Burpee honoured with Coquitlam’s highest award

In recognition of his efforts to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and the find the lost, Coquitlam council awarded Sandy Burpee the Freedom of the City award Monday.

Burpee became the 12th recipient of the award, which is the highest honour a municipality can bestow.

Burpee was somewhat philosophical about the event.

“At this stage of my life, and probably encouraged by the pandemic, I’ve been looking back over my past,” the retired B.C. Hydro engineer told council Monday.

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As he looked over his life, Burpee said he was confronted with a question: has he been doing the work he felt called to do?

“I’m so grateful for this award,” he said. “Because it suggests that I have been.”

Accepting the framed scroll along with his grandchildren, Mayor Richard Stewart noted Burpee’s extensive work with Coquitlam Search and Rescue, the Tri-Cities Housing Coalition, the Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Group, as well as Burpee’s role as volunteer coordinator with SHARE Food Bank, his advocacy for homeless shelters, and his work on a youth restorative justice program.

Everything he’s done, Burpee said, is thanks to his wife Cathy, whom he called his confidante, sounding board and editor.

The couple met in Montreal on a March night in 1971 and recently celebrated their 50th anniversary, Burpee noted.

“Her support has enabled me to spend time doing things that are being recognized now,” Burpee said.

Mayor Richard Stewart recalled meeting Burpee to chat about bringing a homeless shelter to the community.

“He had me convinced pretty darn quickly,” Stewart recalled. “Sandy can be a strong-willed person. He had a lot of people to convince over many years but he got it done.”

Coun. Brent Asmundson lauded Burpee for his “steadfast resolve” during a contentious debate over that homeless shelter program.

“You’ve taken some scars in these battles,” he said.

Given Burpee’s unwavering affection for his community, granting the award on Valentine’s Day was appropriate, said Coun. Teri Towner.

“You epitomize love,” she said.

Burpee previously received the B.C. Achievement Community Award.

“Every so often, the dedication and effort of an individual will not only leave an unforgettable mark on the fabric of our community but bring honour and recognition to our entire city,” Stewart said.

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