As posted on the Simcoe.com website, September 27, 2012.
By Janis Ramsay
BARRIE - After years of helping out others in need, Barrie’s Al Zaba is getting national recognition.
On Friday, he’ll be given the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal.
Zaba, 83, said maybe his thought to help others came from his father.
“My dad came to Canada in the early 1900s from Poland,” said Zaba. “He was in Montreal and a total stranger said he looked cold and hungry, and gave him $1.25 and bought him a bowl of soup and a sandwich.”
From then, Zaba’s father bestowed similar kindness to others.
“My dad was generous. If he had half a sandwich left over, he’d give it to a dog, which was always a problem with my mom, because the dog would follow him home.”
Zaba is one of 11 local residents who will be given the medal for their contribution to the community.
Zaba served in the military from 1945 (when he was technically too young to enlist) to 1960.
From there, he left to work in a wholesale company in Lisle for four years and eventually bought A&M Superfood store.
After running the company in Angus for a number of years, he brought it to Barrie in 1985.
He was introduced to the Kiwanis Club by Bruce Owen in Angus.
“Bruce asked me if I’d like to come to dinner with the Kiwanis Club (in 1975). After three meals to ‘look us over,’ we were invited to be members,” said Zaba. “At that third meeting, I knew. And Bruce asked me if I was joining, and he said if I did, it was my last free meal.”
The Kiwanis Club of Barrie just celebrated its 90th anniversary, and many projects have happened because of Zaba’s enthusiasm.
“There was a little girl when needed a hospital bed at home, and I visited her mom and we were able to give that girl the bed she needed,” said Zaba, reflecting on one contribution.
“We help children when there are no funds available otherwise.”
And as a business owner, Zaba was able to apply the same principle. “I helped persons who needed help.”
He’s donated every year to the Salvation Army, Sleeping Children Around The World, Hospital for Sick Children, and has a foster child in Africa he’s putting through school.
Zaba said his favourite accomplishment was being able to donate leftover military food to native children in Whitehorse, Yukon.
“That was one accomplishment without much publicity behind it. When you’re in the military, you don’t really get a pat on the back.”
Zaba was nominated for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal by The Barrie Advance.