It is with a heavy heart that I have learned that Norm Jary, Guelph’s longest-serving Mayor and longest-serving member of City Council, passed away last night. On behalf of Guelph City Council, I extend my deepest condolences to Norm’s family and loved ones.
Norm Jary served on Guelph City Council for 37 years, from 1963 to 2000, and was Guelph’s Mayor for 15 of those years (1970 to 1985).
He will be remembered by many as a “people’s Mayor” who opened up City Hall decision-making to the people of Guelph. In November 1974, a Guelph Mercury editorial described his approach as a “civic revolution,” saying, “He has opened up City Council to the people. Few places in the Western world have Council forums at which taxpayers are actively encouraged to present their beefs. Guelph does, thanks to Mayor Jary.” This legacy can still be seen in Guelph today.
During his tenure, Mayor Jary oversaw an era of rapid growth and change in the city, including the opening of Stone Road Mall, the Guelph Auto Mall, Eaton Centre, Guelph Lake Complex, Victoria Road Recreation Centre and Victor Davis Pool, Exhibition Arena, Guelph Mobility and accessible taxi service, and many more.
In 2000, the City of Guelph named Norm Jary Park in recognition of his decades of public service. Even after retiring from politics, Norm remained an engaged and active part of community life. He officially cut the ribbon on the renovated Victoria Road Recreation Centre in 2017, emceed the official opening of the new City Hall in 2009, served as marshal for the John Galt Day Kirking, and was a volunteer for a long list of organizations.
His annual Norm Jary-ARC Industries golf tournament raised more than $700,000 to support services for people with intellectual disabilities. He was named a life member of Guelph-Wellington Community Living and Family and Children’s Services of Guelph and Wellington. In recognition to his service to community and country, he was awarded a commemorative medal for the 150th anniversary of the confederation of Canada. He was also a recipient of Her Majesty the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for Lifetime Achievement.
Over the years, Norm welcomed to our city several Governors General, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Terry Fox, Princess Anne, and many others. With his wife Jean at his side, he also attended countless ribbon cuttings, teas, banquets, and other public events where he met and spoke with Guelphites face-to-face. His approachability, integrity, kindness, and legendary speaking ability will never be forgotten.
A local sports legend, Norm was well-known as “the voice of Guelph” as the News and Sports Director of CJOY for many years, and is a member of the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame. As a play-by-play announcer for the New York Rangers, Norm famously broadcast Bobby Hull’s record-breaking 51st goal in 1966.
I am personally grateful for Norm’s generous encouragement and advice to many, including me in my role as Mayor. He never saw himself as a politician, but as a public servant. I feel fortunate to have met him, and I know that Guelph was fortunate to have him as a leader of our civic life for so many years.
I join all Guelphites in mourning the passing and celebrating the extraordinary life of Guelph’s Mayor of the people, Norm Jary. In his honour, City flags will be lowered to half-mast.