Robert Wilson Stuart, or “Bob” as he was usually known, was born on August 16, 1917. Before coming to Ladysmith with his wife Florence and 8 of their 10 children from the Three Rivers area in Quebec, Bob led a busy life and was deeply involved in union activities. After graduating from High School, he took a job in a bank but soon found this too physically confining. Consequently, he returned to school to study paper making processes. On completing this, he started working in a Quebec mill, became a Millwright and was also President of the union consisting almost entirely of French-Canadian members. He then became one of the founding members of the Canadian Labour Congress and retained a lifelong interest in labour matters.
During World War ll, Bob was attached to the Air Force and spent considerable time accompanying physicians on rescue flights into remote parts of Newfoundland. At one time, he found himself part of a convoy of ships crossing to England. At the end of the war, he returned to his former life and also became active in community services, including the Boy Scout organization.
In his youth, Bob was a good athlete participating in hockey, skiing, swimming and diving. In his later years, he was an extensive reader and studied antiques.
On arrival in Ladysmith in 1964, Bob started work at the BC Forest Products paper mill in Crofton as a Millwright. Bob and Florence’s remaining two children and their families soon joined the rest of the family in Ladysmith.
Bob soon became interested in local affairs becoming an active and popular personality in the New Democratic Party and the labour movement. He was also a past president of Branch 171 of the Ladysmith Legion. After only serving one term as an alderman, Bob became mayor in 1977, running on a platform of peaceful labour relationships. During his term he was especially pleased with the improvements being made to Ladysmith’s water supply.
In his second term in office, Bob flew to Arnprior, Ontario to attend a four day Emergency Measures Program course so that someone in Ladysmith would be acquainted with disaster routines. Crossing the Trans Canada Highway to shop at a mall on November 6, 1978, he was tragically struck down by a tractor trailer truck and died instantly. The citizens of Ladysmith were shocked when hearing the news. The park on First Avenue near the north entrance to Ladysmith is named in his memory.
Both Bob and Florence served on the Parks & Recreation and the Ladysmith Celebrations committees and were named Citizens of the Year one year.
Florence stayed in Ladysmith following the death of her husband and remained an active participant in local affairs. In March, 1982 the ladies auxiliary of the Royal Canadian Legion showed its appreciation by presenting her with a life membership for her work in the Legion. Other community activities included serving on the Ladysmith Association for the Mentally Handicapped, helping to organize the association’s Flowers of Hope Drive. She was also a member of the Ladysmith Hospital Auxiliary.
In addition to bringing up her own large family, Florence also took care of a handicapped girl showing her the love and care she had given her own children.
Florence passed away on February 23, 2010.