February 28th, 2024

Former alderman John Hamill remembered as ‘larger than life’

By JAMES TUBB on August 3, 2023.

Former city alderman John Hamill takes part in an Oct. 2018 mayoral debate hosted by the Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce. The longtime council member died Tuesday night at the age of 84.--NEWS FILE PHOTO


The City of Medicine Hat mourns the death of longtime former alderman John Hamill who died Tuesday night.

Flags at all city facilities will be lowered to half mast for the next seven days in memory for the 84-year-old who served as an alderman from 1992-1998 and again from 2001-2013.

“The passing of our former city councillor, John Hamill, has left an irreplaceable void in our hearts and in the halls of governance,” said acting deputy mayor Shila Sharps in a release.

“Councillor Hamill’s relentless passion for public service and profound commitment to the well-being of our citizens touched the lives of countless residents. As we reflect on his legacy, we are reminded of the many lives he positively impacted, and the transformative initiatives he championed at the City of Medicine Hat.

“Medicine Hat city council sends our deepest condolences to all those who are impacted by this immense loss.”

Hamill wore many hats in his career, working into his late 70s. He was in the British Army before hosting his own radio talk show, working for Cypress College, selling ads for Medicine Hat Shopper, running Elkwater Ski Hill and serving as president of the local Shriners Club to name a few. He ran for Medicine Hat mayor in 1997 and 2017, finishing in second during both campaigns.

His combined 18 years as alderman are where he is remembered the most, serving alongside current councillors Darren Hirsch and Robert Dumanowski.

“It’s a loss of a big personality guy who had a gruff exterior, but had a big, big heart, was passionate and really stood up to his beliefs,” Hirsch said.

Hirsch, who is in his third term as a Medicine Hat councillor, says he enjoyed working alongside Hamill with council and appreciated how true to himself and his beliefs the former alderman was.

“One thing I learned about John as the years went by is his heart,” Hirsch said. “People who got to know him really well realize that he’s a very loyal and dear friend to many. As the years went by, that’s the side I certainly remember him the most as.”

Dumanowski, the most tenured of Medicine Hat’s current council in his seventh term, says he’s spent the hours since learning the news of Hamill’s death reflecting on their time spent around the council table and in the community. He described Hamill as, “the epitome of what it means to be a larger than life character.”

“He said it the way it is and wasn’t prepared to question his own beliefs and integrity and be persuaded to change a vote or move in a certain direction based on the popular vote, he always spoke from the heart,” Dumanowski said. “He was very contemplative about everybody in the community and that’s the challenge all of us face. But what he brought to the table was the raw truth. He saw things very much in a black and white kind of way and always made decisions he felt were representative of the broader community.

“In many cases, he was known to be a spokesperson for some times, the minority. That kind of conversation around the table always made for excellent talk and ultimately rendered decisions for the community that were probably more broad and more reflective of everyone at times when it seemingly was going to go one way.”

Dumanowski says he was honoured to be able to get to know Hamill the alderman, but also him and his late wife Kathy as a person as well.

“His life story was extraordinary, honestly absolutely extraordinary,” Dumanowski said. “It reminded me when we were having those debates and discussions, and many times we were opposite side, but it helped me appreciate he was coming into that discussion and into that debate and ultimately into that decision item, with a big picture. I appreciated that and it helped me bring value to my decision making.”

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