Editor's note: The following article was taken from the Humboldt Journal, Feb. 17, 2011 issue.
By Keri Dalman
He's known as simply "Reverend Al" to a healthy segment of the local population.
Rev. Alvin Hingley is Humboldt and area's Citizen of the Year for 2011.
Hingley, a retired United Church Minister, served as a spiritual leader in many Saskatchewan communities before settling in Humboldt with wife Marion in 1990.
Since moving to Humboldt, Hingley, 74, has been active in several community initiatives, many of them centering around his passion for history.
He has served on the Humboldt and District Museum and Gallery (HDMG) board since shortly after his arrival in Humboldt, was involved with the Humboldt Mural and Tourism committees, was the volunteer United Church archivist for the Saskatchewan Conference of the United Church of Canada for years, and is currently the curator for the Benson-Hingley Military Museum in the Humboldt Legion. He is also a member of the Original Humboldt committee, which helped secure the original site of the community for future generations.
Hingley was on the founding committee of the Humboldt Good Neighbour Store, is an active member of the Humboldt branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, and has been a member of the President's Advisory Committee for St. Peter's College in Muenster and on the Community Advisory Committee for Conexus Credit Union.
The distinction of being named Humboldt's Citizen of the Year this year follows other honours Hingley has received, including the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal for community service, the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal and the Knights of Columbus Veteran of the Year award. "It's something very humbling," he told the Journal of being chosen as the Citizen of the Year.
"You do what there is to do, and that's reward in itself. Then something like this comes along...
"It's very, very humbling," he said. "It makes me feel that people have appreciated what I was doing, volunteering. And it reaffirms that what I'm doing is acceptable (and important.) It keeps me going... it gets me out of bed in the morning," he smiled.
Hingley started volunteering in his early teens at his church in Trenton, Nova Scotia.
"My church gave me my introduction to service," he said. "As one who serves."
After high school, Hingley accepted a job at the post office in his home community. From the post office, he went into the army briefly, in hopes of being able to rise up in the civil service, as at that time, preference was given to veterans. So he joined the Canadian Army Postal Corps for a short period.
It was during his brief stay in that corps that he accepted his call to the ministry. So he went to university, "and never looked back," he grinned.
"In my upbringing... so much of the family life centred around the church," he explained when asked how he knew the church was where he belonged.
"I can remember having parts in the Sunday School Christmas concert, standing on the stool behind the pulpit," he said, and something about that just felt right. "I don't remember ever not being church-oriented," he said. "And the history of the church, the story of the church as an institution, has always been a fascination." Now on this new but old road to the church, Hingley got his Bachelor of Arts degree from Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, and earned his Masters of Divinity from Pinehill in Halifax.
It was during his time in university that he made his first trip out to Saskatchewan. During four summers, he served a few tiny communities , including one where he met his future wife before coming back to stay in 1966, when he was ordained.
Hingley lived in a number of communities in Saskatchewan during his career with the United Church of Canada, including Pelly, Carlyle and Davidson.
"I was always active, doing things like this wherever I was," he said, adding that he didn't just focus on work at the church, but out in the greater community.While doing volunteer work in Humboldt, "it's been my privilege to work with a great group of people," he said.Being recognized as Humboldt's Citizen of the Year, he said, is an honour that is not for him alone. "It's always a co-operative effort," he said of the things he's done. "No one can accomplish anything like this alone...
"Everyone I've ever worked with has given so much already," he said. "I'm merely the recipient (this year)."
Hingley has been on the HDMG board "forever and ever," he said, just recently stepping down as board chair, and he's been involved with the Legion in Humboldt for about 15 years.
He was given the opportunity to volunteer as the curator for the Legion museum, located in the basement of the Legion call, when the former curator, Bill Benson, passed away, Hingley explained. For years, he toiled away, gathering artifacts and setting up displays in what was then known as the Bill Benson Military Museum.
He has put together things like a collection of cap badges from military units, and pieces of social history, like ration cards from the war years for people to see at the museum, and in the last year, has been an integral part of the installation of both an armoured personnel carrier in the Legion parking lot, and a Wall of Remembrance in the Legion hall, which recognizes the local soldiers who were lost in World War II. In addition to photos and personal information about each soldier, the display includes photos and information about the geographic feature in the province which now bear their names.
Under his stewardship, the Legion museum has been awarded the Certificate of Significance by the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society for the maintenance of social history.
Recently, in honour of Hingley's contributions, the Legion decided to re-name the museum the Benson-Hingley Military Museum.A love of history is at the root of why Hingley has gotten involved in much of his volunteer work. "History was one of my university majors and has always been my love," he said. "To be given an opportunity in Humboldt to work that way and service the community, you learn so much about people," he said, as it gives you the opportunity to work with others and learn and grow."History is important to us. No car has ever been put on the market without a rear-view mirror," he said. "It helps us see where we come from... and see who is following you. (We have) to chart a course for those coming after," he believes.History, as Hingley sees it, is not dusty and old. "It's a dynamic, living experience that's most necessary," he said. "If you don't learn from the past, you're doomed to repeat it."
Hingley grew up surrounded by history in Nova Scotia, which made Saskatchewan a very new experience for him when he moved here.
"I grew up with history that's 300 years old," he said. And when he came to Saskatchewan, he found it fascinating that he could talk to people who had been among the first settlers here."We're like New Canada out here," he said. But there is still important history to be preserved, he believes.
Finding out new things about old things is one of the reasons Hingley continues to volunteer.
"What's new in old?" he smiled.
But the main reason he continues to give back is simple: it's a continuation of his commitment to service."You give back what you have received through service to others," he noted.Of all the work Hingley has done in Humboldt, there are two things that really stick out as highlights for him. The first is the development of the Legion museum, especially the unveiling of Wall of Remembrance last fall.
"That was a very, very moving experience," he said of researching those young men and putting that tribute together.
"Why did the death of these 48 men, most in their early 20s, have such an impact on me, 60 years later?" he still asks.
"It was overpowering at times," he said. The installation of the armoured personnel carrier, or "Rev. Al's tank," as many call it, at the Legion was another part of his museum work that he's proud of. Though Hingley was the driving force behind the installation of that "tank" on the Legion grounds, it took contributions from others in the community to get it here.
"We made it happen," Hingley said.
The second accomplishment of which Hingley is especially proud was the work he did with the Original Humboldt committee to secure 80 acres of the original site of the city for the future.
Through archeological digs and other research, more and more about what happened out there, including the site's role in the Riel Resistance, is being uncovered.
Hingley's work in the community has received great support from his wife, Marion, and his family - sons Ian and Carl, their wives Jennifer and Cindy, and their children Jayden, Jillian, Karis and Jared."Projects at home go waiting," he said, while he works on other things, but they have continued to support and encourage him in what he does outside the home.
Hingley was honoured as Humboldt's Citizen of the Year at the Humboldt and District Chamber of Commerce's Mark of Excellence Awards banquet on March 2 in Humboldt.