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Citizens Hall of Fame’s guardian angel
Apr 03, 2009

Bill Burns may be retiring from real estate, but he has not abandoned his commitment to the Citizens Hall of Fame  established in 1986 by WinnipegREALTORS®.

His chairmanship has encompassed 15 of the Citizens Hall of Fame’s 23-year existence. During that period,   Burns has been unwavering in his commitment to a program that is unique to Canada. 

Over the years, Burns has literally been its guardian angel. Until he sold his long-time family home a few years ago, he regularly walked the short distance to Assiniboine Park to check up on the hall of fame site in the Formal Garden at the park. 

Burns prefers to call it the walk of fame due to its physical design which encourages visitors to walk along a pathway to observe the 34 inductees’ portraitures and plaques. It is a walk of fame now due to a meeting Burns had with John Hreno, the former head of parks and recreation, at his Assiniboine Park office. In early December 1996, Burns with the blessing of Hreno was able to finally secure a permanent home in the Formal Garden — located in the southeast corner of the park just off Corydon Avenue— for the bronze sculptures. The sculptures honour Winnipeggers who have made a significant contribution to the city’s quality of life.

Hall of fame sculptures spent the first few years hidden away in a corner of the second level floor at city hall. Then followed a flood-prone and vandal-plagued  existence along the Assiniboine Riverwalk. 

The opportunity to showcase the growing number of inductee sculptures amongst majestic elms along an asphalt path was the result of the magnanimous offer by Hreno. In 1997, all of the existing sculptures, beginning with the first inductee from 1986, Steve Juba, were installed on attractive granite pedestals in sequence of their induction year. 

The 35th sculpture for 2008 inductee, Bill Loewen, will be installed this year along the opposite side of the path across from the original inductees, as no room remains on the west side of the pathway to accommodate the sculptures. 

Eva Stubbs is completing the portraiture of Loewen, a business visionary and arts philanthropist inductee. Other sculptures by the local artist include John Bulman, John Hirsch, Sybil Shack, Carol Shields, Dr. Naranjan Dhalla and Dr. Arnold Naimark. 

To find out about the 35 Citizens Hall of Fame inductees, visit winnipegfame.ca. The website contains descriptions of what these outstanding citizens did to deserve the selection committee’s nod of approval. 

“It’s a wonderful unique-to-Canada program” said Burns. “Winnipeg is blessed to have so many citizens able to step forward and lead by example.

“It never ceases to amaze me how fortunate we are to have citizens who look well beyond their own needs to help all of us,” he added. “The magnitude of what has been done becomes more inspiring when you see the sheer number of inductees’ likenesses at one site.”

To appreciate what the program means to 2000 inductee Dr. Dhalla and to get a sense of pride expressed by long-time program chair Bill Burns, click on the three-minute video clip.