Terrace has lost a treasure. Our Freeman of the City since 1989, Mr. Bill McRae, has died.
Being a Freeman of the City is an honour bestowed on an individual who has shown exemplary community spirit and is a valuable member of the City.
Mr. McRae was a man of such humble beginnings, whose hard work and incredible character became a gift to the City of Terrace.
Early on Mr. McRae’s vision, lobbying to the Provincial government and generosity helped ensure Mills Memorial Hospital was built. When visiting with Mr. McRae he had many stories about obtaining the land, going to Victoria to make sure Terrace got its hospital.
His leadership in forestry and mining were a passion for him, and even when retired he was always researching and following these industries. The head rig he put in at Skeena Sawmills is still in use almost 60 years later.
Mr. McRae was not afraid to roll up his sleeves and do volunteer work. For example, he took up the challenge for Mills Memorial Hospital to get a CT scanner so we could get the healthcare services we needed locally and to help attract medical staff. He, and his wife Helene, were very instrumental in the cash calendars that helped the REM Lee Foundation fund our first CT scanner…I think $650,000 they raised. Both Helene and Bill have been honourary members of the REM LEE Hospital Foundation.
What many people don’t know or may have forgotten was Mr. McRae’s involvement in EBAP (the Employment Bridging Assistance Program). Mr. McRae went to Ottawa to lobby for EBAP which topped up EI. In the early 1980s when interest rates were like 18% and the forest industry was in bad shape, he helped create EBAP in the greater Terrace area.
About 1200 people who were laid off from logging or the sawmill were put to work on silviculture programs that would do such things as bushing and clearing. EBAP was a way for people to perhaps gain new employment skills but more importantly, it provided financial help for families to bridge to better times at the same time looking after our local forests. I know this well as our family benefitted from this program.
When I was first sworn in as Mayor, I asked Mr. McRae to stand with me as I did my Oath of Office. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the next time. He certainly was great about filling his civic duties especially when it came to Riverboat Days.
Mr. McRae, with his wife, Helene, were always part of the former Captain and Queen entourage at opening ceremonies. He enjoyed being in the parade and ending at the Legion where he liked to get caught up with friends. His presence was always felt in the Remembrance Day parade, being a veteran of the Second World War.
We have been very fortunate to have had the many gifts and talents of Bill McRae. At the age of 96 a rest is well deserved. He may be gone but he won’t be forgotten.
Mayor, City of Terrace