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Bearspaw philanthropist named to Order of Canada

"He’s a man who has a lot of stories— He has done extraordinary things in his life.”

A 91-year-old Bearspaw resident has been named to the Order of Canada.

Charles Roy Guest – known as Nipper Guest to his friends – was named to the Order of Canada Nov. 26 after establishing an innovative profit-sharing and employee-ownership plan at Spartan Control Company Ltd. Guest also founded the Bearspaw Benevolent Foundation, among other accomplishments.

Jorge Stuwe was part of a group that pushed for Guest to receive the Order of Canada. Stuwe said he met Guest in 2007 and the two quickly became friends.

“He is a very charming, elderly gentleman,” Stuwe said. “He’s a man who has a lot of stories – he has done extraordinary things in his life.”

The timing of the membership to the Order of Canada serves as a great birthday present for Guest, who will celebrate his 95th birthday Dec. 18, Stuwe added.

“It is such a deserved honour that he got,” Stuwe said. “He’s an incredibly respected and loved person.”

In celebration of his naming to the Order of Canada, a box was mailed to Guest that included a book of all the prior award winners, two pins and a pen celebrating his role as a new member.

“He was just delighted with it,” Stuwe said.

The actual award medal and ribbon will be provided at a later date. Typically, the Governor General directly awards members, but this has been complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea to nominate Guest for the Order of Canada was initiated by opera singer and Order of Canada member Jim Monk.

“He said, ‘You know Nipper...has done so much for society in general,’” Stuwe said.

They spent three years working to get the Order of Canada for Guest.

“We thought he would be a shoo-in – he’s a war hero, he founded the company, did some real good with that company and founded the foundation that gives only to charity,” Stuwe said. “You get this award for your life work.”

Guest, was born in 1925. Stuwe said his friend has lived an extraordinary life, beginning at the age of 16 when he changed his birth certificate to enlist in the Canadian army and fight in the Second World War. Guest joined the army in 1943 and, in September 1944, joined the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada in the Second Infantry Division at Dieppe.

In October 1944, Guest was wounded in battle advancing on the Dutch border, Stuwe said. Half of Guest's shoulder blade was blown away during the advance. But he survived and was transported to England for recovery.

When Guest returned to Canada after the war, he attended the University of Alberta and graduated with a bachelor of science in mining engineering. He helped launch Spartan Control Company Ltd. in 1962.

As one of the founding members of the company, Guest was responsible for something that still makes Spartan Controls a unique company, Stuwe said. Guest is an ardent believer in profit-sharing and was determined to ensure part of the profits should go to shareholders. He suggested a 50-50 split of the profits, with all permanent employees able to participate.

Guest was exceedingly proud of the profit-sharing idea he established at Spartan Control, Stuwe said, which helped spread the wealth of the business to employees.

“Everybody became shareholders over time and profited,” Stuwe said.

In 1991, Guest founded the Bearspaw Benevolent Foundation as a way to support local charity groups in the Calgary area. The foundation boasts an extensive list of charities that receive donations, including the Calgary Drop-In Centre, along with an annual bursary at Cochrane High School. The bursary is worth $20,000 over four years to a student studying a practical science in post-secondary education. 

True to his generous nature, Guest's estate will ultimately go to the foundation, Stuwe said.

Guest lives a rich life outside his philanthropic work, Stuwe said. He married the love of his life, Eleanor Crandell, in 1955. They were happily married until she died in 2011. The couple has three sons.

When he was 90, Guest wrote a book documenting his life titled No Place for a Married Man with Kids. The book documents his travels and adventures cycling across Canada and his explorations of Guinea, Nepal, Eastern Europe, Africa, Japan and China. Stuwe said $5 from every book is donated to the YMCA.

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