Two men who profoundly influenced the growth and character of Abbotsford in their own ways were bestowed the title of Citizen of the Year at the city's Canada Day celebration.
The two Rons - Ron Sweeney Sr. and Ron Price - were surprised and humbled by the honour. Both were also honoured with the Order of Abbotsford earlier this year.
Price, president of the non-profit Abbotsford International Airshow Society since 1998, shared his recognition with the hundreds of "old-timers and stalwarts," volunteers, and others who back the annual aviation event - marking its 50th anniversary this August - that put the city on the map.
"I appreciated being recognized, but there are a lot of individuals and groups who work very hard every year - it's not a one-man show. Without their support, it couldn't happen," he said.
However, Price has been an integral part of some of the city's most important economic institutions.
As a member of the Abbotsford Flying Club, he first volunteered in 1983 with the airshow to put up fences. He helped create the first Airshow
Canada in 1989, a trade show event that hosted 67 countries, Canada's then-PM Brian Mulroney and other world leaders.
The main 'building' was a tent, he recalls, but that seminal event led to the creation of Tradex, which hosted the North American aerospace trade show for several years.
The organizers of that trade event then secured federal and provincial funding to build the current structure that is Tradex. It was operated by the B.C. Pavilion Corporation until the City of Abbotsford took over its operation in 2003.
Through the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, Price was invited to help create the first Pacific Agriculture Show in 1998 with co-founder Jim Shepard. Now heading into its 15th year, this is the largest agriculture trade show in the province, drawing a diverse group of more than 7,500 farmers and 250 vendors.
"It's great for the public and very useful for those in the industry," said Price.
At 67, Price is still flying high, either in his Cessna 150 or Cessna 185 float plane, and he hopes to pilot the airshow for some time.
Ron Sweeney Sr. influenced the character of the city as an energetic teacher for 33 years and through his dedicated service to the community. He and his wife, Mary, arrived as newlyweds in 1950, when Sweeney took up his first teaching job at Philip Sheffield High School, then later at the new Abbotsford Senior high school when it opened.
"Abbotsford was the best place in the world to live 63 years ago and it still is today," said Sweeney, now 88.
Sweeney led classes in math, English, physical education and community recreation with a stern voice and a twinkle in his eye.
He also coached football, rugby, basketball and track and field, swimming lessons at Centennial Pool, bantam hockey, took part in pep rallies, concerts and musicals, and organized the infamous Teachers Hockey Team. He's also one of the famous teacher quartet, the Chalk Spots, who sang at the recent Abbotsford Senior reunion.
On top of this and raising a family of seven active kids with Mary, Sweeney gave many years of service to his community.
Sweeney served three terms as an Abbotsford city councillor, and was with the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, on the boards of the Fraser Valley College, Prospera Credit Union, Redeemer Pacific College, Ledgeview Properties and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. As chair man of the Citizens Advisory Board for Matsqui Institution, Sweeney was an observer at the public inquiry into the 1979 and 1981 riots at Kent and Matsqui federal prisons. He earned a papal medal of service and continues to sing and lead activities at St. Ann's Parish.
Sweeney attributes his success to Mary, noting "as they say, behind every good man is an even better wife."