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Jack & Grant Burton, 78 years of dedication to ONTC

'Father and son, Grant and Jack were both strong individuals, full of character, and devoted to family. As skilled tradespeople, they rose through the ranks at the rail division of Ontario Northland'

A father-son combination, Jack and Grant  Burton worked a combined 78 years at the ONR, both of them starting at the bottom and working their way up.

This year for the first time, Canadore College has awarded the 'Grant and Jack Burton Trade Bursary' to a first-year student from northern Ontario entering a trades program.

The bursary was established by Chuck Rendell and Mike Borosh in honour of the lives and achievements of the two local men.

"These are family men of strong character -  frontier men, strong as an ox and hard-working and devoted to family," Rendell told BayToday. "As skilled tradespeople, they rose through the ranks at the rail division of Ontario Northland. Jack started as a chainman and advanced to machinist and foreman. Grant followed in his dad's footsteps, starting as a coach cleaner, and advancing to machinist and supervisor. Their combined service at Ontario Northland totalled 78 years - not including Jack's enlistment from 1941-45."

Jack passed away on March 30, 1992.  He was a sergeant in the air force during WW2, training mechanics. After retiring from the ONR in 1984, he was approached by General Motors to go to Egypt to train the Egyptian railroad mechanics on new locomotives they purchased.

His son Grant, now retired, actually worked for his Dad for a time, he recalls, when Jack was a diesel shop supervisor and he was a mechanic,

"He always told me if I got an opportunity to get training, take it. His theory was to take as much training as you can and become well-rounded, and that's exactly what I did."

He says his father was his greatest inspiration.

"I pretty much patterned my career after him actually because he was a real family man, and always relied on his employees."

Grant recalls that his father always had good tradesmen for support that were well-trained. "He would trust them to do their job. He always treated them like they were the most important part of his job because they could make him look good or look bad," he says with a laugh. "The men always spoke highly of him."

That's why Grant decided to follow in his Dad's footsteps.

He worked up in Moosonee when he was 15 as an engine watchman and coach cleaner. He got an opportunity to come back to North Bay where Jack was a supervisor. When Grant later became a supervisor he patterned his way of treating people after his Dad.

"He always mentored me on how to get the best out of employees."

Grant feels the quality of rail travel has declined since he started in the business.

"It was so much better travelling. There were some problems in the mechanical end of it but for the most part, it was very comfortable for the passengers, moreso than what they are running now."

Grant is now 66, and still, a skilled craftsman and golfer, spends his retirement caring for family, assisting friends with their projects, and adding to his three holes-in-one.

"The trade bursary is paying forward two lives well lived," concluded Rendell.

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Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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