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Sarnia, ON
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Community Involvement – Featured Member

Bill Hoad


Who would have thought that a crystal set would set a person’s life direction?   It did mine.  It started in 1948 in Toronto when I was listening on my crystal set to Foster Hewitt broadcasting the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey game.   Suddenly, a local ham radio operator came on the air and overrode all the AM broadcast stations.  I found this operator’s location and knocked on his door.  “Si” showed me his ham station and got me interested in ham radio and electrical engineering.  “Si” also recommended I work for Bell in the summer months. I did just that and later spent three years in Montreal working on the Mid-Canada Radar Line which was being built along the 55th parallel.  It was quite an adventure to fly in ski-equipped bush planes and DC-3s into Dawson Creek, British Columbia; Peace River and Fort McMurray, Alberta; Ile La Cross and Buffalo Narrows in Saskatchewan and The Pas, Flin Flon and Churchill in Manitoba.

When construction of the Mid-Canada Line was complete, I decided that Bell and Montreal were not for me and moved to Sarnia to work at Ethyl Canada.  I was there from 1957 until 1993 when I retired as Plant Manager.  I was volunteered to set up the original CVECO (Chemical Valley Emergency Coordinating Organization) radio network.   As Ethyl’s representative to CVECO, I served as President in 1975, the year the Lambton College Fire School opened.  This, together with ham radio offering to supply auxiliary communications service to the police, led me to another opening.   CVECO had a mobile command centre (an old red bus) and when it was time to drive it to an emergency scene, all the drivers were unavailable.  Several ham radio operators got their DZ licence and became drivers of that bus.  When it was time to upgrade, I was fortunate enough to be on the team which surveyed other cities’ mobile command centres and also to see what type of vehicles were available within our budget.

The current converted RV, which has been in service since 2000, is the result of our efforts.   I also had the experience of coordinating the installation of the communications equipment in the new command bus.  I am still a driver and help keep the equipment ready for service.  It is worth noting that in the days of the “old bus”, most of the calls were industrial in nature.  Industrial emergencies have dropped significantly in both frequency and severity.  Today, some of the calls involve fire investigations.  The command centre is also used for many community events.

Amateur radio led to another community service with Environment Canada.  CANWARN is a program run by EC which originally began with ham radio operators.  Now others are trained to watch for and report severe weather.  Training programs are hosted by CANWARN every spring.  We have been very fortunate in the last few in not being effected by any severe summer storms.

My association with the Sarnia Police Service led to my involvement with their volunteer program.   There are two teams – the “traffic team” and the “search team”.  The traffic team is involved in traffic control for parades and events.  The original members of the search team were trained in orienteering and in the use of maps and compasses.  This team was activated just after New Year’s Day in 2013 to assist in the search for the victim of a tragic murder.  The teams consist largely of college students.  We need volunteers who are permanent members of the community and available to assist when required.

Lastly, I have the privilege of sitting on the Sarnia Emergency Management Program Committee Advisory Sub-Committee.  This sub-committee advises the Sarnia Emergency Management Coordinator of emergency preparedness within the community of Sarnia.

To keep out of mischief, I joined The Rotary Club of Sarnia in 1980 and am on the organizing committees for the Mackinac Race Pancake Breakfast and for the TV Auction.  I am on the Board of Directors of the Rotary Club of Sarnia Charitable Foundation, my specific position being Manager of Properties, looking after the Rotary land at Murphy and Michigan.  I also sit on the Board of Directors of Southwest Regional Credit Union since 1989.

For more than 20 years I have been a technical advisor to my friend who operates 20 oil wells near Petrolia.  This led to being designated as an “Examiner” by the Ministry of Natural Resources.  An examiner examines the oil field operation on behalf of the Ministry of Natural Resources and reports the results to the Ministry and to the operator.  Also, as the job description of this retiree says “and such other duties as assigned.”

My wife Win and I met in the Laurentians and were married in October 1956.  Our daughter Janet lives in Lambeth with her husband Neil and their two sons, James and Lucas.  Our son Doug and his wife Lori, live in Batavia, Illinois, west of Chicago.  We also have three “grand dogs”.