By Elisabeth Poynter
My friend Tony Blanken is a proud North Ender. He and his wife Gwen moved to their home on Burlington Street in 1972. Tony is also a stamp collecting enthusiast and long-time dedicated volunteer with the Hamilton Stamp Club. For almost 30 years he has been a director and in charge of the Youth Programme for the Club. Although Covid halted the school programme for a couple of years it has re-started. The programme is open to young people ages 6 to 17 with clubs at four area schools (staffed by another volunteer) and a Youth Booth at monthly meetings and the semi-annual shows. Even in this era of Google and TikTok there is a lot of interest from kids. Tony is responsible for snacks, door prizes and taking care of the free stamps donated by people giving up their collections. He soaks off thousands of stamps every year for use by the Club. Tony’s enthusiasm is obvious. He enjoys sharing the love he has for stamp collecting that he learned from his dad when he was 6 years old. He teaches kids how to carefully soak off their own stamps, a very important skill. They learn all about the different stamps so they can decide what to collect. And they have questions. What keeps him coming back year after year are the smiles on their faces and all the questions they have. Many times he has come home to research an answer without the use of a computer. He has many files and books and all sorts of other catalogued material.
In November 2018 Tony was given a huge honour, the D. Howard Bryce Memorial Award which included a certificate and silver trophy he displayed at home for a year. This award is given by the Grand River Valley Philatelic Association in recognition of “long-term contributions to the hobby” (quote courtesy of the GRVPA website). The Association is made up of 16 stamp clubs as far flung as Owen Sound and St. Catharines. They clearly appreciate all his efforts. I know I appreciate him and Gwen as my good neighbours.
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