On Wednesday, December 7th, we gathered for our annual Volunteer Recognition Celebration.  This is our opportunity to reflect upon and to celebrate the achievements made in our Museum over the past year, made possible by the large numbers of volunteers.



Our Deputy Director, WO Mike Barnucz, made the introductory remarks, welcoming our guests and our fellow volunteers.






The evening’s programme was led by Jon Ambler, our Museum’s Programme Manager and Volunteer Coordinator.  He reminded us that, “It is the volunteers that are the essential ingredient in each and every success.”  He began by reflecting on two members of our Museum family who passed away this year, both of whom are missed:



Ken Oxley, “… a stalwart volunteer, contributing to every element of the Museum; in fact he earned the very first Spirit of the Volunteer Award in 2007.  Later when we needed a new gift shop manager, he stepped in and ran the shop extremely well, including huge successes in two air shows.”

Herbie Lightfoot, “… was one of the earliest volunteers, and he was focussed on restoring and caring for our aircraft and for several years was team leader.  Not only that, he sat on the Board and actively supported us by working at the Bingo events.  His great work restoring our Argus was recognized with a Lifetime Membership.”

Other volunteers have moved on this year, some to other communities ~ Corrine and Augustina… some have retired ~ Randy, Stuart, and Dan.  Their work was very much appreciated.

Jon then shared what we’ve done in 2016,  “Open 322 days: six days a week for nine months and seven days a week for June, July, and August.  Nobody but us operated such a demanding schedule with a volunteer staff.  It is our friendly, dependable, and enthusiastic front desk volunteers that make that happen.”  Jon named the volunteers who man that desk each day… Gary W., Gary B., Mel, Mike H., Mike O., Len, Steve, Tom, Norm, Jed, Alex, Rodney, Val, Geoff, Bill.

“We welcomed, informed, educated, moved, and inspired almost 11,000 visitors!  They came from far and wide, every province, and 31 different countries as diverse as Paraguay, Sri Lanka and Luxembourg.  They wrote their feedback in our guest book…we did not receive a single complaint or criticism.  Compliments included, ‘a hidden gem’, ‘best air museum we have ever seen’, ‘makes you proud to be Canadian’, ‘volunteers so helpful and kind’…”

Jon acknowledged the work done by the Collections Management team.  They, “…have done an excellent job managing our artifacts from receipt, identification, preservation, storage, and disposal; it’s a job that never stops.  It is worth noting that the committee has been running for 10 years now!”

Next to be pointed out was the Library.  Our Librarian Allison does an amazing job of answering a wide variety of questions, of helping those visitors who come in person, and via our website and email to do some research.  Carol has, “…created a ‘way forward’ in the digital organization of our extensive, thousands and thousands, of photographs.”  Val has, “…drawn on the skills and experience of many volunteers to create fresh stories for our online presence as well as creating topical displays in the library.”

We participated in the Cumberland Heritage Fair.  Corrine was the OPI this year; we did a display on Alliford Bay.

The City of Courtenay hosts Canada Day in Lewis Park and we had a great display, which included our manned tent and a heritage vehicle, organized and led by Steve.

Lynn, Mel, and Jon attended the annual Organization of Military Museums of Canada (OMMC) training session in Calgary.  The session took place in “SAIT, which during WW2 was a BCATP school… We had just received photographs of a young man who trained in that exact building.” (Jon, Mel and Lynn took the photo with them and donated it to the Museum ~ the family has since thanked us for this, noting that the man’s daughter will be able to see it where it belongs!) As the result of one of the presentations, “We have since protected our irreplaceable logbooks by having them digitally photographed, by 2Lt Bruce L., stationed here.  We have also purchased and installed two fireproof and waterproof filing cabinets” to house the logbooks.

Our Heritage Maintenance Team (Kevin, Keith, Murray, Gord, Norton, and Jack) “…got the Jeep and CMP rolling, have new tool and wash carts (built by Irv), and reached out to another expert who conducted a highly successful TAV.”




Following Jon’s comments, was Bill, President of the Comox Air Force Museum Association.  Bill thanked and then asked the board members to stand for recognition before he and Jon presented two awards of special note:





ROOKIE OF THE YEAR ~ Jon told the gathering that, “This award is for the volunteer who joined us in 2016 and contributed above and beyond what one would expect… This year’s Rookie of the Year Award goes to someone who joined our team and within six weeks had taken over and finished a project that had stalled for months.  The volunteer then joined the Gift Shop team and literally led the implementation of the POS system that had baffled most of us.  Simply put, we could not have implemented the POS without her, a rare accomplishment for a volunteer.  This year’s Rookie of the Year is Bobbi Howard-Muir.”




The second award is THE SPIRIT OF THE VOLUNTEER AWARD.  Jon reminded us that “every year since 2007, the Comox Air Force Museum Association has recognized the volunteer that best exemplifies the spirit of the volunteer.  The award this year goes to a volunteer who has contributed in almost every aspect of museum operations, including serving on the Association Board.  But in particular he has shown leadership in converting a collection of volunteers from a group of skilled individuals into a happy, effective and productive team.  The Heritage Maintenance Team has never been better, and their leader Kevin Kinsella is awarded the Spirit of the Volunteer Award for 2016.  This has earned him a Lifetime Membership in the Association.”