By Lana Rodlie
Gordon Player exudes happiness.
The man with the infectious smile was recently honoured at his retirement from the Nelson and District Credit Union for the 36 years he spent as a director.
“I got a standing ovation,” he said with astonishment. “And my wife got flowers.”
This was Player’s third retirement. The 72-year-old Rosslander retired from teaching after 39 years, then spent the next nine years as an instructor in the UBC Teacher Education Program at Selkirk College. He retired again, this time with an award from UBC in appreciation for the many years of dedication in the preparation of world teachers.
And during all that time, he had the reputation of never missing a day’s work.
“I’m sure I might have missed maybe 10 days in 39 years,” he said. “Back in those days, you only phoned in sick if you were actually sick.”
And Player enjoyed impeccable health throughout his life although his hearing loss irritates him.
“If it wasn’t for that, I’d still be teaching. I loved it. I loved the kids.”
Player grew up in Warfield, married one of two sisters he and his brother met a hockey game. (His brother married the other sister.) He got his degree at UBC and Masters at Gonzaga in Spokane. He did a stint in the Air Force and then began his teaching career in Fruitvale.
“My wife was from Rossland and when we got married, we lived in a basement suite in Montrose. Joyce was teaching there and I was teaching in Fruitvale.”
They moved to one of the first-built houses in Warfield, built a home in Rossland and raised two boys.
“I taught up to Grade 8, mostly Grade 7,” he said. “Had a great time. Also coached basketball with senior boys and junior girls.”
So how did he come to serve on a credit union board?
“Back in 1978, I was asked by Don McKay if I’d like to be a director with the Rossland Credit Union,” he said. “I didn’t know what he was talking about.”
But Player took up the challenge; volunteering his time
“It was very different from teaching. I had to take financial courses; had to write exams. I learned a lot and met a lot of incredible people. I’ll miss them. Staff is amazing too. And so many dedicated people.”
One of his most memorable achievements with the financial institution was chairing the AGM of the Credit Union Central of B.C. in 1998.
Rossland Credit Union merged with Nelson and District Credit Union a year later so Player continued to represent Rossland on the NDCU board.
“Sometimes I’d drive to Nelson three times per week and even when teaching. I’d go to Nelson, driving over after school and then driving home at night.”
Another change during Player’s sojourn was the creation of Kootenay Insurance Services which expanded to offices in Nelson, Grand Forks, and Creston. Player also served on its board.
He chaired and served on most committees and was also NDCU’s representative on the Kootenay Peer Group Executive.
Asked why credit unions are better than banks, Player says credit unions deal with the community.
“Banks don’t. We spend money in the community and know the people. People in the branches do loans and stuff, they know the clients, their friends, wives, husbands; children go to school with their kids. “People would stop me in the street – you never see that with anyone in a bank. That’s the biggest difference.”
Player said board members and staff often got together with others from credit unions around the Kootenays. “We’d talk about how to do this or that. We worked together. I’ll miss it but am getting on.”
He still gets together once per month for coffee with a number of old friends who were all on the board.
Through the years, Player picked up a number of awards, including several from his naval career and the one from UBC. But the award he is most proud of was the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence, signed by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
In his spare time, Player tends the garden at the Anglican Church in Trail and will continue to find ways to keep busy. He’ll be leaving an empty seat on the board as, so far, no volunteer has stepped forward to take his place.
“It’s difficult to find young people willing to volunteer,” he said.
NDCU board chair John Edwards said Player will be hard to replace.
“For all of these achievements, Gordon Player will be most missed at NDCU’s board table for his common sense, his sense of fairness, and his sense of humour, said Edwards. “I speak for all NDCU’s board in wishing him and Joyce the very best in their retirement together that they’ve both earned so well.”