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Seniors in Action

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“Fort McMurray people are the greatest bunch of people I’ve ever met. I’ve never been hugged so much in my life.”

Ken & Karen Saunders

Karen and Ken Saunderson are a volunteering power couple. While each has had their own volunteering endeavours, they have both been avid volunteers with the Golden Years Society for years.

The Saunderson family arrived in Fort McMurray in 1972. Ken was the first full-time senior high math teacher at Peter Pond junior/senior high school.

Since that time, Karen says she has always been involved in the community whether with the Canadian Parents for French when their daughter, Kara-Lyn, was in French immersion or with the Oilsands Rotary Music Festival which she continues to be involved with.

She has been the president of the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club and was the Assistant Governor of both Rotary Clubs (Fort McMurray & Oilsands)

“I’ve been fairly active in the community over the years,” she acknowledged.

She is a past treasurer for Golden Years and continues to help with the community volunteer income tax program.

“Last year, Hughie (Furber) and I did about 100,” she recollects. “It gives you a bit of a challenge in your life,” said Karen of volunteering. “It keeps you active and it’s something different to think about, not just yourself. My parents were volunteers in the community so I grew up with it.

“I’ve always been active doing something.”

For Ken, “The year I retired (2003), I became involved with the Fort McMurray Ground Search and Rescue.”

That opened up the world of air search and rescue to him.

“I thought it would be neat to be up in a plane looking at this countryside from the air,” he chuckled. “I volunteered with that since 2006 and became the zone commander at one point. Now I’m the training officer for air search.”

At Golden Years, he is the First Vice-President and because “we have so few men on the board, I tend to look after the maintenance for the building.”

He admits that when he retired, he became a volunteer to remain active in the community, and search and rescue was a good fit given his love of the outdoors here. 

One ‘volunteer’ activity they both heartily love is being grandparents to four lively grandchildren, chuckled Karen.

“We’re at a point now we have family here,” adds Ken. “Even if they weren’t here, I think we’d still stay in Fort McMurray. We’ve been here so long; this is our world where we know people. Fort McMurray has been good to our family.

“We appreciate being here.”


Bruce Laxton

Since Bruce Laxton arrived in Fort McMurray in 2002, he has proudly volunteered in his adopted community. And that comes after volunteering for years back in Gravenhurst, Ontario.

Though his end of life plans are to be buried in his wife’s hometown of Dunnville, Ontario, he calls himself a confirmed  “McMurrayite.”

When Laxton’s wife, Jean, passed in November 2015, they had been married 69 years. They had moved here to be closer to grandsons Calvin and Bruce. Brian is their dad. Laxtons’ eldest son is Robert.

“We came out at a time when they were burgeoning out as young men and now they are young men and I’m very, very proud of them.”

As the oldest surviving Second World War veteran in Fort McMurray, Laxton turns 95 in July. He served with the Canadian Infantry Corps based at Camp Borden in Ontario. He was demobilized in September 1945. 

Now he gives all his volunteer time to the local Royal Canadian Legion.

 “To me, it’s a home away from home.”

He says there are two reasons he volunteers: To give back and because of all the people he meets.

He’s a beloved fixture at the Legion bingo on Sundays selling daubers and meat draw tickets. Laxton sells poppies for Remembrance Day and participates in the Canada Day Parade.

He is also a founding member of the Legion’s ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) Club.

“I look forward to bingo. It’s my reason to get up on Sunday.”

Though there is a bus he can take from Rotary House to the Legion, he’s only had to use it two times since re-entry.

“Every other time, there’s always somebody offering a ride.

“Fort McMurray people are the greatest bunch of people I’ve ever met. I’ve never been hugged so much in my life.”


Photos by Taylor-Dawn Photography


One of those people who arrived in Fort McMurray for a short time – six months - but eight years later is still here. Love this place, the people, the outdoor escapades and the incredible heart of the community. Work hard, volunteer lots and would rather sit and chat with someone than do housework. Passport always at the ready to jet off to some wonderful global locale. So much to see and do.