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Robert James Robertson

Awarded Status of Freeman: January 25, 1971 (Presentation Made March 12, 1971)

Freemen - Robert James Robertson

In 1962, it was decided that it would be appropriate for an award to be created in Burnaby that would recognize outstanding individuals who deserved to be honoured for their service to the community, and the idea of appointing a “Citizen of the Year” was initiated. The very first recipient to be named as Burnaby’s Citizen of the Year was Robert “Bob” James Robertson. Although Bob did later earn recognition with the title of Freeman being bestowed upon him in 1971, his contributions to the citizens of Burnaby extended over more than five decades, from the time he first settled in Burnaby until his death in 1971.

Bob Robertson was a well-respected businessman and owner of Robertson Hardware on Hastings Streets when he received this much-deserved honour, but his achievements reached far beyond mere business acumen and his generosity was well-known and widespread, particularly among the residents of North Burnaby.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Bob came to Canada as a young boy and upon the declaration of World War One in 1914, enlisted with the 54th Battalion. He was wounded in action and eventually came to settle in Burnaby when he was discharged from active duty. From that point forward, Bob devoted himself to serving the needs of his community.

He was a member of the St. James Anglican Church for more than 50 years and was also a Charter member of the North Burnaby Branch No. 148, Royal Canadian Legion, the Grandview I.O.O.F, the North Burnaby Chamber of Commerce and Life Member of the YMCA. Reports written about Bob at the time of his appointment as “Citizen of the Year” claimed that there was not an organization in North Burnaby that he had not helped.

Throughout it all, Bob humbly tried to avoid the publicity and explained that everything he did was out of love for his community and in the belief that Burnaby would have a “marvellous future” if people would just work together to develop and maintain a community spirit of which everyone could be proud.

Robert “Bob” Robertson died on November 12, 1971.

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