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Former Falco boss was a good citizen

Gord Slade, a Sudbury community leader and philanthropist, died Jan. 8, just a few weeks before his 90th birthday.

Slade, a graduate of McGill University (1951), retired from Falconbridge Ltd. after 32 years of service in 1984. He held the post of president of the Canadian Nickel Division and general nanager, Sudbury Operations, after serving in areas of increasing responsibility.

In an interview for the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, Slade said, “My objective was to be a shift boss, make $10,000 a year and be as well liked as my dad.”

After retirement, Slade worked as a mining consultant and continued to participate on the boards of several mining corporations.

He was a leader in the Canadian Institute of Mining (Sudbury Branch chair, and vice-president for District 3), and was a recipient of the CIM Fellowship Award (1997).

In that same Canadian Mining Hall of Fame interview, Slade said, “My son says I am a professional volunteer.” He served on the boards of many institutions including Laurentian University, Cambrian College, Sudbury United Way (chair), and Sudbury Community Adjustment Project (chair).

Slade championed the Sudbury Mining Heritage Sculpture in Bell Park.

He was also a member of the informal group, Greater Sudbury Municipal Watch or “The Silver Seven.” This group of veteran community leaders were watchdogs over city politicians and bureaucrats for many years following amalgamation in 2001.

In 2016 he was awarded the Rotary Club of Sudbury’s Paul Harris Award.

At his request, there will be no visitation or service. People may wish to make a donation in Slade’s memory to the Gord and Pat Slade Heritage Fund with the Sudbury Community Foundation.

The Slade Foundation supports numerous non-profit organizations such as Brain Injury Association, Camp Quality, Nickel District Conservation Foundation, Northern Ontario Railway Museum and Heritage Centre, and Wild at Heart Wildlife Refuge Centre.

In November, Slade’s son, Fred, represented his parents at a funding announcement. He explained the money for the endowment fund came from his father’s stock market investments.

“All of a sudden he had this money he never had, and really didn’t have a need for,” said Fred. “He gave it away to a number of organizations, including this one. The beauty of this is it carries on…it leaves a legacy.”

He said his father learned charitable values early on, as he grew up during the Depression, and his family often helped people who were down on their luck.

Slade’s obituary says, “Gord wasn’t one for public recognition of flowery tributes. But we know he would be pleased beyond words if you would remember him by doing some of the things he loved best. ‘Smiley’ would encourage you say hi to everyone you meet, to teach a child to hunt or fish, to laugh, to dance, to write a big cheque to a small charity, to enjoy a Rusty Nail, to help send a kid to camp, to both encourage and to chide elected officials, to deliver meals or people that need a ride, to settle agreements, to ring the bells of the Sally Ann (lots of smiles and conversations there) or other things that will make you and others feel good about life. Gord would encourage you to serve others.”

He is survived by his wife, Pat, three children and four grandchildren.

Slade was born in Swan River, Manitoba. A few years ago, he wrote a book with Heather Campbell about his life: Simonhouse to Sudbury. Arthur Gordon Slade, A Mining Man.

Here is an excerpt:

The Sudbury Mining Monument Committee came along in 1992 and was a project close to his heart, and finally a way the city could honour and celebrate the men and women who dedicated their lives to mining.

Taking the position of vice-chair, Gord and the committee worked to identify and select a suitable site. Bell Park was selected and Timothy Schmalz , a sculptor from Elmira, Ont., was commissioned to design the sculpture.

The Sudbury Mining Heritage Sculpture was eventually erected in 2001. It is an 18-foot tall bronze sculpture depicting hundreds of miners descending from a large metropolis at the top of the sculpture down to two open-palm hands, the fingers digging into the earth which represents mine tunnel.

The genesis of the mining sculpture began with Oliverio Massimiliano, a Sudbury based lawyer by trade, who had also worked underground as a student for Falconbridge Nickel Mines.

Massimiliano believed the city deserved a monument to recognize the importance of mining in Sudbury’s history and culture, and he first conceived the idea in February 1992. It took nine exhaustive years for the project to come to fruition, The project was challenged by a lack of funding, excessive bureaucratic obstacles, the death of committee members including Massimiliano himself, and indecision over site locations.

Gord, who by 1992 was retired from Falconbridge Nickel Mine for eight years, was one of the people Massimiliano approached with his idea.

Gord and Massimiliano met a supportive Tom Davies, chairman of the Region of Sudbury who recommended representation from Inco sand labour unions on a committee to oversee the construction. Again, Gord was at the table with mining executives and union representatives, this time to honour the workers.

In Spring 1992, the committee agreed the memorial would be a celebration  of Sudbury’s mining heritage.

The original association drafted a mandate with objectives, a strategy, and a plan to determine the best location for such a monument.

At the initial meeting, it was also decided that the moument would not be strictly a memorial to miners who lost their lives but “a celebration of Sudbury mining heritage” as written by Jim Tester, a longtime president of Mine Mill Labour Union.

By 1996, little movement apart from an agreement to spend more than $550,000 was made, and the monument’s fundraising efforts were hampered by a weak economy.

By 1997, the sculptor, Timothy Schmaltz, had been chosen after bidding the lowest at $145,000 but no contracts were signed because of lack of funds. In March, a legal conflict with the city led to the monument’s original brainchild, Massomiliano, resignation as chairman of the monument association. By 1999, only $72,000 had been raised.

Gord would spend a large portion of 2000 arguing with the newly created Bell Park Advisory Committee and city council to accept and approve the original location, just as the 1993 city council has done seven years prior.

Gord made the final presentation on behalf of the Mining Monument Association near the end of 2000 to use the site opposite Science North. The new municipal government merely ignored all the recommendations that had been made so far and chose its own site, not consulting Gord or any other volunteer members of the committee on the changes.

The monument unveiling finally took place on September 15, 2001 in Bell Park.


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