Frank & Barb Reitz

Frank & Barb Reitz

YMM Builder

Presented by

By Carol Christian

Anyone looking for a little insight into the history of Fort McMurray’s community, need look no further than Frank and Barb Reitz.

This pair of YMM Builders has been involved with a breadth of organizations, clubs and events since arriving in this isolated northern town in 1972.

Their long involvement in the community began simply enough: “We saw a need and stepped up to help,” recalled Frank.

“Community events are usually created and administered by service/non-profit groups whose purpose is to knit the fabric of the community through their members; residents who are essential to community growth and development.”

Frank and Barb were always destined to move here from Manitoba, though a little family intervention delayed that arrival.  Frank was originally offered a position with the Great Canadian Oil Sands company – now Suncor. When his family learned of this opportunity, an alternative was found closer to home.

“The recruiters presented a wonderful picture that had me convinced until I was reminded of the isolation and offered a position in Winnipeg, Manitoba close to family and where I was raised.”

Wanderlust soon had the Reitzs heading west to Edmonton. The company Frank worked for manufactured and supplied electrical components with about half being delivered to ‘Tar Island’ Alberta.

“It was my destiny.

“Our young family relocated in September 1972, with a 10-day-old daughter and a 13-month-old son.  Barb was terrified,” he chuckled.

Fort McMurray had a population of 8,400 residents and had an exciting future for young families.

“Community means any group of like-minded people in a region, engaged and working towards similar goals.  In Fort McMurray, everyone is from ‘somewhere else and each of us brought an ‘added something’ with us.  This ‘added something’ gave us a new sense of belonging as the community welcomed newcomers with open arms,” explained Barb.

“Our son and his family still reside in Fort McMurray and these values are embraced in their everyday

lives. Many people ask us why we are still here. Fort Murray has given us so much, why would we leave?”

“McMurray was rich with leaders and community organizations ready to make their mark with a pride that resonated with anyone ready to contribute to the development of Alberta’s strongest town.  As later coined by former mayor Guy Boutillier, ‘We Have the Energy,’ added Frank.

Frank’s first Kinsmen Blueberry Festival involvement was the long weekend in September 1972 while Barb awaited the arrival of their second child in Edmonton.

“Our involvement grew with our children’s activities. Every community service organization focuses on growing the community through volunteerism,” remembers Barb, who was also involved in Brownies/Guides and School Parent Advisory Groups.

Frank’s community involvement includes various leadership roles with the Kinsman and Rotary Clubs, Oil Barons, the Rotary Links Gold @ Wood Buffalo, the Miskanaw Golf Club Men’s night, the MIPS Board, McMurray Homebuilders Association and two terms on the Community Futures Board of Directors. Fund-raising initiatives include Waypoints women’s shelter and the MRI campaign for the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.

Barb’s community involvement includes a number of leadership positions with the Kinette and Rotary Clubs, Santa’s Anonymous and Block Parents. She has been involved with almost all summer and winter games hosted in Fort McMurray and the Cross-Country Skiing Alberta Cup Races.

Aside from their community involvement, Frank has been a well-known local realtor with Remax Fort McMurray since 1996.  Barb is a retired RN, working 18 years in the maternity ward at Northern Lights and over 16 years teaching nursing at Keyano College

One of Barb’s proudest initiatives was borne out of the 2016 wildfire.

“During the fire evacuation, while driving past the Port of Entry, the last service club sign fell to the ground,” she recalls. “Through my tears, I vowed to see it rebuilt.”

Barb applied for and received a grant to rebuild it.

“It took over six years and many city staff changes as I was the only constant, it was finally realized on Oct. 31, 2022.”

The pair, who celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary in February, continue to be involved, as Barb adds the Golden Years Society Board of Directors to the list.  Their younger generations also continue their legacy.

“Our children and our grandchildren are just as involved in the community as we were.”

As for being recognized as YMM Builders, “We are both humbled and honoured to be nominated, and we can only guess the nominator is probably a community builder in their own right.”

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