Anyone who has attended a significant community event in the Village of Fenelon Falls might wonder, who is behind the creation of these events? Over the last 30 years, a small group of individuals have had a significant impact on our little community – putting Fenelon Falls on the map. A group of friends and like-minded people with shared values, who love and have loved Fenelon Falls, got involved with many committees often sponsored by the Fenelon Falls and District Chamber of Commerce (FFDCC). One of these individuals was our own Bob Pennock, who recently passed away. This article is a tribute to Bob and his contribution to our community.
Bob was introduced to Fenelon Falls as a cottager. His parents owned a cottage on Sturgeon Lake, where he met his wife Lorraine and where they later built their home on that same property. Bob married Lorraine in 1958 and had a successful career working in positions from an insurance adjuster to marketer to entrepreneur working with his brother Ken in his Insurance Restoration business, and then began his political career as an MP for Etobicoke North in 1984. Once retired, he worked for the federal and provincial parole boards and the CPP Tribunal. He and his family moved to Fenelon Falls in 1994. He was a proud and loving father of three children and doting grandfather of seven grandchildren.
Bob stayed active in politics. He was a member, supporter, and fundraiser for the provincial and federal riding associations for Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Brock (HKLB) and into 2019 Bob was the Vice President of the provincial HKLB Riding Association. As a previous MP, each Remembrance Day he was called upon by the Fenelon Falls Legion 238 to place the wreath for the Government of Canada at the Cenotaph, which he did no matter the weather. Bob served in the Canadian Armed Forces as a reservist with the Royal Canadian Navy.
Bob loved Fenelon Falls and was always Fenelon-focused.
Long before Bob became a Director of the FFDCC and got involved in community events, he was well-known for his planning and organizational skills, hosting festive events for family and friends. Bob loved to see people of all ages enjoying themselves and to bring people together to enjoy an event or central idea. At meetings at Bob’s house you were always offered a glass of wine. In more recent years Bob also became a member of Powerlinks.
Bob was considered the ‘idea person’ and many ideas he had. For every idea, he had a vision for what he wanted, could see all the details of it, and the process to get there – ‘he was laser focused’ and if anyone could make it happen it would be Bob. He was never interested in the fame, just the end result.
With his group of community friends, they did make events happen - Santa Day, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and Heritage Day, only to name a few of the significant events that Bob influenced. There were always two criteria for planning events i.e. ensuring the event was in line with City requirements, and that the event was to be sustainable or repeatable so the village and its businesses could continue to benefit year after year from the attendance of residents, visitors, and cottagers.
Bob became a key member of the Santa Day Committee and the ideas he brought to this special day were all about the kids and watching them enjoy his ideas and having his dream come to fruition. The Chilly Willy ride and merry-go-round in Sobey’s parking lot, setting up the grandstand for more folks to watch the night-time parade and getting the high school involved in Santa Day were all Bob’s ideas.
Bob had a great love of music and he helped recruit bands for Santa Day – going over every detail of the timing of the parade, breaking things down into minutes. He orchestrated most of these activities, as he needed all the logistics to be worked out. Even Conklin, the ride provider, was impressed with Bob’s attention to detail in getting rides to Fenelon for the day’s event.
Bob loved history and the monarchy. Three key ‘summer’ events that come to mind include Heritage Day, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and Simcoe Day, for which he was a key driver. Bob’s vision of these events was like a dream come true.
Heritage Day was a major summer event on Canada Day in 2010. Bob realized his vision as new settlers arrived in their boats with the local Indigenous people canoeing alongside to land at Fenelon Falls festooned with flags down the lock to the lockmaster’s house. It was amazing to be part of that re-enactment of local ancestors first arriving here. The closure of Water Street for events had always been a non- starter, however somehow Bob was also able to do so.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in the summer of 2012, resulted in recognition by none other than Queen Elizabeth herself. With a pageant or flotilla of local boats coming together on Cameron Lake, to staging concerts on the Trent Severn Waterway (TSW) island – all the activities were well thought-out and implemented. One of the fun activities had local businesses decorate their storefront windows with a tribute to the monarchy.
Then came Bob’s ‘piece de resistance’, Simcoe Day. With his team, he planned every detail, and implemented this very successful ‘repeatable’ summer event – the re-enactment of the War of 1812 – staging the battle on the TSW island. Fun was had by all.
Feedback from the community on the activities stated that these events engendered pride in the Village and drew much attention from outside the Village.
Bob also was instrumental in getting the splash pad built in 2018 in Garnet Graham Beach Park, where children will enjoy themselves for years to come. He always wanted to bring joy to kids. He worked tirelessly to organize the water supply to the splash pad, how it should be sourced and gathered funds for its development.
Bob’s last outstanding accomplishment was establishing our own local mixed chapter of Probus. Success beyond his dream of 45 members to support our seniors, now has over 300 members with many still on a waiting list. Probus Club of Fenelon Falls brings many like-minded people together to share and create memories, friendships, and brings meaning to peoples’ lives.
On a more personal note, one of his closest friends has said: “Bob had a deep impact on me and the community. His indefatigable spirit kept me going many times -being easily frustrated with politics and the like, Bob’s dogged pursuit of the best things for our community likewise inflated and re-inflated my own ability to engage. How can you get frustrated or derailed with a man around you that simply won’t stop?”
Bob always went for ‘bigger is always better’, ‘don’t let details stand in your way’, ‘make it happen’ and ‘let your dream become reality’.
He will long be remembered for his wonderful hospitality, his humour, his generosity of spirit and finally, his tireless nature when it came to the improvement of our community.
He didn’t accept the word ‘no’ easily – always expected ‘yes’ when he asked for something. If something went amiss – he would just move on.
We were all blessed to have known Bob as a friend, a neighbour, a volunteer, a mentor and an all-around great guy. He will be missed by all who knew him.
Thank you Bob from all of us.