Monterey Recreation Centre volunteer Sandy Cotton was born in Glasgow, Scotland to a war bride who married a Canadian soldier. (Linda Foubister photo)

Monterey Recreation Centre volunteer Sandy Cotton was born in Glasgow, Scotland to a war bride who married a Canadian soldier. (Linda Foubister photo)

Monterey faces: Meet Sandy Cotton son of a war bride and Canadian soldier

Linda Foubister is a volunteer writer and photographer at the Monterey Recreation Centre

Monterey Recreation Centre volunteer Linda Foubister interviews fellow volunteer Sandy Cotton.

What is your background?

I was born in Glasgow, Scotland to a war bride who married a Canadian soldier. My mother and I arrived in Canada when I was 1 year old. I grew up in the Eastern Townships of Quebec and got a military scholarship to Bishop’s University where I played football and hockey, and met my wife, Shelley.

After graduation, I served as an infantry officer in the Royal 22nd Regiment (the Van Doos) and was posted to La Citadelle in Quebec City. My proudest moment was when I was designated to lead the ceremonial Changing of the Guard on July 1, 1967, the centenary of Canada’s confederation. I remember that the song Ca-na-da by Bobby Gimby played as we marched into the parade square before an audience of over 2,500. Later I was with the United Nations in Cyprus.

While in the military, I earned a PhD in sociology from Carleton University and served as Head of the Military Leadership department at the Royal Military College in Kingston. After retiring from the military in 1983, I taught leadership in the Queens School of Business and helped to develop many management programs. I also taught courses in Queen’s Theological College, and served as the first director of its Institute for Faith and Ethics in Society.

I feel that I have been very blessed in both my career and my shared journey with my wife. Certainly, my career took me to places I never imagined growing up.

What brought you to Victoria?

We moved to Victoria four years ago so my wife and I would be closer to our children and grandchildren who live in Calgary, without us actually living in Calgary. It’s wonderful as it is a short flight to Calgary so visiting is easy.

What brought you to the Monterey Recreation Centre?

When we lived in Kingston, we enjoyed going to the seniors centre. So it was natural for us when we moved to Victoria to seek out another seniors’ centre and that’s how we found the Monterey Recreation Centre. The structure of the Kingston Seniors Association differs from that of the Monterey Recreation Centre as it is a not-for-profit, charitable organization in contrast to the Monterey Recreation Centre that falls under the administration of the Oak Bay District. The Monterey Recreation Centre is an absolutely marvelous institution.

How long have you been a Monterey member?

I have been a member for four years.

What do you do as a member and a volunteer at the centre?

I volunteer at the Fern Café, making sandwiches and serving healthy lunches to members. I love each shift as I get to know so many volunteers and members. My personal favourite sandwich is the ham salad and I have discovered that the most popular entrée is liver and onions. People start to line up for the dish as early as 11 am and it sells out quickly.

I also belong to the French Club and I am the club representative. I learned my French from my Quebecois soldiers while in the military.

Why do you volunteer?

I enjoy working with a diverse group of volunteers and staff. My reward is a sense of service and I get immediate tangible results that bring people joy. It feels great, really great. Actually, it’s a very pleasant change from so much of the consulting and teaching I did when working.

What do you like about the centre?

The centre enriches me. It keeps me young – people there are young at heart and engaged with various activities. Never for a moment do I feel old.

I have had many titles in my career, but here at the centre, I am just Sandy. And I love that.

What would you advise a newcomer to the centre to do?

First, I would ask them, “What do you love? What are your hobbies?” There’s a good chance you can find it at the centre. It is a center for aging gracefully. You can pursue your joy.

What challenges do you see for the centre?

Getting people to volunteer for leadership roles is a significant challenge. Also, we need more space. In Kingston, the seniors association developed satellite locations.

Where do you see the centre in five years?

In five years, the centre will be humming along the way it is, yet with more members.

What ideas do you have to improve the centre?

Stay the same. It would be nice to have a bi-monthly magazine with stories, profiles, poems, pictures in addition to the monthly information sheet we now have. The Kingston Seniors Association had a monthly newsletter and I wrote a column called “Transitions” for the newsletter for a few years.

What are you reading now?

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Professor Yuval Noah Harari. I enjoyed it, but not the sequel, Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow. My reading is quite eclectic.

What are your hobbies?

Volunteering, walking, reading, and writing. I co-authored a book, Passionate Visionary: Leadership Lessons from the Apostle Paul, published in 2005. In the coming year, I plan to return to writing poetry. As we go through life, we leave memories and we can leave good memories or bad memories. My intention is to leave more good memories.

How do you stay fit?

Walking. Victoria is a profoundly walkable city. I try to walk every day and always enjoy my 20-minute walk to the Monterey Centre.

Introvert or extrovert?

In my roles, I am quite chatty. However, I am what is known as a False Extrovert and like most introverts, I can find social interaction draining. A good example of a False Extrovert is Peter Gzowski, the late host of CBC Radio’s Morningside.

What inspires you?

Thinking about the people I meet at the centre. There is an incredible diversity of members remarkable for the richness of their lives. Volunteering lets me get to know them.

What would surprise people about you?

How much I love to cook. Actually, I have done most of the cooking in our family for the past four decades.

Monterey Recreation Centre welcomes new volunteers for customer service roles such as café helpers, cashiers and coffee express attendants. If you would like to join the roster, please contact Joanne at the centre at 250-370-7309.

Linda Foubister is a volunteer writer and photographer at the Monterey Recreation Centre.

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