Like the proverbial Energizer Bunny, they just keep on going.
With 105 years of combined volunteer work with the Fonthill Lions and Lioness, Eleanor and Fred Arbour continue their record of service to their community.
Fred is 80, Eleanor 77. They have been married 57 years, and have a long history in Pelham.
The couple were proprietors of Klager’s Meats, once Fonthill’s oldest continuing business. They closed down 2015, figuring it was time to retire from the long hours of six-day work weeks. The shop had operated in the same location on Pelham Street since 1934, and served generations of customers. Eleanor’s father, Gordon Klager, originally opened the butcher shop with his wife Ruth, while 12-year-old Eleanor chipped-in with baking and numerous other chores. Fred, who was born in Port Robinson, later joined the family business, and eventually he and Eleanor took over the store, with help from their son Jamie.
In more recent years, the Arbours have served up barbecued meats at the Pelham Farmers Market.
“We were with the Farmers Market since day one, 20 years ago. In our glory days, we pumped out a lot of food there,” said Fred, who eventually segued into a role as the market clerk.
But it is their ongoing service to Lions International for which the couple are best known.
In 2021, the Rotary Club honoured Fred as a Paul Harris Fellow, acknowledging his long commitment to the Lions.
“When Fred first joined the Lions Club, they were meeting in the barn at Davis Hall, on Haist Street, but before that they met in the old municipal offices, where the arches are now,” said Eleanor. “My dad was a charter member of the Fonthill Lions in 1945.”
The Lions relocated to their current site of seven acres on Highway 20 in 1971, and erected the current building in 1973.
“I’ve held pretty much every role with the Lions over the past 53 years,” said Fred. “President, secretary treasurer, director, and chair on various committees, plus I was District Governor in 2020 and 2021.”
Both Fred and Eleanor have been involved at the district level, involving some 40 Lions Clubs from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Tillsonburg.
Eleanor was one of the 18 women who joined the Lioness in its inaugural year.
“We have about ten active volunteers now, while the Fonthill Lions have 24 current members,” she said.
Eleanor remembers when the first stoplight went in at Highway 20 and Pelham Street, and when the streetcar used to run through town, on a route between Port Weller on Lake Ontario and Port Colborne on Lake Erie.
“The streetcar station was originally down in Marlene Stewart Streit Park,” she said, “before the Town moved it up to where Fonthill Lumber was located on Highway 20 [now the site of the Fonthill Yards residential development.]”
Asked about the rate of urban growth in Pelham, Fred smiled and responded, “Well, they say you can’t stop progress, but maybe some of it has come a little too fast and furious.”
To which his wife quickly added, “not according to Mr. Ford.” Over the years, Eleanor was a Four H Club leader, and both she and Fred were involved with Pelham minor hockey.
“Our son Jamie grew up here, and attended E.L. Crossley and then Brock,” said Eleanor.
They live on Hurricane Road just off Rice Road, which technically is within the municipal boundary of Thorold.
“We pay our taxes to Thorold, but I’m closer to the MCC than pretty much everything in Thorold,” said Fred with a laugh.