Bob McMurray has volunteered his time to City of Surrey committees and projects for more than 50 years, and yet it still came as a surprise to him when he was named City of Surrey’s Citizen of the Year last Thursday (April 6) at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Celebration.
“It sure caught me off guard,” said McMurray.
The award is given out every year to a Surrey resident who has contributed outstanding service and bettered the community.
“Bob McMurray is the personification of community service,” said Mayor Linda Hepner. “For the past 50 years, Bob has devoted his time toward the betterment of our City and has been a mainstay in the realm of Arts and Heritage in our community.”
McMurray has been giving back to the community since 1964, when he moved to Surrey and started an accounting firm in downtown Cloverdale.
He lived on the western edge of White Rock at a time when there was only one stop sign on his way to Cloverdale. “I could make it to the office in 10 minutes,” said McMurray.
At first, the accounting firm was a “little cubbyhole” on 176 Street that consisted of himself, one student and a secretary. By the time McMurray retired in 2005, the firm had four partners – it was called McMurray, Roberts, Heming & Wyborn – and had 16 staff members.
The firms still exists in downtown Cloverdale today, now known as HWG, Chartered Professional Accountants.
In 1964, McMurray started volunteering his time to the community. He joined the Cloverdale Board of Trade and served on the board for ten years. During that time, he started Cloverdale’s popular sister city exchange with Cloverdale, California.
“My wife and I drove to California, and we stopped in the Cloverdale tourism office. The lady who published the paper was there, and she said, ‘oh, we should be sister cities,'” he said.
McMurray took a copy of their business directory and noticed the many similarities between the business communities of the different Cloverdales. “We even both had a ‘Myrtle Beauty Salon,’” said McMurray.
An exchange program was worked out, and people would travel between the two cities. “We made good friends,” he said. “And actually, one marriage occurred.”
Since beginning to volunteer in 1964, McMurray has served on many boards, committees and projects within the Surrey community.
The City of Surrey highlighted a few specific efforts when they presented McMurray with the Citizen of the Year award, including his time serving on the Peace Arch Hospital Board of Trustees, the Cloverdale Board of Trade, the Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission, the Surrey Museum & Archives Community Advisory Board and the Surrey Parks and Recreation Commission.
“Through Bob’s tireless dedication he has enriched people’s lives for generations to come and made Surrey a more vibrant place for all,” said Hepner.
Each of those initiatives represent years of work. During the 14 years he spent on the Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission, for example, McMurray helped in the preservation of heritage properties, contributed to the early days of preserving Surrey’s heritage rail and was part of the team that established Surrey’s historic road markers.
Together with Les Eggleton, McMurray also created the Surrey heritage bus tour. Eggleton and McMurray went around Surrey with a stop watch and mapped out a tour that would take a full day and then they ran the tour annually. It was a huge hit.
“Les would do the commentary as we went along. It was funny, with the stop watch and driving like an old man.”
Bob McMurray has volunteered for City of Surrey projects and committees for more than 50 years. Sam Anderson
He’s also a talented artist himself, and gives art demonstrations and teaches painting lessons throughout the Lower Mainland.
When asked why he gives so much of his time to volunteering, McMurray laughed and said, “Just dumb, I guess.”
“First of all, they’re areas of interest,” he said. “And basically I get asked and I have a hard time saying no.”
“[The City is] really supporting us,” said McMurray. “It’s a pleasure to contribute to a city where the city councillors are supportive and put money behind their support.”
His plans for the rest of 2017 are simple.
“Staying alive,” he said. “Getting rid of my cold.”
He lives on an acre in South Surrey, and plans to spend his time with his two dogs, tend to his yard and teach the odd painting workshop.
He’ll also keep serving on a few committees. He currently sits on the Public Art Advisory Committee and the Cultural Development Advisory Committee, and said he will continue to dedicate his time to City of Surrey projects.