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Colleagues remember Bob Gamble's inspiring 40 years of political service

'Bob was somebody who gave his time,' said Rob Potter, current deputy mayor and former reporter during Gamble's time on council
Bob Gamble was on council for the former Town of Thornbury and then The Blue Mountains for nearly 40 years. Contributed photo

Flags at The Blue Mountains town hall were at half-mast this week in memory of a man who spent nearly half his life in public service.

Robert ‘Bob’ Gamble died on Monday at the age of 83. His family is inviting members of the public to celebrate his life with them in April at town hall – fitting for the man who served on municipal councils for about 40 years.

Gamble moved to Thornbury in 1963, where he worked as a chartered accountant with Teledyne (now BTI) Mining Products until he retired 32 years later.

Gamble served on council for the former Town of Thornbury for 21 years, becoming the last mayor for the town before it amalgamated with Collingwood Township to become the Town of The Blue Mountains.

In Ross Arthur’s view, the town’s transition into amalgamation is one of Gamble’s greatest accomplishments.

Arthur was Reeve of Collingwood Township at the time, and the two had to work together to help their towns become one.

“Amalgamations are not successful unless a politician can gather vast support of the electorate,” said Arthur. It was a feat he said Gamble accomplished.

“The people of Thornbury showed tremendous support and trust in that man,” said Arthur. 

Fiscal responsibility was important to Gamble as a politician, perhaps due to his work as an accountant.

Rob Potter, currently the deputy mayor of The Blue Mountains, was a reporter for the local newspaper (The Blue Mountains Courier-Herald) while Gamble served on town council.

“He was very conservative financially, he was always trying to save money and keep spending down,” said Potter. “But he would support things like the library and the Craigleith Heritage Depot museum.”

Potter recalls a time when Gamble became a “whistleblower” and gave Potter documents showing the escalating costs of the town hall (the version prior to the current building).

“That took a lot of guts because it didn’t sit well with the rest of council,” said Potter. “He felt the public should be involved in things as much as possible and he was never afraid to take the heat. I can remember him saying, ‘it doesn’t matter what I do, 50 per cent will think I’m smart and 50 per cent will think I’m an idiot.’”

Potter said Gamble became like a sort of mentor to him for his own career in politics, though neither Gamble nor Potter knew Potter would end up on town council.

“It would sometimes drive me crazy when he was so tight with the money, and I didn’t always agree with the way he would want to save money, but that was his big thing,” said Potter. “I always think of Bob whenever it comes to looking at budgets and spending money. I think, ‘what would Bob do?’”

Gamble returned to council, this time as a councillor for The Town of The Blue Mountains in 2000 and was re-elected every term until 2018, when he decided not to run again.

He was also a founding member of the Georgian Trail Board of Management and served on it for 30 years.

“He was the most honest, straightforward, forthright gentleman that I ever came across,” said Arthur. “He had no interest in political expediency. His interest was in serving his town and his people.”

Gamble was also instrumental in the effort to preserve the former train depot and open it as the Craigleith Heritage Depot museum.

“He just thought local history was important and understanding your heritage,” said Potter. “He wouldn’t make a lot of speeches on stuff like that, but I know that was important to him.”

There is a park in Thornbury named after Gamble.

Gamble Park was named thus in October 2018, and it is located adjacent to the Georgian Trail near the trestle bridge.

Potter was on council and seconded the motion to name the park after Gamble.

“I thought he should be remembered,” said Gamble. “So many people get their names on things because they give a bunch of money, but Bob was somebody who gave his time.”

According to Gamble’s obituary, his family is having a private service, but is also hosting a public celebration of life at The Blue Mountains town hall on Saturday, April 11 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with tributes being shared at 2 p.m.

The family is asking for monetary donations to the Beaver Valley Outreach or Meaford Hospital Foundation in his honour as expressions of sympathy.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 15 years of experience as a local journalist
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