Bothwell’s Bob Hamilton and Cleata Morris of Merlin were named co-winners of the Chatham-Kent Senior of the Year Friday at the Chatham-Kent Senior Achievement Awards in Blenheim.
Morris, at 95 years of age one of the oldest honourees, is active in the North Buxton Community Church, directs the Friends of Buxton Male Choir that she co-founded in 2001 and is a member of the Merlin Friendship Club.
Hamilton has been a lifelong contributor to the Bothwell community. A founding member of the Bothwell Minor Hockey Association, he is vice president of the Bothwell Community Boosters, a fundraiser for the Four Counties Hospital Foundation and a former United Way chair in the community.
Hundreds of spectators filled the Blenheim Arena to honour the record 71 seniors nominated from communities across Chatham-Kent.
Event chair Karen Herman, who has been involved in the awards for nearly 20 years, said interest remains high in recognizing those who make Chatham-Kent communities special, 32 years after the event began in Blenheim.
“There is so much volunteerism that there isn’t any way we could put a dollar figure on the contributions,” she said in a media release. “If you ask the honorees, they would tell you that they get back more than they give. It’s an amazing thing to watch these people continue to contribute to the community, in some cases into their 90s.”
Last year’s Chatham-Kent Senior of the Year John Lawrence of Chatham, was honoured by the province as Ontario Senior of the Year 2018 for Chatham-Kent.
After retiring from teaching for 28 years, Morris moved back to North Buxton where she immersed herself into the life of her community as well as throughout Chatham-Kent and Southwestern Ontario.
She has always championed Black History, whether organizing lunch for busloads of people visiting the Buxton Historical Site and Museum, or sharing her story with the media.
Morris is known to everyone under 60 in Buxton as “Aunt Cleata.” She is very active in the North Buxton Community Church, and she makes sure the doors are open for people to go for prayerful reflection.
She is also a member of the Merlin Friendship Club and she recently participated with four other seniors, sharing with the children at the Merlin & Area Public School, what it was like to be a kid in their generation.
She also supports local groups by attending their fundraisers and their causes.
Morris is probably most known throughout Chatham-Kent for the “Friends of Buxton Male Choir” that she and Lois Pratt started in January 2001. She directs the choir, which averages about 100 performances a year.
They’ve been guests at most seniors’ residences and nursing homes in Chatham-Kent and were part of the TV production “Still Standing.”
Hamilton has been a lifelong contributor to the Bothwell community. He previously was a member of the Bothwell Arena Building Committee, a founding member of the Bothwell Minor Hockey Association, serving as a hockey coach, and was the Past Bothwell United Way Chair.
He is currently a volunteer for the fundraising of the Four Counties Hospital Foundation, and is the Founder and Chair of the Bothwell Toy and Hamper Program, which distributes dozens of Christmas hampers to area families in need, and he also hosts a free Seniors Christmas Party.
Hamilton is also the Vice-President of the Bothwell Community Boosters. He is the chair and founding member of the Bothwell Area Recreation Advisory Committee. This group runs the recreation programs at the Bothwell arena, which focus on the youth, seniors and families.
He is very passionate about the need to keep the Bothwell Arena viable.
He is at the arena four and five nights a week, leading programs, such as ball hockey, pickleball, fitness classes, soccer, lacrosse and roller-skating.
He is hands-on purchasing and fixing equipment, assisting patrons and planning events.
Hamilton even finds time to volunteer at Riverview Bingo, which supports the Bothwell Area Recreation Advisory Committee.