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COLUMN: A man who made a difference in his town

Former businessman and town councillor Bob Naylor passed away Wednesday, but will always be remembered for his commitment to his community, its youth and his family. The Pictou Historical Photograph Society shares this photo of Naylor hosting a hamburger-eating contest in 1970s.
Former businessman and town councillor Bob Naylor passed away Wednesday, but will always be remembered for his commitment to his community, its youth and his family. The Pictou Historical Photograph Society shares this photo of Naylor hosting a hamburger-eating contest in 1970s.

PICTOU There are always people in this world who leave lasting impressions.

You might only see them once in awhile. You might only remember them for one act, either good or bad. You might not even realize at the time they had such an influence over your life.

But when they pass, and you think back, you realize they did create memories that will last forever.

This was Bob Naylor. He wasn’t someone I visited regularly and I never worked for him or played any sports he was involved in, but I grew up in a small town where he made a difference.

When I was a teenager and he opened Naylor’s in downtown Pictou, it was the kind of store no one had ever seen before. It had groceries, gifts, skate sharpening and a lunch counter that made it a hangout for kids, a gathering spot for locals and a one-stop shop for those in need of almost anything. It was innovative and new age for our little town.  

Bob eventually sold the business and moved on to managing the Hector Arena where he not only fostered his love of sports, but his need to help our community and its youth. He had his own personal accomplishments in officiating, coaching and managing larger facilities, but anyone will tell you he had just as much pride for his hometown rink as he did for any multi-sportplex or the teams that skated in them.

After the Hector, he started his own taxi and courier service where he fulfilled his love of driving and continued to help people and serve his community.

Honestly, though, I think it was his role as town councillor that suited him best because he could not only champion the little guy, but he could use all his experience in business and community to make sure the work was getting done right.

He was never afraid to offer an opposing view at council or in his numerous letters to editor. A quick search reveals lines in letters such as “I am certain, however, that we rank first as the biggest complainers” or my personal favourite, where he called a local politician “a thin-skinned hothead”. The messages were quick and to the point, usually effective and true.

There were times he and I didn’t see eye-to-eye over a story I had written and he would call me out on it, but the conversations always ended on a positive note with him usually providing me another news tip to follow up on.

At any given council meeting, he would ask town staff about grass being cut or trash being picked up. It was the small things that made the big difference because it all fostered a sense of pride in his hometown. Pride that would draw people back to the area or keep the youth here.

This past fall, Pictou’s outgoing council passed a motion to rename the street in front of the Hector Arena Naylor Drive in honour of Bob’s commitment to the rink and his town.

At the time, former mayor Joe Hawes said Bob was known for randomly rewarding people with $10 Tim Hortons gift cards for doing things to make the town better.

Joe said Bob never made a big deal out of it, but wanted people to feel that their work or volunteerism was appreciated.

It is an award that Bob would never have thought to give himself, but one that would have been well deserved.

 

Sueann Musick is a reporter with The News.

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