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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Richard Meloche earns 2024 Essex Citizen of the Year for dedication to the community




by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

Many may know Richard Meloche for his long-standing career on Essex Council, but the McGregor resident is a ‘been there, been a part of that’ type of volunteer.

As a longtime member of the Essex Legion, Heritage Essex, minor soccer, Kiwanis, the Essex Region Goodfellows, the Town of Essex’s Arts, Culture, and Tourism (ACT) Committee, the McGregor Music Fest Committee, and previously Essex Minor Hockey, Meloche had dedicated many years – and a lot of his time – to improving the community.

  He and his wife, Cathy, also founded the fundraising committee that helped develop the soccer fields in Essex Centre.

  All of that effort was recognized on Saturday evening, when he was named the 2024 Essex Citizen of the Year.

To say Meloche was surprised to hear his name announced – as he sat in the crowd with his wife and his six grandkids – would be an understatement.

Even though his grandkids are young, they lured grandpa to the Essex Fun Fest under the guise they wanted to watch Saturday night’s rock concert, featuring Honeymoon Suite.

Though Meloche thought they were more likely to want to watch the Krusher BMX Professional Stunt Team bike show, he was happy to oblige and brought them to the concert.

Soon, he would learn it was all a ruse to get him onsite.

“I didn’t know. I’m a little stunned,” Meloche said from the main stage, surrounded by his grandkids who followed him like little ducklings. Still wrapping his head around having earned a place on the Essex Citizen of the Year list of recipients that goes all the way back to 1978, he added, “I always put my best foot forward. It is all about giving back to the community.”

In addition to being excited at learning of the recognition, Meloche said it was quite an honour to be selected.

He noted it must have been a well kept secret as not a word was leaked, and he is part of Heritage Essex, the committee that the Essex Citizen of the Year program benefits annually.

Heritage Essex, which maintains the historic Essex Railway Station, teams up to organize the Citizen of the Year program with the Essex Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 201), the Rotary Club of Essex, and the Essex Knights of Columbus Holy Name Council (3305).

Together, the local service clubs host a banquet in the fall as a fundraiser for Heritage Essex.

Peter Youngson, Past President of the Essex K of C, noted there were a number of quality candidates submitted into this year’s Citizen of the Year program, which they were happy to see.

  Members of the community have a chance to nominate deserving individuals for the prestigious recognition, then a committee, comprised of a member from each participating service club, judges the applications and makes a decision on whom the recipient will be.

Meloche, he added, had been nominated in prior years. What got Meloche the recognition was his dedication as a volunteer, outside his previous municipal Council work, Morley Bowman said, who sits on Heritage Essex.

Those who put forward a name this year are urged to resubmit next year, Youngson noted.

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