Inducted: November 18, 2008
Kathy Vanek is a workaholic who supports many good causes, none more important than agriculture. The daughter, wife and mother of farmers, she spent thirty-six years in the municipal government that is recognized as the backbone of a successful farm community. It is doubtful that any one individual in this area has more friends. People respond with warmth to her sunny disposition and to her kindness and generosity.
Kathy comes by her interest in farming and municipal government naturally. Her father, Fred Bodkin, was Clerk-Treasurer of Zone Township, and he and her mother, the former Aileen Childs, farmed. She and her three sisters, Elaine, Marilyn and Evelyn, were brought up in a happy, busy farming family. Kathy was a member of a 4-H Beef Club; but she avoided the traumatic sale of her beef steers when her father provided her with heifers, which did not have to be sold. Those heifers became part of her father’s cattle herd.
She received her early education at S.S.4, Zone Township, and went on to Lambton-Kent District High School, in Dresden, for a combined commercial and academic education. When she graduated in 1960, she went to work for Kent County, and its Administrator, Sherman Brown; who succeeded the late W. M. Abraham, Clerk-Treasurer. She was, briefly, Deputy Clerk, in the hiatus between the retirement of Mr. Brown and the appointment of Robert Foulds as the new Administrator.
As she neared retirement, she looked for new interests, new activities, and new things to learn. She became the Choir Leader at Lindsay Road United Church, at first using taped background music. That did not satisfy her for long, and she took organ lessons and became Organist as well as Choir Leader. She has a lovely voice, and has used it to entertain many groups, particularly Seniors.
Kathy has served as a dedicated Secretary of the Kent Agricultural Hall of Fame Committee; and of the Kent County Past Wardens’ Association. On April 15th, 1967, Kathy married Joe Vanek, of Chatham Township; where they bought their farm and raised their four children, Martin (Dana), Camden Township; Sandra (Aaron) Neaves, Chatham Township; Daniel (Kristy), Tupperville; and Stephanie (Charlie Jordan), Chatham Township. There are four granddaughters: Bailey and Mackenzie Neaves; and Alexandra and Emily Vanek, and one grandson, Desmond Jordan. Kathy has continued her busy life in retirement, playing at Senior Citizens’ homes; assisting with the organizing of the Seniors’ Fair; keeping the Kent Agricultural Hall of Fame Committee on track; and working at Babcock Jewellers in Dresden.
Residents in seniors’ homes say that Kathy is not just a visitor, but a beloved friend. Her sister, Elaine, says that she will bake several pies for a church supper, as just one activity in a busy day. The most accurate picture of what Kathy has meant to the community she loves comes from the former Kent County Wardens who worked with her during her career.
Walt Spence (1988) said that he would like to have Kathy as his “right hand” in any company he owned or operated. When he was Warden, he would find her ready at 8:30 a.m., with an outline of what he should do that day. If he wasn’t there at that time, she would wonder why. “She was wonderful” Dave Langstaff (1994) described her as “extremely dedicated, not just to the County but to the whole community.” She is, he said, “very deserving” of Induction into the Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Murray Campbell (1977) said he never asked her to do anything that she didn’t do, gladly. She had and has a very buoyant personality. If Kathy shed a tear, it was for happiness.”
Rex Crawford (1987), and a former Member of Parliament, said Kathy, in her key responsibilities in Kent County, was “a great communicator”. She was always happy to do her job. “To her, it was not a job.” Kathy was responsible for good communication between the municipalities. “If I had her in Ottawa, I wouldn’t have had to work!”
Sonny Garrod (1991) said Kathy was able to handle any situation. “If the Queen walked into the room, she would know how to introduce her. There isn’t a better person!”
John Leeson (1983) described Kathy as “wonderful! A very nice person who worked tirelessly for the county.”
The former Wardens agreed that Kathy brought something unusual to her job. “She can see the good in everyone she meets!”
“You want to do your best because Kathy believes in you, and what you are doing!”