If you’re known as a Senator, you could be one of several things. You might be knocking pucks around in Ottawa. You might be long dead, having worn a laurel wreath and a white-and-purple toga, shouting that “Carthage must be destroyed!” or “Julius, you da man!” Or it might just be that you’ve been on the scene a long time and are a respected member of that scene. Herb Wildeman is an example of the latter. He’s been with the WCBA almost as long as anyone – in fact, only Bob Gaul had more seniority than he does. It isn’t clear who tagged him with the moniker but it has certainly stuck!
Our “Senator” joined the Association in late 1979. He had known Bob Gaul for some time before that, having met him during a motivational workshop. At that time, he had another career, as Assistant Secretary-Treasurer for the St. James-Assiniboia S.D. and a member of the Manitoba Association of School Business Officials. In June of 1979 he & Shirley, his wife, purchased the White-Elva Sewing centre, later changing the name to “The Sewing Gallery”. Shortly afterwards they took on the Janome sewing machine line (the largest manufacturer in the world); they built up the business as “Janome, the Sewing Gallery”, and ran it successfully until Herb retired in 2004. Since his retirement, he has been taking proper advantage of his situation: golfing as required, leisurely trips abroad, round-dancing lessons, and spending time with his family, as they say. He is now a lifetime member of the Association and speaks on occasion: he has been known to read poems when he does so!
Herb has been a diligent and successful member of the Association. He served on the Executive in various positions between 1986 and 1990 and as president between 1992 and 1994. At the beginning of his watch as president, the Association was at a bit of a low ebb; attendance was down, there were too many lackadaisical members, and in general things were going poorly. Part of the problem was that the attendance rules were difficult to adhere to all the time; another part was that the membership dues couldn’t then be written off as a legitimate expense. Herb presided over a membership blitz and helped to turn the club around. At all times he has supported the club and helped others take advantage of it.
Personally he has done well through the Association; although he hasn’t made his fortune he has had sufficient business sent his way to make it financially worth-while. But he speaks more of the intangible benefits: knowing where to look first for the various services offered by members, and knowing that he would be able to trust the results; the camaraderie of the Wednesday meetings and the value of a regular getaway from work – Shirley is emphatic about this; and the opportunity to learn about other trades and professions. Further, he prides himself on looking after the important function of Cleanup Cake Eater.
Herb has lots of stories to tell about club happenings, both at meetings and at social functions. Some of the Christmas parties have been big affairs, with up to 150 people present; it should be noted that Herb has a reason to be wistful about these parties, since at one he and Shirley won a trip for two to Las Vegas. He has reflected glory to claim, as well: at one of the golf tournaments, at Larter’s, his partner scored a hole-in-one – so far as is recorded, the only WCBA hole-in-one in history. Herb relates that Tom Thompson used to tell stories about his profession, electrical contracting, and how after thirty years he hadn’t even scratched the surface; or George Gershmann bringing one day a selection of the strange and embarrassing things that guests had left in their hotel rooms; and how the term “Mystery Speaker” has meant both genuinely unknown (outside the club) people, and also regular stand-in speakers from the ranks when a scheduled one couldn’t show up. He feels that a club such as the WCBA can’t fail to be useful for a businessman as long as s/he sticks to it and isn’t just there to get names to try to flog his/her services to.
Herb and Shirley have were married in 1961. She was an integral part of the business, conducting regular classes and holding the fort as necessary. Now that Herb’s retired, they can indulge their interest in music and crafts; Herb is also interested in his family’s genealogy and can tell you the difference between Wildeman and Wildemann. They have two daughters and seven grandchildren. Shirley plays the pipe organ and piano; the kids and grandkids are very musical also, while Herb says he just supports and enjoys all kinds of music. He has been the Treasurer of the Seniors’ Job Bank (now the 50+ Job Bank) for the last 25 years and both he and Shirley are Charter Members of the St. James Lutheran Church – Shirley has been the organist there since 1969.
And being in these positions, he is dangerously visible to other organizations needing people, but can pick and choose if he wants to take anything else on.
Served as WCBA president 1992-1993.