Among the favourite wintertime activities enjoyed by any youngster living north of Colborne Street in Lindsay is tobogganing on the hill in Mayor James Flynn Park. So named in honour of the town’s 46th mayor, it is home to the “Mayor’s Walk” — a circuitous path along which some 50 trees have been planted, one in honour of each mayor who served the Town of Lindsay. The path begins with Robert Lang, who called the first council meeting to order in 1857. It ends with Art Truax.
Like a toboggan grinding to a halt at the bottom of the hill, this unique stroll through history abruptly stops when pedestrians reach the late Truax’s tree, for in 2000 Lindsay ceased to be an incorporated town.
As Kirk Winter reminds us in the latest issue of the Advocate, the process of amalgamation — which came to completion on Jan. 1, 2001 — was fraught with challenges, growing pains and regional divisions. Shepherding the municipality through this time of transition was Arthur D. “Art” Truax, the last mayor of Lindsay and the first mayor of the newly created City of Kawartha Lakes.
Born in 1935 to Everett Henry Truax and Margaret Christina McMillan, Lindsay’s last mayor traced his roots back to a family of Protestants named du Trieux, who lived where the borders of Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg meet. His direct ancestors arrived in Somerville Township a few years before the County of Victoria came into being in 1861.
When Art Truax was born, Percival Pickering was occupying the mayor’s chair in Lindsay’s council chambers, and Samuel Endicott, Reeve of Ops Township, was taking his turn as warden of Victoria County. The Great Depression was at its height, and by the time Truax entered King Albert Public School, the world was again at war. The Truax family lived simply at a house on Russell Street, adjacent to the bowling alley. Truax’s father worked as cab driver, and even chauffeured Lady Eaton’s two sisters around town before going into the cartage business. Margaret Truax, meanwhile, operated a boarding house.
The Lindsay of Art Truax’s boyhood was a haven for anyone interested in competitive sports — as indeed he was, playing baseball, basketball, football and hockey. During his high school days at Lindsay Collegiate Institute Truax cleaned the ice at the local arena. He set up pins at the bowling lanes, and even sold ice cream cones. Later, when he was enrolled in the Bachelor of Commerce program at Queen’s University, he returned to Lindsay during the summer months to work at Union Carbide and served as a playground supervisor at two local parks.
Truax married Barbara Lewis in 1957, and they were in due course blessed with a daughter and a son. After a year managing gas stations for Imperial Oil in Toronto, Truax went into teaching, and was hired on at his alma mater, L.C.I., in 1959, where he taught courses in business.
His first foray into municipal politics happened in 1965, when he won a seat on Lindsay’s town council, a role he carried on for six years. For the next quarter of a century, Truax’s career was spent, quite literally, in the halls of public education. At 40, he became the eighth principal of the renamed Lindsay Collegiate & Vocational Institute, and in 1982 he was appointed as a superintendent with the Victoria County School Board.
After retirement in 1996, Truax returned to local politics. He was elected mayor of Lindsay in 1997 and urged his fellow citizens to “brag” about their 140 year-old town ahead of millennium celebrations three years later. By that point, of course, rumblings about imminent amalgamation were in the air. Upon securing election as the new municipality’s mayor late in 2000, Truax had the formidable task before him of bringing a multiplicity of local governments to the same table —many still firmly objecting to the new state of affairs.
“His quiet leadership brought all voices together,” remembered former Lindsay and current Kawartha Lakes councillor Pat O’Reilly, who also played hockey with Truax. “And he did it with respect and competency.”
Not long after amalgamation, Truax was diagnosed with cancer. Undeterred, he carried on his duties as mayor, attending a variety of formal receptions, pancake breakfasts, ribbon-cuttings and other events at which he drew attention to the good work being done by local citizens. “A bad politician is in the game for himself,” said Ross Smyth, who knew Truax for years when both worked in school administration. However, Smyth continued, “A good one uses political skills to get the best from people on behalf of their community. Art did that, both in education and in politics.”
After stepping down as mayor in 2003, Truax served on a variety of boards, clubs and committees, and was active in the life of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, where his funeral took place on Dec. 7, 2011. The first hymn sung at his celebration of life implored its singers to “love each other.” It could be difficult to do that during the heated debates surrounding amalgamation, but Art Truax’s calm demeanour did indeed make a difference then and should inspire young leaders today.
“He was a strong competitor,” Barbara Truax remembers, “but he took life as it came, enjoyed the moment, stayed calm, and didn’t take life’s wins and losses too seriously.”