Twenty-five years ago in March, Stephen Juba stepped forward to accept a framed photo of a Great Grey Owl and thus became the very first inductee into the WinnipegREALTORS®-established Citizens Hall of Fame.
Twenty-five years earlier, Juba had assured his place in local history when he defeated George Sharpe in what was regarded as an upset. At the time, few could have realized that Juba, the son of immigrants from Ukraine, was destined to be Winnipeg’s longest-serving mayor, holding office for 21 years.
“When you ask yourself which Winnipegger in our history has made the most significant contribution towards improving the quality of life of his fellow citizens ... there is one name which stands out,” said Brian Collie, who at the time was the past-president of WinnipegREALTORS®. “Without doubt, Winnipeggers agree that our best-known citizen has been, and still is, Stephen Juba.”
The man who brought the Pan Am Games to Winnipeg in 1967 was the symbol of a city coming of age and gaining confidence in its future.
The populist politician became famous for his many outlandish gimmicks which were used to stress a point to the media and residents of the city.
“He had a way with the media that any politician would envy,” wrote former Manitoba Premier Duff Roblin in his autobiography, Speaking for Myself, who periodically became the brunt of Juba’s wily ways, “along the with the capacity few could match of attracting the support of the citizens.”
Ed Schreyer, another former premier, described Juba as “a capital-C cute politician.”
Juba, who was recently featured in a segment of the nine-part CPAC series, The Fifties, was the first of 37 inductees into the Citizens Hall of Fame. In the series, hosted by Manitoban Holly Doan, Juba is called the “man who put Winnipeg on the map.”
Last year’s inductee was Terry Fox, the one-legged Marathon of Hope runner who grew up in Transcona. Although Fox died on September 2, 1981, before he could complete his cross-country run, the courage he displayed continues to inspire people from across the globe. The annual Terry Fox Run in 50 countries has raised over $500 million for cancer research.
During last year’s induction ceremony at Assiniboine Park, attended by Fox’s parents Betty and Rolly, as well as other relatives and friends, Mayor Sam Katz said he was “a very special individual who showed courage far beyond what any one of us can imagine ... It is a phenomenal legacy Terry has left us.”
Among the other hall of fame inductees are suffragette Nellie McClung, Duff Roblin, the premier responsible for the construction of “Duff’s Ditch,” businessman Israel Asper, Arnold Spohr, who made the Royal Winnipeg Ballet into an internationally-acclaimed troupe, medical researcher Naranian Dhalla and renowned authors Carol Shields and Gabrielle Roy.
“It’s a wonderful, unique and special program that is a permanent tribute to what can be done in Winnipeg,” said Bill Burns, a former long-time chair of the hall of fame committee. “Winnipeg is blessed to have so many of its citizens step forward and lead by example.”
Rick Preston, the present chair of the committee, said inductees show us what can be accomplished through talent and determination.
Preston said WinnipegREALTORS® is in the planning stages for organizing a special commemorative ceremony in September, when this year’s inductee will be honoured.
Sculptures of the hall of fame inductees are on permanent display along the “Walk of Fame” in the Formal Garden at Assiniboine Park.