Roberta Place volunteer praised for commitment to Simcoe community and heritage

Brian Baker was born and raised on his family’s farm in the Innisfil Township. Brian is a devoted member of the Innisfil and Essa historical societies, the latter for which he was president for 10 years. He has also been involved with the Simcoe County Historical Association. Brian possesses a profound interest in history, particularly in the area of Simcoe County. For many years, he organized and hosted the “Mystery Bus Tour” which toured areas of interest in Simcoe, emphasising sites of historical and cultural significance. His profound interest in trains and shipping directly relates to his passion for history; he says, “This is what the country was built on, shipping and railroads. The railroads opened the country up.”

Brian has spent much of his time hiking these rural railroads from end to end. He’s chronicled his journeys and has taken numerous photographs of the sites. He now possesses an extensive photograph collection of Simcoe County and the surrounding area. He has referred to these photos as "ghostly footsteps in to the past,” which communicates the nature of Simcoe’s history, as many of the photographed sites no longer exist. Luckily Brian, through his appreciation for communal heritage, has maintained the history of these intriguing places through his photographs and writings.

In 1961, Brian began writing columns for the Barrie Examiner, entitled “Rural Routes.” Drawing from his various explorations, he committed himself to his weekly column for 40 years, sharing detailed experiences and knowledge from his adventures in and around Simcoe County. His enduring appreciation for the history of Simcoe is an admirable trait – something which many proud Ontarians can relate to. 

Brian’s work and explorations have been recognized and appreciated by his community, and he has received many awards and recognition for his contributions to preserving local heritage. He has been added to the Alliston Museums 
Wall of Honour (February 2013), and has been presented with the prestigious Service Medal of the Order of St. John (June 2013). He has also been praised for his years of volunteer service with the Ontario Volunteer Service Award (May 2014) and has even been presented with a Provincial Commissioner Recognition. We have people like Brian to thank for upholding the importance of our heritage.

As if that wasn’t enough, Brian began volunteering with seniors. Brian began taking his family pet, Spookie, for visits as well. Regulars at Roberta Place in Barrie, the duo have provided close to 1,400 visits, accumulating more than 5
,000 hours of volunteer service! They truly brighten the days of others and offer the therapeutic benefits of good company. Spookie is well-known at and happily received wherever he visits - no doubt a result of the compassion of his faithful owner, Brian. Spookie has even received a certificate of appreciation from St. John Ambulance for his commitment to volunteering. And it is with pleasure that Roberta Place can present Brian with the Circle of Excellence Award in recognition of his dedication in the area of volunteer service.

A presentation of these awards took place in June 2015, where Brian and Spookie’s contributions to the home were celebrated – Spookie seemed to enjoy the cake even more than his award! Roberta Place would like to recognize Brian’s unrelenting passion and commitment toward the history of his community, and praise him for channeling that passion into the lives of others. Through a deep respect of heritage and community, Brian strives for the best in Simcoe County, sharing honourable ideals which encourage and inspire all those he encounters.

More media coverage on Brian can be found below: