Morris Haugg thought he had the perfect person to nominate for a Cumberland YMCA Peace Medal. So did former MP Bill Casey.
In an unusual twist of fate, both Haugg and Casey, who nominated each other for the award, were selected as recipients of the 2019 Cumberland YMCA Peace Medal.
“It was quite a surprise. I know I had nominated Bill but no idea he had nominated me,” Haugg said following the presentation during the YMCA appreciation dinner on Nov. 20. “I’m also very grateful. I always believe in doing stuff and I also believe in recognition. I have long believed in giving awards to other people, but thought it would be me.”
Haugg, a retired lawyer, said it’s an honour to be honoured at the same time as Casey, whose 30 years in politics came to an end with the Oct. 21 federal election that sent his successor, Lenore Zann, to Ottawa as the MP for Cumberland County.
“I was quite a surprise to be doing all the work to get Bill recognized when at the same time he was doing the same for me,” Haugg said. “I was not expecting that.”
Casey, who was first elected to the House of Commons in 1988 as a Progressive Conservative, was recognized for the work he did this past year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the closing of the First World War Amherst internment camp that was home to more than 900 German prisoners of war as well as enemy aliens from the Ukraine, Croatia and Bulgaria – which 100 years ago were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Last year, Casey approached representatives with the German embassy in Ottawa to suggest some sort of commemoration to recognize the closing of the POW camp in the fall of 1919 – almost a year after the First World War ended.
At first the Germans knew little or nothing about the Amherst camp. They came to Amherst at Casey’s invitation in February and toured the cemetery where those who died at the camp were buried until the early 1970s as well as the Cumberland County Museum and the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum.
On July 2, the camp was commemorated with a concert by the German Luftwaffe band at the Col. James Layton Ralston Armoury.
“It’s a tremendous honour to be recognized in this way,” Casey said. “When you think about the excellent work being done in the community every day by the YMCA it’s a huge honour to be recognized with this medal.”
Casey said it’s extra special considering both he and Haugg discovered the YMCA was active in the internment camp providing supplies that internees turned into artifacts that continue to exist in the community – such as the cello that was restored and played for the first time in a century during the commemoration ceremony.
“The YMCA was an important of our community a century ago and today it is as important as it was then,” Casey said.
Haugg has been active in the community almost from the time he emigrated to Canada from Bavaria in Germany. Professionally, he worked as a lawyer with Hicks LeMoine achieving his QC, or Queen’s Counsel status. He retired several years ago, but has worked with various community organizations helping them with things like registering under the Nova Scotia Societies Act.
He has been an active member of the Amherst Rotary Club for close to five decades and helped spearhead the creation of the Cumberland County Multicultural Society. He has also played a leading role in the creation of the Amherst Armoury Plus Society that is working to preserve and repurpose the armoury building for the community.