Duffy, Brian

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                                        BRIAN DUFFY
                                 Wins Caring Canadian Award
                                     by Cathy Carnahan

Brian Duffy has a long history of compassion, courage and dedication to others. His love for community, church and children has just won him the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award. The official announcement is expected this month, but Duffy was notified he would receive the award in a letter from the chancellery at Rideau Hall on December 29.

He doesn't know who nominated him, or who supported the nomination, but the 62-year-old Chatham volunteer is touched by their kindness. "I am humbled to receive recognition for this award because I think of all the other good, and caring volunteers that we are blessed with on the river," he said in an interview.

"I came from humble beginnings, where I was brought up to do everything I could to help others. I have had a good life in terms of opportunity and fulfilment, and I want to continue to do what I can to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. "My father would tell me, 'If you can't do a man a turn, or say something good about others, then do nothing.

Duffy suffered a heart attack while fighting a fire in 1973 and he had further problems this year. He admits he has to pace himself more these days, but his contributions to Miramichi and its people are numerous.

The list includes, among other things, fire-fighter, legion member, hockey coach and councillor. At the young age of 16, he became a blood donor. "That was 46 years ago and I continue to give to this day with 109 donations of whole blood," he said. "I belong to the Canadian Blood Services 100 donor club, which meets each June in Saint John. It is the most wonderful feeling to know that your donated blood may help to save someone's life. At age 40, I volunteered for the bone marrow donor list program in Saint John and remained until the mandatory cut-off age of 55. I carry a signed donor card with my driver's license and keep it with me at all times. By signing a donor card, it will probably be the most generous thing you will do in your life time," he said.

"As a volunteer firefighter-first responder, we work closely with the professionally well-trained paramedics of Health Region 7. I have personally, on two occasions, witnessed our paramedics keep a patient, who was critically injured, alive to be transported to Moncton City Hospital, where assessments, parental notification, and permission to harvest the organs and eyes of the patient on life support [were done]. We always hope and pray for the best possible outcome, after a horrendous motor vehicle accident ... but it is incumbent of me to give praise and commendation to the professional competence of these highly-skilled and well-trained emergency medical technicians," Duffy said.

"Volunteer fire-fighters have witnessed much carnage, tragedy, death, destruction, and dying over the years. We never get used to it. The older we get, the more it bothers us. Fire-fighting and auto extraction is now a young man's game, and he must play it with caution. You never know when the bloodied accident victim has HIV tainted blood, or hepatitis A, B or C - all a death sentence to those who come in contact with tainted blood," he said. “Those who say they are not scared haven't been there.

"A volunteer fire-fighter has to be dedicated, courageous, mentally and physically-fit for this undertaking, and it is getting more difficult each year to recruit and retain young men for this dedicated community service.

"The Miramichi still has five well-trained volunteer fire departments who provide backup for each other. You have to know and respect the ability of the fire-fighter alongside you, as your life depends on him in tough and dangerous situations."

Duffy's history with the fire department is a long and colourful one that spans 44 years. He served as secretary and president of the old North Shore Fire-fighters Association for many years.

"I also joined the Royal New Brunswick (North Shore) Reserve Army Unit, where I received great leadership training, and met many good friends. They used to call me a good officer, but a bad actor," he said.

"I later seconded to the Canadian Forces (Air Element) Primary Reserve as an air cadet instructor."

Duffy is also a 40-year member of Branch No. 3 Royal Canadian Legion and a charter member of the Miramichi Irish Society. He served nine years on the District No. 10 School Board, nine years as a Chatham councillor, as well as many years with the Chatham Recreation Council, Chatham Recreation and Parks Commission, Saint Michael's Parish Council, and four years with Region 7 Hospital Board, during construction of the new hospital.

"I got involved with the Miramichi Special Olympics organization, when my special daughter was very young,” Duffy said. "She had all the makings of a promising athlete and a fierce competitor who possessed a winning spirit. Special Olympics is a not-for-profit organization whose goal is to provide year-round sport, training and competition to a person with a mental disability. These athletes see playing sports as fun, mind-expanding, and physically challenging. In my many years working with Special Olympians, I learned the true meaning of sportsmanship. I learned that winning is not about coming first or scoring more goals. It is being brave enough to compete to the best of your abilities, while maintaining the highest degree of respect for the game itself and the people you are competing against.

"The lives of the mentally challenged has remarkably improved, and a lot of this has to do with caring volunteers. Their unfailing determination and spirit to succeed is an inspiration to all of us. It takes strength and determination to meet the many challenges in everyday life, and this kind of courage has its own rewards," he said.

"Balancing the demands of family, career, and volunteer pursuits is an ongoing challenge. For those of us fortunate enough to be involved with these special people, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on what is valuable in our own lives.

"I asked my daughter when is she going to retire from Special Olympics. She replied, 'Never,' so I guess I am in it for the long haul."

Source: Miramichi Leader – April 13, 2004

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