KENTVILLE, N.S. – Many locals are remembering a recreation employee who went above and beyond every day and was a welcoming presence for everyone at the Town of Kentville’s arena and ballfield.
Gary “Beaver” McGinis, known to many simply as “Beav,” passed away Jan. 8 at his home. Kentville facilities manager Kevin Bennett worked with McGinis as his direct supervisor and says losing his co-worker “has left a big void” at the department, where McGinis worked for nearly three decades.
“He always stopped and talked to you, and provided us with something here that’s hard to put a value on,” says Bennett.
McGinis was a recognizable face at both the Kentville Centennial Arena and the town’s Memorial Park, where he worked and maintained the grounds and facilities. His arena shift went from 6:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. for the past two decades, and despite repeatedly asking whether he wanted a change, Bennett says McGinis wanted to keep it.
“He always said that he liked those night shifts – he took a keen interest in the work and being around the kids, their parents and the adult recreation,” says Bennett.
Bennett says Beaver’s connection with families and hockey players became cemented during these late shifts, when he would catch up with people in the stands, and kids off the ice.
“He knew adults who’d played as kids at the arena, who now come here with their own kids. It’s become a generational thing – and there was a sense of trust, because we all knew him so well, that we never had to worry about a thing when he was around,” says Bennett, who says McGinis also showed up early for nearly every shift, and never missed one unless sick, or on vacation.
“It was a huge comfort from an operational point of view, too, because we knew the building was safe, and taken care of, in his hands.”
Scott Russell has refereed for three decades at the arena, and saw McGinis each week at the Oldtimers matches. He says McGinis treated late-night rink regulars, including him, “like family.”
He saw McGinis at 11 p.m. the night of his passing, as Russell tossed a net Beaver’s way once the hockey game wrapped up.
Russell says a nightly ritual he and others had with McGinis came to mind when he heard of his passing.
“The last thing he said to me was, ‘well another night done – see you Friday.’ And that came to mind because I realized I wouldn’t be seeing him,” says Russell.
“He would always joke with us: ‘you’re in tomorrow night, right?’ he’d say, knowing full-well we weren’t but just wanting a laugh because that was the way he was. He was always trying to keep things light and had just enough to say to make you smile.”
Bennett recalls how McGinis drove Kentville’s princess float to each Apple Blossom Parade “since I can remember,” and his diehard fandom for the Boston Bruins. The obituary penned for McGinis says he “could be seen ‘tormenting’ any fan of the Montreal Canadiens.”
Bennett also remembers McGinis coming up with a creative solution to kids running at the arena by handing out his own bundles of hockey cards to kids if they agreed to slow down.
Bennett says the rink was “full of emotion” Tuesday night as everyone observed a moment of silence for McGinis, and that the loss “is a big one” for his immediate family and extended family within the Town of Kentville.
“The man had his quirks, and had this way about him, he took the time to stop and chit chat and it was just that - just so Beaver. He was funny and effective, and that’s what we’ll take away, most of all.”