Wm. R. (Bill) Hunter

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By Mike Grosz, on the occasion of the presentation of the Professional Recognition Award to Bill Hunter

Bill was born and raised in Drumheller, Alberta, the son of a coal miner. He started his survey career in the early 1960s with the Government of Alberta, running baselines in northern Alberta. Bill articled to the surveyor who supervised him on these surveys, Bjorn Rustad.

Bill moved into the office in 1967 and spent two years as a plan examiner while he wrote his ALS exams. Bill told me that part of the daily routine at the Director of Surveys Office included stopping the flow of work for daily stretching and bending sessions. He came to look upon these interruptions as an accepted, even welcome, part of the day. He then concluded the acceptance of this routine represented serious erosion of character. This realization lead to three important milestones in his career:

  • He obtained his ALS commission.
  • He terminated his career as a plan examiner and public servant.
  • He moved to Calgary where the dubious effects of government could be avoided or at least minimized.

I think Bill considered his time spent as a plan examiner to be a means to an end, but he always spoke fondly of his time spent running baselines.

There was one significant benefit to the time he spent in Edmonton. It allowed him to spend some time with a young lady who was also from Drumheller. Lorraine had come to Edmonton to study nursing at the University of Alberta and worked at the University hospital as a surgical nurse. Bill and Lorraine became a team and moved to Calgary together. (Perhaps I should state that not only were they a team - they were married, After all, this was 1969).

In Calgary, Bill spent two years with UMA before starting Hunter Survey Systems Ltd. in 1971. After 27 years, Hunter Surveys is still going strong.

Bill was most heavily involved in Association affairs from 1970 to 1990. Reading from his biography in the 1982 ALS News: Bill served two terms on Council. He served on 16 various committees prior to 1982 and had also served as the regional chairman for southern Alberta. He was vice-president in 1981-1982, and finally president in 1982-1983.

Along with Bob Fulton, Bill represented the ALSA on a special ad hoc committee for the re-write of the Surveys Act. Prior to the start up of the Western Board, he helped prepare the course materials for the Surveyor and the Law seminars put on by the Association. He took a keen interest and was actively involved in the start up of our practice review process and helped to develop position papers on various issues of the day.

The reason I feel Bill is deserving of this award is because he did all of this while he was the principal of a small survey practice, sometimes with one other surveyor on staff, sometimes not. During this time, Hunter Surveys was involved in some significant projects:

  • Boundary surveys for land assembly for the Deerfoot Trail;
  • Cadastral mapping, control, legal and construction surveys for the south leg of the LRT;
  • Mapping control and legal surveys for the development of Greg River Resources Coal Mine of Hinton;
  • Control and engineering surveys for the construction of the City of Calgary municipal building.

At the same time, Bill and Lorraine were raising a young family, with two daughters, Terra and Kirsten. It was during this time from 1980 to 1985 that I was articled to Bill. My sense was that Bill approached his work for the ALSA with the attitude that it was a privilege to take on the commitments required of the members of a professional association.

I know the obvious pride that Bill took in being asked to let his name stand for president and that helped me form my attitudes about participating in Association affairs. Really, Bill made his most significant contributions to our profession when he could least afford to do so, and I think it is important to recognize that kind of commitment - it keeps us going.

When presenting this award, it seems to be common practice to mention a few anecdotes that illustrate the character of the recipient. Here's my attempt: I remember one Sunday evening Bill spent tutoring myself and another articled pupil at Bill's house. Afterwards I thanked him and asked him why he did it. He told me I needed all the help I could get. As well as being generous, Bill was also perceptive.

Last fall, I asked John Holmlund when he had last seen Bill. John said he was golfing at Panorama and Bill emerged from the bush with an RTK system strapped to his back, doing what else - a survey. The point is - this is typical Bill.

Finally, I spoke with Leo Raessler who worked on those baselines with Bill in the early 1960s. I asked him for a story for this presentation. Wanting to ensure he offered something appropriate, Leo asked as to the circumstances of the presentation. I told him it was a mixed luncheon crowd. He said it would be tough, but he'd get back to me. Leo called me on Monday and asked "did I ever tell you about the time I saved Bill's life?" The story involved scouting and moving a camp site on New Year's Eve, getting stuck in muskeg, camping out overnight, and being overcome with carbon monoxide. According to Leo, we have him to thank for Bill. So thank you, Leo.