Blyth's Scrimgeour memorialized by Greenway Trail marker
BY DENNY SCOTT
On Saturday, friends and family of the late Doug Scrimgeour gathered on the Greenway Trail, a passion project of his, to remember the life of a man who was constantly helping out his community.
Scrimgeour died last year after moving away from Blyth, where he grew up and spent much of his life, for Mexico, a country he had been working to help through philanthropic efforts for years.
Scrimgeour’s family and local environmentalist Phil Beard organized the event, at which several of Scrimgeour’s friends and family members spoke about the impact Scrimgeour had on the local community.
The event took place on the Greenway Trail, a municipally-maintained space that is now also part of the Goderich-to-Guelph (G2G) Rail Trail, because Scrimgeour had been a driving force in creating the trail and making it usable for the community. Donna Taylor, the secretary of the now-defunct Greenway Committee, spoke about how hard Scrimgeour worked to build the trail.
“I started off by mentioning it was nice to see that Doug’s vision had become a reality,” she said. “He saw a disused and abandoned railway track as an active recreation site for the area that showcased the history of the community and the creek and he worked to make it happen.”
She said Scrimgeour had worked with many partners to make the trail a reality and had brought numerous ideas back from his travels about how to improve the space.
“He presented so many different ideas for the Greenway,” she said. “Things like the Eco-Fair, the fitness stations, the kiosks and the gazebos all came out of his travels. He brought the ideas back and then worked to make them happen.”
She said the trail has been and continues to be an important part of the community, pointing to events like the Blyth Witches Walk as proof that the space was worthwhile in rejuvenating.
Taylor also said the trail has served in unexpected ways, like welcoming artists from the Blyth Festival to perform there during a 48-hour blackout.
Part of why the trail is so successful, she said, is that Scrimgeour could identify people’s strengths when they volunteered, which allowed him to steer them to where they would best serve the community’s interest.
“He got the most out of everyone that volunteered,” she said. “How lucky we were to have him.”
Taylor served on the committee with Scrimgeour until he moved away and was happy to see the celebration held as a way of remembering him.
“It was nice to be able to celebrate his life,” she said, “and be out where he spent so much time and effort.”
She said that his memorial will make sure people know how involved he was in the trail, which is great, and said she was happy to listen to the other speakers detail portions of his life.
Jeff Howson of the Fire Department of North Huron was also at the event and spoke about how important being a firefighter was to Scrimgeour, not just when he was a member of the Blyth Fire Department but after as well.
While Howson had known Scrimgeour since the former was a child, Howson wanted to share how much of an impact Scrimgeour had had on the fire department, saying he had spent years as a member of the department.
“He lived and breathed the fire department for a long time,” Howson said. “His support, even after retirement, was there.”
Scrimgeour had, in the years just before his death, taken his passion for firefighting and started gathering fire equipment for fire departments in less affluent countries across the world, including Mexico.
“He was involved in helping out other countries that weren’t as fortunate as what we are,” Howson said. “He was always trying to help firefighters, one way or another.”
Before the event, Howson had been at Fire Department of North Huron training where local firefighters were practising auto extrication techniques, which was of interest, Howson said, because Scrimgeour had been instrumental in bringing those practices to the local fire department during his time there.
Howson said the event was a great opportunity for people to share in some fond memories of Scrimgeour.
“I wasn’t surprised by the positive comments on his life,” he said. “It was a memorable experience.”
Scrimgeour’s son Rick spoke to The Citizen on Monday about how important the event was and the remarkable image painted of his father.
“The event was wonderful,” he said. “It was really great.”
Rick said so many people have lost family during the pandemic and not been able to mark the lives lost, but to be able to celebrate his father on the trail was something special.
“We haven’t been able to do anything for Dad,” he explained. “With his wife Diane being in Mexico and not being able to travel back, we were limited in what we could do.”
Rick explained that, throughout the year, he would normally be visiting his father and Diane in Mexico, but because of the pandemic, he hadn’t been able to make the trip and, similarly, the pandemic stopped Diane from returning home for the celebration.
Beard’s efforts, Rick said, were incredible in making the event happen.
“He did so much heavy lifting to make the event happen,” he said. “One of the things I will always remember about being in a small town is that the community can do some nice things to honour and remember the people there.”
For his part, Beard said he was just happy to help out. He had known Scrimgeour from the Greenway committee, as well as through baseball and hockey. Beard said he was glad to be able to support remembrance of Scrimgeour, but said there were several people who helped make the celebration happen.
“I thought it was very nice, and a very fitting tribute to Doug,” he told The Citizen.
Rick learned a lot during the event, but what he already knew and was able to speak to was the affection that his father had for the community of Blyth.
“If there was something in the community he had a passion for, he was behind it 100 per cent,” he said.
Rick said he was able to share some information about his father, but was happy that the event was focused on celebrating his legacy.
“It wasn’t a funeral, so I didn’t want to give a eulogy, but I did talk about how much he loved the community,” Rick said. “He was deeply involved in it all his life.”
The ceremony was nice and he feels that his father would have been humbled by having people recount the efforts of his life. He also said thanks needed to go to Beard and the others involved, adding his family will never forget it.
“My family is honoured and thankful for what the speakers were able to tell us,” he said.
Rick also mentioned that, in the future, his father’s remains will be returned from Mexico and buried in the Blyth Union Cemetery. He said there will likely be a small graveside service for family and close friends at that time.