At the spry age of 94, James Moffatt has been chosen as Virden’s Citizen of the Year. He was presented the award on December 4, 2010, by Mayor Jeff McConnell, one of the men who nominated Moffatt not only for this award, but also for the Order of Manitoba back in 2008.
An enthusiastic contributor to the community for nearly four decades, Moffatt relates that he was surprised and honoured to have been chosen for the award.
“I knew a couple weeks ahead of time that I was nominated, but I didn’t know I’d win.”
Deputy Mayor Terry Johnson, a member of the party responsible for nominating Moffatt, was not surprised. “Jim is a quiet, unassuming person and his legacy through the [historical] Aud Theatre and other projects that he has been involved with is quite significant; he is a person that is certainly worthy of the annual award from the town.”
After World War II, Moffatt left the army and travelled all over Canada before finally being sent to Virden by Swirtz Brothers Construction of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, in 1971. He had been appointed foreman on the building of the Westman Nursing Home.
“I came here to work, I lived in and ate at the Alec Hotel, and I married the cook,” says Moffatt of his late wife, Emily.
Since he came to live in Virden, Moffatt has been a significant member of the community, and he has a wall of awards to show for it—although they are usually hidden behind photos of his grandchildren.
Moffatt’s tireless dedication to the town is most prominent in his indefatigable involvement with the Aud Theatre. Built in 1911, the Aud was used as a movie theatre until it fell into disrepair and talk of demolishing it arose. Wanting to ensure that the Aud lived to see another era, Moffatt was one of the leading members of a committee formed to save the Aud in 1980. He, along with others, dedicated countless hours to raising funds, meeting with stakeholders and restoring the Aud, hands on, to bring the theatre to its current state of antebellum grandeur that it is in now.
A member of the Board of the Auditorium Theatre Committee even today, Moffatt has been awarded a lifetime membership of the committee to honour his dedication and contribution to the theatre.
Moffatt’s involvement in the community is evident in many other areas and organizations as well. As a WWII veteran, he is also an active member of the Virden Legion and often frequents the hall to play cards—just recently he was dealt his very first 29 Crib hand. He served as President of Virden’s legion branch for the 1979-1980 term and has chaired many committees over the years. He has also given the keynote address at many Remembrance Day services at the Aud Theatre, at other local legions and in many school auditoriums over the years.
In 1996, Moffatt and his wife were recognized by Virden in Bloom for their plentiful produce and flower garden with first prize for Outstanding Vegetable Garden. An avid golfer, Moffatt spent a lot of time on the golf course with his clubs and still does, but he also tended to the flower beds and shrubbery for a number of years.
Moffatt has also sat on committees for the Sherwood Nursing Home and the Virden Cemetery. An active member of the Virden Curling Club, he was awarded an Honourary Life Membership in 1990 and can still be found gliding down the ice during weekly games throughout the winter.
Earlier this year, Moffatt was presented with the Canadian flag that flew in the Peace tower in Ottawa. A proud member of Virden, he entrusted the flag to the town for safe keeping and saw it hang in his beloved Aud Theatre for the Remembrance Day service this November.
Despite the array of local awards displayed behind his grandchildren’s photos, Moffatt maintains that you don’t go through life without help. “I didn’t get all of those by myself,” he says, motioning to the awards, “I had help getting those. I wouldn’t have done half of it if it hadn’t been for Emily.”
These days, beyond his involvement with the Aud and the Legion, Moffatt is kept busy with curling, socializing, playing cards, and caring for his cat, Rudi.
“My doctors keep me in shape,” he says with a smirk. “I got a pacemaker this year—it slowed down a bit, but they fixed me up and now it’s going over the speed limit.”
As to why Moffatt has given so much to his community, he explains that he is “pretty proud of Virden, it’s a tremendous town to live in.”
Another nominee considered for Virden’s Citizen of the Year award was Brenda Cameron who has been a prominent member of the community since she returned to Virden in 1989.
“Brenda is also very worthy of the award,” says Johnson, “and will probably be nominated and recognized in the future.”
Published in the Virden Empire-Advance. January, 2011.