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Former RVC councillor passes away after battle with cancer

"He is an example of a person who didn’t take money, but he instead chased trying to make where he is a better place.”

Jerry Arshinoff, a former Rocky View County (RVC) councillor, family man, educator, and people’s champion, has passed away following a battle with cancer on July 6, leaving behind his wife, five children, and numerous family members and friends.

The 72-year-old served as a member of RVC council, representing Division 2 (Springbank and area) from 2013 to 2017. He served one term, prior to losing his seat in the 2017 municipal election by only 16 ballots. He also ran for a public school board trustee position in October 2021, finishing in third place for the Ward 5 seat for Rocky View Schools

According to his family, Arshinoff was an unwavering advocate for RVC residents up until his death.

“The reason he was so good at what he did and why he had a lot of support is because he genuinely cared,” said his daughter, Brittany Arshinoff. “It wasn’t about a job or a title. Not even a little bit, not at all. It was because he loved Springbank.

“He [thought] we’re so lucky to live here and I agree.”

During his time with the County, Arshinoff was an advocate for flood mitigation and crime prevention, ending subsidized development, upgrading community recreation facilities, advocating for the creation of a voters’ list, and debt repayment.

According to his daughters Brittany and Carley Arshinoff, the politician’s advocacy efforts continued beyond his tenure with the County and his influence spread outside of his division.

“We’ve gotten lots of really nice messages from people in Cochrane as well,” Brittany said. “He helped a lot and that wasn’t even his district – he was still going there and meeting with people and helping out, because he cared.”

According to his obituary, Arshinoff was born in Montreal, five minutes after his twin brother Steve Arshinoff was born. He was the third of four children to Leo and Hilda Arshinoff.

He moved to Calgary in 1971 where he met his wife Diane, whom he married in 1978, and subsequently the two shared 44 years together. They settled in Springbank in the 1980s.

Prior to his tenure with the County, Arshinoff earned degrees from McGill University and the University of Calgary, and he also earned a Master of Education from the University of Portland. He served as a teacher and principal of the now-defunct Plains Indians Cultural Survival School (PICSS), executive director of PICSS Society, and an investment advisor.

“He was so much more than a [principal],” said Brittany of her father’s role with PICSS. “He was really fighting for [the students’] education and equality. One student was so impacted by my dad, this literally changed the course of his life.”

Arshinoff’s twin brother Steve said the students at the school grew to respect him, given his caring and non-judgmental approach to education. Steve noted his younger twin strove to provide students with a “level playing field.”

According to Steve, his brother implemented various programs to help the students outside of the government’s scope for the school.

“After a while, the government got mad at him because he wasn’t pursuing what they wanted to do and he was doing what he and the students thought was better for them – these kids did really well,” Steve said, adding the school was eventually disbanded.

“If there was to be a legacy [for my brother] it’d be to build a school and let these kids get a real education, non-judgmental. Respect them and let them learn and go to school.”

Steve said what he admired most about his brother was his personable nature and his ability to tell stories and make friends with everyone he met.

“He was a wonderful guy. Everybody he met would love to sit with him because he would talk and tell stories forever,” he said.

“Some of his stories were about me and they weren’t always kind, but I didn’t mind,” he said with a laugh. “He would tease me endlessly and we had a good time.”

Steve added throughout their school years, the duo was a force to be reckoned with.

"We’ve been together for a long time. We’re twins so since we were embryos, we were together,” he said. “For our whole life we were extremely lucky because most twins are these small little kids, and we were always the two biggest kids in our class – the two best athletes.

“They made a rule in school in Grade 7 or 8, we could no longer play on the same team, because it wasn’t fair, because we would win every day we played on the same team.”

According to Steve, as the years went on, Arshinoff demonstrated an affinity for horses and became an accomplished equestrian, later sharing the passion with his children on their family ranch.

“When I was young, he used to take me on my horse to school, so he would ride his horse and I would ride my horse [to school],” Brittany said. “Then my sisters – he hooked the horse up to the wagon and took them to school.

“It’s something that was unique and that we’ll always remember. People used to call me horse girl in my school,” she added with a laugh.

Steve said in his final months at the hospice, many of Arshinoff’s student hosted a celebration of life for the retired educator.

“He was adamant that people should be honest and fight for the rights of the people,” he said.

“He is an example of a person who didn’t take money, but he instead chased trying to make where he is a better place.”

A memorial service for Jerry Arshinoff will be held on Monday, July 18 at 2 p.m. at the Springbank Heritage Club. Donations in his honour can be made to Eye Foundation of Canada, Calgary Jewish Federation or Inn From The Cold.

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