One of Herb Carnegie’s last requests was for a family reunion. Sadly, it took his death, and last Saturday’s celebration of his remarkable life, to accomplish it.
A day before, friends and well-wishers joined the family to bid farewell to Carnegie who passed away on March 9 at age 92. The unique ceremony – bereft of prayers and hymns associated with most funerals – was held at Earl Haig Secondary School which Carnegie attended for a year in the mid-1930s.
“My father was very simple,” said daughter Bernice Carnegie who is the executive director of the Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation. “He would not have wanted a preacher to be gushing all over him and singing his praises.”
The two-hour tribute featured video presentations, uplifting musical renditions and the recollections of family and friends of a life well-lived.
“Dr. Carnegie was a man of incredible humility and inner strength whose character was fashioned on the anvil of life – an anvil that at times could be cruel and unforgiving,” said retired York Regional Police Service (YRPS) chief Armand LaBarge who sits on the Future Aces Foundation’s board of directors. “I know very few men or women that would have had the courage to deal with the adversity that Dr. Carnegie faced and the vision to turn that adversity into a force of good.”
Based on LaBarge’s nomination, Carnegie was appointed YRPS’ third (and last) honorary chief in April 2005.
“As Chief of Police, you are often called upon to make tough decisions,” LaBarge said. “After having spent time working with Herb, one of the easiest decisions that I had to make during my eight years as chief was to ask our police services board to appoint him honorary chief. It was an easy decision for me and our board chair because Herb was a living example of the values that we as proud members of York Regional Police Service stand for which are courage, integrity, honesty and leadership. He, above anyone else I knew at the time, was the living embodiment of our motto, ‘Deeds Speak’.
“He embraced the role of honorary chief with the same passion and positive attitude that he embraced his work with the Future Aces Foundation and he has left an indelible mark on Canadian society that will be remembered for generations to come.”
A member of York University’s board of governors, LaBarge announced that the institution has created a scholarship in Carnegie’s name to be presented to an undergraduate student who embodies the Future Aces philosophy.
The Investors Group, with whom Carnegie worked for 32 years, made a significant financial contribution to the Future Aces Foundation last week in his memory.
Carnegie was the company’s first Black financial adviser in 1964 and a member of the organization’s “Millionaire Club” for 23 years.
In 2003, Investors Group established the Herbert H. Carnegie Community Service Award recognizing employees who demonstrate extraordinary long-term dedication and service to their community, outstanding business excellence and personalized client service. The company also launched a Community Leadership Award for directors, which is presented biennially.
“In the midst of the great things in Herb’s life, there are three decades that he worked and built a lasting legacy with a company that shares his passion for making the world better by helping people,” said senior vice-president Bill Charles. “He was the embodiment of a good corporate citizen and he left a permanent mark on the company that he worked for.”
Regional director, Chuck Ealey, who won the Community Leadership Award two years ago, also paid tribute to Carnegie.
“It’s very difficult to think of him not being able to play the sport he loved,” said Ealey who played seven seasons in the Canadian Football League. “But I do believe that God has a plan for our lives and he allowed Herb to have an experience and share it with others that will likely last a lifetime. I am very thankful for what he has done and what he has meant to my life.”
Minister of Municipal Affairs, Housing and Aboriginal Affairs, Kathleen Wynne, said she was amazed at the way young people connected with Carnegie and the manner in which he dealt with his bitterness and moved on to make the world a better place while son Dale said preparation was the key to every endeavour his father approached.
“He loved to practice and he just could not wait to get to the hockey arena or the golf course,” said Dale Carnegie.
An Order of Ontario and Canada recipient, Carnegie won 16 golf championships and is a member of 10 Halls of Fame. York University bestowed an honorary doctorate on him six years ago and a city hockey arena, a York Region public school and a YRPS community room bear his name.
Last Thursday, Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor David Onley posthumously honoured Carnegie with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award to go along with the Silver and Gold Medals he received in 1977 and 2002 respectively.
Though denied the opportunity to play in the National Hockey League (NHL) because of his skin colour, Carnegie impacted the lives of thousands of young people through his Future Aces Creed. He thrived in the face of adversity, even when he became blind 25 years ago, always striving to leave the world a better place than he found it.
“Ninety two years is a long time and my father did it so well,” said Bernice Carnegie. “He always told me to do the right thing for the right reasons, have the courage not to give up and let your difference be an asset. That was what he taught me and I will never forget.”
Bernice and her siblings Dale, Goldie and Rochelle were moved to tears by Amoy Levy’s emotional rendition of Wind Beneath My Wings which was Carnegie’s favourite song. Pianist Robert Chambers accompanied Levy.
By RON FANFAIR