”
“He valued civic commitment and lived that out, never seeking recognition or praise for any of his significant contributions … Jack demonstrated his vision of a city in which we all work together for a safer community,” he said.
Robertson’s involvement in the sports community included a 30-year career in coaching, officiating and event hosting. He helped create the first eight-lane regulation running track in Abbotsford, completed in the late 1960s at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
His position as chair of the 1995 Western Canada Summer Games led to the Legacy Sports Centre at Exhibition Park, completed in 2002, as well as to the creation of Rotary Stadium and the Sports Hall of Fame.
“Abbotsford is going to sorely miss Jack Robertson,” Boonstra said.
A celebration of life will be held Saturday, Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. at Tradex in Abbotsford. Donations in Jack's memory may be made to:
Abbotsford Police Foundation
2838 Justice Way
Abbotsford, BC V2T 3P6
PacificSport Fraser Valley
230-7888 200th St.
Langley, BC V2Y 3J4