At the age of 92, Walt Laurie is still volunteering. Reflecting on his years of volunteerism — from Second World War veteran to a “bookie in an old folks home”, Laurie rarely seems to lose his quick wit. “My labour energy is limited but I can still talk,” he said, claiming “a gift of the gab”.
Laurie is currently the president of the Nelson Electric Tramway Society, which he has been a part of since he was talked into it by his neighbour Archie McKen 14 years ago.
“Within a year I was the president,” Laurie said.
His stint as the president lasted for 10 years before he took a break but he is back in the seat again.
“The very active committee does most of the work,” he said. “I chair the meetings and sign the cheques,” he said with a chuckle.
In his earlier days with the society he was also a driver.
“To drive a street car, to meet people from all over the world, I feel privileged to have been able to do it.”
He’s a great believer that history is part of Nelson’s character and the tram adds to that draw for many tourists. He also volunteers his time speaking on the history of the Nelson streetcar to the likes of the Nelson Gyro Club and the Lions.
“I’ve always enjoyed getting involved in the community.” He’s been involved in politics and as a father of five children he helped out with minor hockey and soccer back in the day.
“My two girls and three boys were quite active in the community and sports,” he said. And it was their involvement with Scouts that had Laurie as part of the Scout movement at the North Shore Hall for a number of years. He was on the parents committee and even the chairman of the air cadets as well.
Laurie is also a member of the Nelson Rotary Club and over the years has volunteered hundreds of hours towards their charitable work. He joined Rotary when he first moved to Nelson in 1968 to work for Canadian Pacific Railway as the director of marketing and sales for the Kootenay.
“My bosses in Vancouver recommended it. And I found out it was a good place to have lunch,” he joked.
Laurie went on to serve as president in 1979-80, was a director several times, and chaired the committee that built the Rotary shelter at Lakeside Park. He continued on with it after his retirement in 1983 because he likes the organizations involvement with social programs and he likes to keep involved.
Over the decades he said he has been the treasurer for the Baptist Church, Rotary and the street car society.
Laurie now lives at Lake View Village seniors’ home. He still drives and he continues to pass his medical exam. This keeps him on the move and helping out. He collects funds and picks up lottery tickets for other residents. “We gotta dream,” he said. Then he winked, “I’m a bookie in an old folks home.”
And if you want to go way back, he was 18 when he volunteered in the army which took him overseas during the Second World War.
About Above and Beyond:
The Nelson Star is pleased to continue this column to recognize the many volunteers in our community who go above and beyond to help others. The individuals we profile are selected by a committee outside the newspaper based on set criteria. For example, the person must be volunteering over the long term, and mustn’t be paid for the work. If you’d like to nominate somebody for consideration by the Above and Beyond committee, email their name and why they deserve recognition to email@example.com.