Hike service

Hamilton Mountain resident John Gabriel honored by the city for his community service

Mountain resident John Gabriel received a plaque from the town for his service to the community.

Every morning, rain or shine, even on Christmas and New Years, John Gabriel wakes up at 5:30 a.m., has a cup of tea, a toast, and then for the next six hours cleans the area around from Mountain Drive Park.

“It’s okay,” said Gabriel, 80, who has started picking up the trash people have thrown along the boulevard every day since he moved to the neighborhood eight years ago.

When he first saw Mountain Drive Park littered with trash, he shook his head.

“Such a magnificent view,” he said. “And then, damn it, people desecrated the land with trash. It really distracts from joy. So I started picking it up.

Gabriel, a retired vice-president of Canadian Tire, used to run five miles a day, five days a week, but his hip, knee and ankle started giving out.

“Walking is actually therapeutic for me,” he says.

In fact, he started picking up trash when he lived in Campbellford. The town’s Rotary Club built a seven-kilometre trail along the Trent-Severn Waterway in 1996. And when it was finished, it had to be maintained. While walking with his 34-year-old wife, Brenda, he started picking up litter.

“When he started picking up trash, I didn’t wait for him,” Brenda said. “He comes home around noon. And he always has great stories to tell me, the people he met. It gives us something to talk about and share. »

Brenda and about 20 other acquaintances and friends celebrated John’s selfless service to the community when Ward 7 Coun. Esther Pauls presented her with a town plaque and a box of Lindor chocolates on Mountain Drive Park near the Wentworth Stairs on October 1.

Pauls said that one morning when she accompanied John, she was surprised to see so many people saying hello to John and thanking him for what he does.

“Even the dogs seem to like it,” she said.

Pauls had wanted to honor John in 2020, but the pandemic delayed the celebration.

“John does it for everyone,” Pauls said. “You see someone who takes pride in where they live to make it a better community. Everyone says thank you from the bottom of their hearts.

Wilma Vanderwoerd, who lives in one of the many flats nearby, praised John for his humor and “the way he greets people. It brings a lot of warmth into your life.

Later, she said that John was “very nice and very humble”.

John, whose family once lived in Burlington, is one of 12 children, four girls and eight boys, including Canadian Football Hall of Famer Tony Gabriel.

“At least for a day I’m more famous than Tony,” John said.

John laments the trash people throw away, which is endless. Dressed in a jacket with a Canadian Tire logo emblazoned on the back and a t-shirt with Hamilton stitched on the front, he uses a “grabber” to pick up the many cigarette butts, disposable masks and Tim Horton cups that litter Alpine Avenue – Concession Street – Mountain Park Avenue and Mountain Drive Park.

He is particularly disappointed with the amount of cigarette butts he finds around Juravinski Hospital.

John says he met someone who asked him how much time he had left. He did not understand the question, replying that the Lord did not tell him. She shook her head and repeated how much time he had for his community service sentence.

He laughs at the inference. Brenda sometimes jokes that she is his trainee officer. “One person really believed me.”

On the glorious October morning following the ceremony, John resumed picking up litter, greeting people and petting any dog ​​that came near him.

“It was extremely nice of them to do this,” John said. “I am not paid for this work. But the benefits are really good.