After three decades, recreation co-ordinator Bob Pope is “stepping out.”
Described by his peers as a “visionary” in the field of health and wellness and recognized internationally for his unique programs, Pope is retiring at age 59.
“It’s time,” he said thoughtfully this week. “I’m into my 32nd year and it’s time to try something new and get on to the next phase of my life.
“This has been a dream job and man, I feel blessed but I’m excited about living a little bit more in the now, not focusing on what’s down the road, just smelling the roses a little more.”
He recalled his start in special-events planning at age six in the basement of the family’s Calgary home.
While other kids were still learning to count to 10 or avoiding the collapse of London Bridge, Pope was busy arranging visits by the local fire department’s Sparky the Fire Dog club.
“And then came music, the Beatles and in Grade 2 and 3, because I couldn’t play an instrument, I started an air band — I think we were the first one,” he recalled.
Moving the clock ahead, Pope enrolled in a recreation program at Mount Royal University after high school. Following graduation, in 1982 he got a job with City of Penticton maintenance division.
Continuing to organize activities on the side, several years later he landed his ultimate position of special events planner for the city.
Penticton Steps Out was one of his best-known projects, attracting thousands of participants and earned him provincial and national excellence awards.
It also caught the eye of American associations and he was invited to Atlanta, Ga. to speak about the concept.
Wearing a pedometer, people logged their steps daily on a computer and were able to see where their virtual walking tour took them on the globe, all the while improving fitness.
His speaker series included guests such as working astronaut Col. Alvin Drew which was another career highlight for Pope.
“It’s that enjoyment of helping people feel good, just creating that spark or magic,” said Pope, co-founder of the Rotary Okanagan International Children’s Festival. “I get as much or more out of it than the people do.
“Having somebody tell you about how you impacted them or this speaker has impacted them, making a difference in their mental and physical life is something you can’t put a value on.”
Especially meaningful to him was bringing families together and helping those who felt their lives were out of control because of illness or other setback.
“So they want to share that with you and it has been really touching to have that kind of affect on people,” he said.
According to Pope’s supervisor Lori Mullen, his commitment to people’s well being is genuine.
“Bob is kind, passionate and if someone is struggling he’s the first there to help,” she said. “He’s full of life, a positive spirit.
“He is going to leave a big hole in our department and it’s not going to be the same without him. He’s just such a special person, someone you don’t come across everyday.”
Added his co-worker and office neighbour Ted Hagmeier: “We’ve have had such fun together and so many laughs, especially during the long hours. The city will miss his energy and dedication but I will miss seeing my good friend every day.”
A retirement party is scheduled for Oct. 25 at the Shatford Centre and tickets are available at the community centre.