Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood failed to hold back tears as his longtime friend and colleague John Tidbury was officially awarded the ‘Freedom of the District’.
Tidbury, who has been a Port Hardy councillor on and off since 1988, was presented with a beautiful key to the municipality and a framed certificate outlining the meaning and privileges behind the key during a special, invitation only event on Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Civic Centre.
“He now has access to any municipal building in the district,” said Bood before the ceremony started, adding this is only the fourth key they have given out, making it a very rare moment in North Island history to witness.
Tidbury is now held in the same esteem as previous winners Brian Welchman, Les Storey, and Pat Prestwich for their years of contributions to Port Hardy.
“Very seldom has anyone come to the level John has,” Bood noted. “It is a very rare occasion and he deserves it. All three of the former award winners are very deserving, but I don’t think there is anybody who has put in the hours or done the things that John has over the years. It is the highest honour the District of Port Hardy can bestow on a person, period.”
Tidbury was humble when asked about the award, which has always been his nature. “I’m really thankful for the people of Port Hardy — I can’t express in words what I want to say right now, but I feel that if I want to live in this community I will work to make it better for the whole community.”
Tidbury’s family was on hand for the ceremony, which opened with a touching speech from Bood.
“In my business, there are times that are tough, but there are also times that are fun,” he said, noting this was definitely a fun time, and that “having the event here in the Civic Centre is the most appropriate place, as it is the home of the Lion’s Club and it is John’s second home.”
The event included the reading of a letter from Welchman, Tidbury’s wife Marie being awarded a bouquet of flowers for all her hard work behind the scenes helping him, and an open mic where people in the audience were allowed to come up and reminisce on their favourite memories of Tidbury.
1240 Coast AM’s Sandra Boyd said John was one of the first people she met when she made the move to Port Hardy. “Most people don’t know that, and it was at the radio station … I just want to say thank you on behalf of the million things I’ve dragged him into, he’s never once said no to me, and thank you Marie, because without you he couldn’t do it.”
Malcolm Fleeton pointed out Tidbury’s contributions over the years to the North Island Concert Society, whether it was being a board member or working on the sound and lights behind the scenes for the concerts.
“This is John’s second home, if you need to find John just come to the Civic Centre and you’ll find him working on something,” he said, adding, “On behalf of the North Island Concert Society, thank you for all the support, being a board member for us, and for making it happen for all these years.”
Sean Tidbury was almost at a loss for words when talking about what his father means to him. “I’m obviously very proud of my dad … I was always overwhelmed by the sheer number of people he helped and who knew him, and I’m just very proud of you dad.”
Tidbury himself was the last person to speak, stating he just wanted to thank his family who made the trip up island to see him receive the award. “It’s such an honour to be here, and the thanks that I’m receiving, especially in front of all my family,” he said, adding that “my wife, my son and his wife, were all coming up island yesterday and hit an ice patch and went down a cliff — but as you can see, they are all here today, though the vehicle isn’t.”
Tidbury ended his speech by saying, “I love this town — I love it with a passion,” as the crowd of roughly 50 people, all friends and family, cheered and clapped for a man who has truly devoted himself wholeheartedly to his community.