The Man behind the Red Vest: A profile of Francis Fryters

by Lucie Roy
Morinville News Correspondent

Lionism is based on loyalty and tireless dedication, and Morinville Lions Club President Francis Fryters has done just that. Fryters said he was sponsored to be a club member by Charter member Peter (Pete) Gibeault in 1984. Before Gibeault passed in 2003, he made Fryters promise to keep the Lions club going. Fyters said, ‘OK, I will try.’

As the Morinville Lions Club celebrates its 67th anniversary of receiving their charter on June 6, 1949, Fryters celebrates having served for 32 of those years, and he continues to serve with the Club. Fryters has received numerous Lions Club International (LCI) and Multiple District Awards, including the LCI Foundation Honour Roll, Melvin Jones Fellowship, Judge Brian Stevenson Fellowship, 100% President Award, Dr. Jack Dobush (Diabetes research) Award and the Bill Webber Fellowship Award. He also received the Morinville Citizen of the Year Award in 2013.

He has held numerous positions within the club, including Vests, Mints, Meat Draw Coordinator, Peace Poster, Project Pride, Can Tabs, Citizen of the Year, eyeglass collection, and President in 1989-90, 1996-97, 2006 to 2010, and 2014 to the present.

For the welfare of the community, the Lions had two projects which need mention said Fryters. One is the Heritage Place, six self-contained units for seniors, built at a cost of $155,473 in 1979. The other is the Morinville Lions Manor, which contains eight one-bedroom units, and which cost $378,295 when it officially opened in 1983. Although both projects were financed by the Alberta Housing Corporation, both the residences were managed and maintained by members of the Morinville Lions Club. Fryters was Chairperson of the Board of Management for the Lions Manor and Board member of the 6-plex by Heritage Lodge that Lions managed and which offered alternate housing for seniors. The Lions also built the patio at the back of the Manor.

Fryters remembers when the Lions Club of Morinville was one of the driving forces behind the Morinville Ambulance. In 1983/84 Lion President Ron Hansel and the club got a commitment from the Town to buy a replacement ambulance if its members raised enough funds for the first ambulance. The club raised $12,500 in six weeks by canvassing every resident and farm house in Morinville and vicinity. The funds were raised by holding such functions as a street dance and a slave auction. Fryters said they also donated over 50 teddy bears to the RCMP and ambulance.

Since then the club has donated special breathing equipment and sight testing machinery which was donated to the Sturgeon Health Unit in conjunction with the Legal Lions.

web-francis2Fryters said he was a two-year member when he got involved in the Blood Donor Clinic. “It was different from now,” he recalls. “We put the name on, did registration, set the time clock, and did everything. Now nurses do it.”

At the time, they also had a kid’s corner with colouring sheets to keep them busy while adults donated blood.
Fryters said one of the activities in which the club put great emphasis was in the area of recreation. The club helped organize and finance several recreation projects, which included the Poplar Park, east of the arena, and the Morinville Figure Skating Club and their annual show. The members also cooked in the kitchen for a few years for the hockey games. For baseball, the Lions had three outdoor washrooms built and the Town agreed to clean and maintain them.

Fryters said where the Lions Park is today used to be a big hole with lots of water. The Lions got a grant and with more than 20 truckloads of sand, and then seeding the area with grass and adding a few barbeques; they turned the swamp area into the Lions Park. In 1998, the official opening took place as part of the Frontier Daze activities.
Fryters said the Lions had a float during the Frontier Daze, and he was the Frontier Daze parade organizer for three years.

The Teen Centre building located in Lions Park across from the arena came from the old town hall when it was broken down. The Lions were told they could have it, but they had no place for it. At first, it was moved to the man-made lake at a cost of $1500. It was moved back to town for the same cost, and with an additional $4000 to fix it and add power it was placed in its current location at Lions Park for the teens to use. That structure is no longer used as the teen centre today.

When the Lions celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1999, the Cavalcade for Diabetes was centre stage and held in Morinville for the first time. Fryters said the first roast was for Pete Gibeault and held at the Frontiersman Restaurant upstairs. The club’s second roast was in celebration of the clubs’ 65th anniversary and featured Ron Cust as the target of the roast.

Fryters said he organized the first Lions Club Golf Tournament nine years ago, and it is ongoing to this day with the next tournament to be held Aug. 20.

For the future, Fryters said the Lions need new members and new ideas. The current need is for everyone to work together with Midstream and other organizations to find it a home. It is a work in progress.

Family Life

Fryters was born in November of 1941 in Zundert, Holland to Jos and Marie Fryters. He had four sisters and one brother. In August 1967, he ventured on his own and came to Canada to settle in PEI. Fryters said he came to Canada because he wanted something else.

Anna Puyman, born in August of 1948, came to Canada alone from Velp, Holland when she was 20 and also settled in PEI. She was on one side of PEI and Fryters was on the other. They met through mutual friends.

“You have to fly thousands and thousands of kilometres to get married,” Fryters said with a laugh, adding they got married in 1970 and have two children, John and Sandra.

In 1981, they came to Alberta because the children started growing up and there was more of a future for them here. They settled just outside of town and worked for Ku-Ku Farms before moving in town in 1982 during the Christmas holidays. Fryters also worked at Walmart, Villeneuve, and at McDonalds for 23 years before he retired.

When they moved here, he was looking for something to do, and the Lions were at at the Frontier Daze. It was there that he met Pete Gibeault, and it went from there.

Wife Anna has always been behind the scenes doing her share for the Lions, she said, from helping with the parade floats, sewing the vests, selling tickets, organizing the annual appreciation night – all the nitty gritty stuff.

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