J. G. Van Belleghem—a true gentleman and a great citizen...
Our school officially opened on November 6, 1967—Canada’s first centennial year. It was named to honour a great citizen of our city and a true gentleman—Mr. Joseph Gustave Van Belleghem.
Mr. Van Belleghem was born on September 6, 1901, in St. Vital. He attended Provencher School, then St. Boniface College. After working for a few years with his father in the railroad construction business, with his brother Frank, he became joint owner of the Toutist Hotel in St. Boniface. He retired altogether from the hotel business in 1960.
This did not keep him from expressing a concrete interest in the civic and political life of his city and province. In fact, he served as an alderman for 18 years between 1931 and 1965. In 1949, he was elected to the Manitoba Legislature and he represented the St. Boniface constituency for four years. The City of St. Boniface also elected him as mayor for three, two-year terms from 1955 to 1960.
He held many other important posts: he was member of the Greater Winnipeg Investigating Committee in 1959; vice-president and then president of the Manitoba Mayor’s and Reeves’ Association as well as of the Manitoba Hotelmen’s Association. He was, for a time, one of the members of the Knights of Columbus (Taché Council), and a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and a sitting member of the Manitoba License Appeal Board. In 1964, he had been appointed Belgian Consul for Manitoba—he served in that capacity until his death. He also belonged to the Native Sons of Canada, to the Canadian and to the Empire Clubs. For a number of years he was president of the Belgian Mutual Benefit Society and an executive of the Belgian Club; last but not least, he was an active member of the Belgian Sacred Heart Parish in St. Boniface.
Mr. J. G. Van Belleghem was fluent in Flemish, French and English. As such, he could play an effective role in most activities of the different clubs or groups he joined. He was held in high esteem by those with whom he worked in one or another position. His death on January 5, 1967, was a loss keenly felt by those who had known him closely.
If Mr. Van Belleghem engaged in such widespread activities and exerted everywhere a deeply felt influence, without doubt, it was due to his sincere interest for whatever cause was entrusted to him. All who knew him remember his warm personality, his concern for the community he served and together with his rare sense of responsibility, his greatest asset was said to be his interest in people and the society around him. He truly lived Terence’s words: “I am a man, I count nothing human indifferent to me.”