Freedom of the City Award

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The Freedom of the City is the highest award bestowed by the City of Kelowna, and is only awarded as a unanimous decision of City Council. Reserved for individuals or military units of exceedingly high merit, the Freedom of the City award recognizes outstanding community contributions of benefit to Kelowna.

“Freedom of the City” is an honorary designation that has been awarded infrequently since 1946.

Freedom of the City Past Recipients
Robert Hobson, April 25, 2015

Born and raised in Kelowna, Robert is a professional planner with many years of experience in setting public policy, heritage conservation and environmental and land use planning.

He began his career with the federal government in Ottawa, then moved back to BC when he married Adair, working as a municipal planning director and then as planner for a Federal-Provincial initiative to manage the Fraser River Estuary.  They moved back to Kelowna in the early 1980s where he began a career in heritage conservation, as well as running the family orchard in the Mission.  

His interest in heritage conservation and city planning attracted Robert to run for Council and he was elected in 1988, a position he held until 2014. He was also chairman of the Central Okanagan Regional District between 1993 and 2014 and a Director, with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities between 1994 and 2010.

Robert was awarded the Queens Jubilee Medal for his leadership on municipal, regional, and provincial issues.  His focus included reconciling interests between local and regional governments, between the provincial government and local governments, and between municipalities and First Nations.  As a civic leader he also championed transit-oriented development, parks, and bicycle networks. 

He was a leader in community heritage projects, including acting as planner for the restoration of Guisachan Heritage Park, Benvoulin Heritage Church, and the Laurel Packinghouse in Kelowna.  He was the first Executive Director for the Heritage Society of British Columbia and was instrumental in creating the Kelowna Heritage Foundation and the Central Okanagan Land Trust.  As a City Councillor, he was instrumental in implementing heritage conservation areas in Kelowna, in forming a Heritage Foundation, and in implementing a public art policy.

Andre Blanleil, April 25, 2015
Walter Gray, April 25, 2015

Walter was born in Victoria, BC in 1940 and his family moved to Kelowna in 1946. In 1966, he married Doreen and together they have four children.

He began his radio career in 1957 at CKOV Kelowna, later establishing stations in Salmon Arm and Revelstoke in 1965, starting CKIQ Kelowna in 1971, and Sun Country Cablevision in Enderby and Armstrong in 1987, with long-time partner and friend Bob Hall. Walter was named Broadcaster of the Year by the BC Association of Broadcasters in 1993. In 1996, he sold his interests in his radio stations.

Between 1975 and 1997, Walter’s community service included Founding Director of the Kelowna Snowfest, President of the Okanagan Neurological Association, President of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, President of the Kelowna-Kasugai Sister City Association, Director of Telefilm Canada, Chair of the Okanagan University College Bold Horizons Capital campaign, Director of the Okanagan Film Commission, Director of BC Transit, member of the Premier’s Task Force on Homelessness, Mental Illness and Addictions, and Member of the BC Achievement Awards Advisory Panel.

In 1986, Walter served as a Kelowna City Councillor until 1990.  In 1996, he was elected Mayor for his first of three consecutive three-year terms, being re-elected in 1999 and 2002. In November 2011, he was re-elected as Mayor for a three-year term to 2014. In November 2014, he was appointed Chair for the Insurance Corporation of BC.

Walter was awarded Freedom of the City in recognition of 15 years of outstanding service in public office as well as Kelowna’s longest serving Mayor.

Senator Ross Fitzpatrick, May 26, 2008

The Honourable Ross Fitzpatrick was born in 1933 to a pioneer Okanagan agricultural family. 

After a successful business career founding and developing companies in aerospace, oil & gas and mining, he returned to the Okanagan in 1986 to promote value-added agriculture and founded CedarCreek Estate Winery to pioneer the planting of vinifera grapes to produce premium quality wines. CedarCreek was twice named Canada’s Winery of the Year thus focusing national recognition on Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley as a centre for the production of world class wines.

From 1998 to 2008, Ross served in the Senate of Canada representing both Canada and the Okanagan-Similkameen.

Throughout his career he has worked tirelessly to protect the environment, promote green economic development and contribute to the public and community's well-being and has received numerous awards for his work including the Order of BC awarded September 2009.

Ben Lee, July 1, 2001

Ben was born in Armstrong, B.C. in 1930. A longtime resident of Rutland and affectionately known as “The Mayor of Rutland”, Ben served as City Councillor between 1973 and 1996, promoting parks, recreation and health care. He was instrumental in the assimilation of Rutland into the City of Kelowna when the City’s boundaries expanded in 1973, and he played a significant role in the development of the City’s Heritage Management Plan and Guisachan Heritage Park.

A devoted teacher by profession, Ben’s actions always reflected his genuine concern for youth and he championed many innovative programs, facilities and services for children of all ages. A founding member of Kelowna’s Multicultural Society and Folkfest celebration, Ben’s valuable contribution to the preservation of cultural heritage was recognized provincially with the 1989 Public Service Award of the Vancouver Multicultural Society of B.C. His award marked the first time the award had been presented to anyone outside of the Lower Mainland.

As Chair of the Regional District’s Park Committee between 1983 and 1996, Ben was a strong advocate of parkland acquisition and was instrumental in the development of a number of regional parks. Over the years his community involvement also extended to his church, Kelowna General Hospital, the Athans Aquatic Centre and coaching youth sports.

Ben was also active in the provincial arena serving on the B.C. Folkfest Society, the Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of B.C., the B.C. Canada Day Committee and the Provincial Government Advisory Committee on Cultural Heritage.

In recognition of Ben’s years of dedicated service, in 1996 the City of Kelowna named a new eight-hectare park in Rutland in his honour. Ben Lee Park officially opened on June 24, 2001.

Ben passed away in March 2016 at the age of 86. 

James H. Stuart, July 1, 2001

Born and raised in Kelowna, James (Jim) Stuart was first elected to public office in 1967. He served on the Board of the Regional District of Central Okanagan for 29 years including 15 years as Chairman. In 1973 Jim embarked on a 23-year career in municipal politics when elected to the City of Kelowna Council. In 1986 Jim successfully ran for Mayor, a position he held until 1996.

Renowned for his stringent financial management and willingness to listen to all concerned citizens, Jim successfully nurtured the growth of Kelowna from a small town of the 1970’s to a vibrant and dynamic city of the 1990’s. Dedicated to Kelowna’s economic, social and environment well-being, Jim created a strong foundation for today’s growth and prosperity. Jim also served on the Central Okanagan Regional Hospital Board for 29 years and the Kelowna General Hospital Board for 11 years.

While Jim was extensively involved in local affairs, he also played a significant role provincially. He was an executive member of the Municipal Finance Authority for 17 years, of which 12 were as chairman. He was also appointed to the B.C. Transit Authority for five years and served a one-year appointment to the Financial Institutions Commission.

As an active member of the tree fruit industry, Jim was a director of the Fruit Growers Mutual Insurance Company and served on the Board of Directors of B.C. Tree Fruits and Sun-Rype Products Ltd.

In recognition of Jim’s dedication to the community, the City of Kelowna named a new waterfront park in his honour in 1996. Stuart Park includes an outdoor ice rink and is designed to create a focal point for the City’s civic and Cultural District and provide environmental and fisheries benefits for the 300 metres of downtown waterfront.

Jim is married with three children.

Honourable William Bennett, P.C. November 1, 1988

Born in Kelowna in 1932, Bill Bennett contributed to the city in business and commerce, politics and community service.

Bill was first elected as a South Okanagan MLA (Social Credit) in September 1973. He led the Social Credit to three consecutive majority governments after taking over the party leadership from his father, W.A.C. Bennett, in 1973. He went on to win the 1975 election, becoming Premier in December. Bill served as Premier of B.C. from 1975 to 1986. 

Shortly after his re-election in May, 1979, B.C. experienced the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. With schemes reminiscent of his father’s great projects, Bill pulled the province out of the recession with a series of massive public works projects that included highways and dams.

The Coquihalla Highway was his legacy to people of the Okanagan. While the Okanagan Connector wasn’t completed until 1990, five years after he left office, it changed the face of transportation in the Valley and was a significant economic boost to the region.

Bill's crowning glory was Expo 86, the Vancouver World’s Fair, launching the province onto the world stage. During the six months of Expo, B.C. evolved from a relative unknown to one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. But shortly after the fair opened and its success was assured, Bill shocked his supporters by announcing he was leaving public life. He resigned in 1986 and returned to private business. 

He passed away December 3, 2015 in Kelowna.

Blair James Horn, September 11, 1984

Blair James Horn was born in Kelowna in 1961, and was honoured with the Freedom of the City as a result of his athletic achievements.

In 1984 at the age of 23, he won a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles as stroke of the Canadian Men’s Eights rowing team. He was also a bronze medallist at the 1983 Pan Am Games.

Blair currently practices law in Vancouver.

Dr. Walter Frederick Anderson, September 28, 1981

Born in Nova Scotia, Dr. Walter Anderson moved to Kelowna to set up practice with Dr. A.S. Underhill. With the two new arrivals, Kelowna boasted a total of seven doctors. Dr.  Anderson practiced in Kelowna for 42 years, from 1938 to 1980, and was heavily involved in community service.

Dr. Anderson served as Medical Officer with the BC Dragoons during WWII. He helped raise funds for the Kelowna Memorial Arena and the Kelowna Community Theatre, served as president of the Kelowna Aquatic Association from 1946 to 1949, and was Commodore of the Kelowna Regatta in 1975. He was also active with the Okanagan Historical Society. A leader in local medical affairs, Dr. Anderson was president of the Kelowna Medical Society, the Southern Interior Medical Association and was a 10-year member of the British Columbia Medical Association Board of Directors. He also served as president in 1970.

Dr. Anderson retired from practice in 1980. 

In 2012, the Dr. Walter Anderson Building opened as part of the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre Project at Kelowna General Hospital.

Richard Francis Parkinson, January 5, 1970

Known as Mr. Jaycee, Mr. Alderman, Mr. Mayor and Mr. Okanagan, Dick Parkinson was best known as Mr. Regatta.

Born in Fairview, B.C. in 1901, the Parkinson family moved to Kelowna in 1906. In the 1920s, Dick sold Okanagan fruit and vegetables to the Prairies, and he opened fruit wholesale houses in Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina. At the same time, his name was associated with sports in Kelowna, both as a player, coach and manager of several different teams. He also started the Junior Board of Trade, served as president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, and in 1939 became the youngest member of Kelowna City Council at the age of 38. He also managed Crown Fruit Co., fruit packers and shippers.

After service in the army, he revived his interest in local politics and won a seat on Kelowna City Council again in 1948; he kept his seat until 1957. He became Mayor in 1958 and served until 1969. He focused on expanding the city’s boundaries, developing the airport and promoting the City as a convention destination. He also served four years as B.C. member of the National Capital Commission in Ottawa.

His interest in Regatta began in the years prior to 1920, but he didn’t formally become involved until 1932. He served as vice-president, president, and secretary-manager, tirelessly giving of his time to promote the aquatic festival which he loved and believed was so very important to Kelowna.

He was honoured with the Freedom of the City for his long service to the community in sports, politics and public events.

Dick passed away in 1977 and in line with Dick's long standing interest in the Kelowna Regatta and the parks and recreation fields, the Parkinson Recreation Centre was named in his honour.

Major-General George Randolph Pearkes, VC, DSO and MC, April 24, 1967

Born in England in 1888, G.R. Pearkes emigrated to Canada and joined the Royal Northwest Mounted Police at 25. He fought valiantly in the First World War as a member of the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion. He continued a distinguished career in the army and retired as a Major-General. After his retirement he took and active interest in Canadian politics and served as Minister of National Defence from 1957 to 1959.

He retired from the Army in February 1945 and went into federal politics, winning the Nanaimo riding for the Progressive Conservative Party. In the 1945 federal election, he was elected as a Progressive Conservative Party candidate in the Nanaimo riding and served as Minister of National Defence from 1957 to 1960 under Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. He resigned from federal politics in 1960, when he became Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, serving until July 1968. In 1962, he was appointed Honorary Colonel of his old regiment, the British Columbia Dragoons. He was appointed Honorary Commanding Officer in 1970.  

In 1967, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. Parkes died on May 30, 1984 in Victoria. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

British Columbia Dragoons, February 11, 1963

The British Columbia Dragoons were honoured for their long and distinguished service as a military regiment in the Okanagan.

First mention of an Okanagan military presence can be found in the Vernon News of 1898, official history begins in 1908 with the formation of “B” Squadron, Canadian Mounted Rifles, in Vernon. In 1910 permission was given to form a Calvary Regiment known as the 30th B.C. Horse. When war broke out in 1914 the 30th B.C. Horse amalgamated with the Victoria Independent Squadron to form the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles. In June 1915 the regiment joined the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles Brigade in England; once in France the brigade was converted into infantry and fought through to the end of the war present at every major engagement in which the Canadian Corps took part.

The 2nd C.M.R.’s returned to Canada in 1919 and in 1920 the regiment once again became a mounted unit known as the First British Columbia Mounted Rifles. The name subsequently became the British Columbia Dragoons. The B.C. Dragoons trained as cavalry until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939; “B” Squadron was headquartered in Kelowna.

In 1940 a slate of officers from the B.C. Dragoons was used to form the 5th Canadian Motor Cycle Regiment, which then became the 9th Armoured Regiment (British Columbia Dragoons). Forming part of the 2nd Brigade of the 5th Armoured Division the regiment landed in Italy in 1943, fighting up Italy with the Canadian Corps. In 1945 the corps moved to France, then to the northwest Europe theatre of battle where the Dragoons played an important role. Upon their return to B.C. a welcome home ceremony was held in Kelowna (January 7th, 1946) at which time Lt. Col. Angle, DSO, ED, a resident of Okanagan Mission, was honoured with the Freedom of the City. He had been in command of the troops at the end of the war.

Dr. William John Knox, January 3, 1961

Arriving in Kelowna in 1902 as a new medical graduate, Dr. Knox quickly gained a reputation as a warm, affectionate and fun-loving individual who kept up-to-date with medical advances despite his isolation in the B.C. interior. He married in 1905 and he and his wife Jean had four children.

Despite the demands of running a busy family practice and acting as the area’s dentist, Dr. Knox found the time to be a charter member of the Kelowna Rotary Club, to serve as president of the BC Medical Association and to sit on the School Board. He was appointed medical inspector of schools in 1909, and each year, for a total of 53 years, he presented the board with a report on the conditions of the schools and the health of the school population. He service was formally recognized in 1961 with the opening of Dr. Knox School.

In 1946 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire; in 1951 his alma mater, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, awarded him a Doctor of Laws. That year he also opened the ultra-modern Knox Medical Clinic which housed nine physicians. Two years later he was chosen the Good Citizen for Kelowna and district, and in 1961 he was honoured as a Freeman of the City in recognition of his years of outstanding service to the community.

Dr. Knox practiced medicine in Kelowna for 60 years and was a well-respected member of the community. Dr. Knox retired in 1963 and died in 1967.

Stanley Merriam Simpson, April 15, 1957

S.M. Simpson was honoured with the Freedom of the City due to his significant role in Kelowna’s growth and development, and for the services rendered in the advancement of the City.

S.M., as he was often called, was born in southern Ontario. As a 19-year-old apprentice carpenter with a Grade 8 education, he headed west, homesteading in Saskatchewan while also working as an itinerant carpenter. Nine years later, in 1913, Stan arrived in Kelowna, bought a carpentry shop behind the firehall and made doors and windows and custom furniture.  In 1920, Stan moved to a fire-damaged cannery on Abbott Street and began making wooden fruit boxes. In 1930 he purchased property at Manhattan Beach and built a sawmill, veneer plant, box factory and established a booming ground on Okanagan Lake. In addition, a retail building supply outlet was opened on Ellis Street in 1948. S & K Plywood at Manhattan Beach began operations in 1957, and upon its opening, the Kelowna City Council awarded Stanley M. Simpson the Freedom of the City.

S.M. established the Stanley M. Simpson Knox Mountain Trust to be used for projects that would help everyone enjoy the park’s raw natural beauty. Through the Kelowna Saw Mill Company, he also ensured land was available for civic uses downtown, which resulted in the block City Hall is located on and the southern portion of Stuart Park to be held in Trust.

S.M. Simpson was not active in the company after 1955; he died in 1959.

George Howard Dunn, April 4, 1955

George Dunn began his career in banking in Rossland in 1901; he then worked in Japan for two years before coming to Kelowna in 1908. He became the City’s second City Clerk in June of 1908. The City’s offices then consisted of one room in the A.S. Cox building, located near the present Paramount Block. In 1909 the City offices were moved to two rooms in the Keller Block, where they remained until the present City Hall was constructed on Water Street in 1949.

In 1909 George Dunn married Kathleen Gorman and they had two children. One of the first amateur radio operators in Canada, George was involved in the formation of the Kelowna Radio Association in 1928. He was also instrumental in obtaining a Coat-of-Arms for the City in 1954.

Well respected for his knowledge of civic affairs and administration, he was elected a Life Member of both the Municipal Officers’ Association of B.C. and the Okanagan Valley Municipal Association in 1949, in recognition of his long service and valuable contribution to the municipal affairs of the province, and particularly the Okanagan Valley. He served the City until his retirement in December, 1958.

George was honoured with the Freedom of the City in recognition of his 50 years of devoted service as Kelowna’s City Clerk.

Honourable William Andrew Cecil Bennett, PC, December 8, 1952

W.A.C. Bennett first arrived in Kelowna in 1930 from Vancouver. Purchasing a hardware store, he became very active in the community and took a strong interest in Kelowna’s development encouraging the tree fruit industry and the development of a local radio station. He also fought for better roads, ferries and communication. In 1941 he won the provincial election and sat as a Conservative in the provincial legislature. In 1951 he left the conservatives to sit as an independent, shortly thereafter joining the Social Credit Party. 1952 brought a hard-fought election and the Social Credit Party edged out the CCF by one seat; as House Leader W.A.C. Bennett was asked to form the government.

During the next 20 years he focused on highways and transportation facilities, as well as educational and medical needs. New hospitals and extended care units were established, and the Medical Services Plan came into being.

A member of the Queen’s Privy Council, the Honourable W.A.C. Bennett and his wife May hosted annual garden parties on the grounds of their Ethel Street home for many years. When his government was defeated in 1972, W.A.C. was the longest standing BC Premier with 20 years of provincial leadership to his credit. He retired in 1973, and died in 1979.

William Andrew Cecil Bennett was awarded Freedom of the City due to the honour he brought upon Kelowna with his appointment as Premier.

Barbara Ann Scott, October 24, 1949

Known as “Canada’s Sweetheart” and “Canada’s Queen of the Ice Lanes”, Barbara Ann Scott won the World Figure Skating Championship in 1947 at the age of 18. She repeated as champion in 1948; she also won the European title and the Olympic Gold medal that year.

In October 1949 Barbara Ann made an appearance in Kelowna with the “Skating Sensation of 1950” ice show for the opening of the Memorial Arena. She was made a Freeman of the City, an honorary member of the Kelowna Jaycees and was presented with a gold brooch after her skating performance.

Scott died in 2012 at the age of 84 at her home in Florida. 

Brigadier H.H. (Harry) Angle, DSO, January 7, 1946

Brigadier Angle, DSO, MID, ED, was born in England and moved to Kelowna at age 16. He and his brother Syd ran the Bear Creek Ranch for several years. In 1929, at age 23, he and his new wife Margaret established a farm in Okanagan Mission. In 1932 he joined the Okanagan Mounted Rifles Militia, the forerunner to the British Columbia Dragoons, beginning a distinguished military career. 

As Lieutenant Colonel he commanded the British Columbia Dragoons during WW II in Italy and on the European Continent, earning the DSO. Following the end of the Italian campaign, Brigadier Angle led his troops into battle in North-West Europe and into the final battle in the Delfzijl Pocket, liberating the Netherlands from German occupation. The British Columbia Dragoons moved to the Veendam area after this final battle and were instrumental in repatriation of the German prisoners and the establishment of municipal affairs in the area, thus establishing a bond between Kelowna and Veendam that is celebrated today.

The regiment returned to Kelowna in 1946 and LCol. Angle was honoured with the Freedom of the City award; he was the first recipient of this award in recognition of the honour he brought to Kelowna through his stellar service career. In 1947 he served as stipendiary magistrate for Kelowna, but was called upon the following year to serve on the United Nations committee as a military observer in Pakistan. Brigadier Angle returned to Okanagan Mission, however was sent to India in 1949 acting as Chief Military Adviser to a United Nations mission dealing with a border dispute between India and Pakistan. Tragically he was killed in an airplane crash in India in July, 1950.

The Brigadier H.H. Angle Walkway in City Park was dedicated August 24, 2005 with a ceremony that included the raising of the United Nations flag. A marker and bronze plaque acknowledge Brigadier Angle's service to his community and the world. The Brigadier Angle Armoury at 720 Lawrence Avenue in Kelowna is also named in his honour.