An Abbotsford woman has been named the recipient of this year’s Order of Abbotsford for her extensive volunteer service and her passion for education.
Gerda Fandrich will now have her name recorded in the Order of Abbotsford Merit Book, which is maintained by the mayor’s office. A video of the Order of Abbotsford award ceremony will be available online on July 1 as part of the virtual Canada Day celebrations.
Mayor Henry Braun congratulated Fandrich on the honour.
“Gerda has been a tireless servant of our community and I know her commitment to our community will continue to have an enduring legacy on many people. Gerda is a true example of someone who has put public service at the forefront of her life,” he said.
Fandrich lived in Poland and East and West Germany, where she spent six months in a refugee camp. She and her family moved to Vancouver in 1953, and she graduated from the University of British Columbia with a bachelor of education in 1966.
Fandrich relocated to Abbotsford in 1979 and began her public service in 1985 as a school trustee, serving for a total of 23 years after being elected eight times. She served as vice-chair six times, as well as chairperson.
During this time, she worked consistently to raise student achievement in academics, vocational/technical training, the arts, and citizenship.
Fandrich was also the longest serving board member of the Abbotsford Community Foundation, where she administered and awarded public and private school scholarships to students pursuing post-secondary education.
She also served on the board of the Fraser Valley Regional Library and the UCFV (now known as University of the Fraser Valley) Community Council. She was also elected to the Clearbrook Waterworks District as one of five board members and the first woman to ever hold that position.
Fandrich was also part of a small group that founded the Bakerview Music Academy in 2013 to provide free music lessons to children from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds.
Fandrich was a founding partner of her family business, Fandrich Cone Harvesters Inc., which she started alongside her husband Helmut in 1981.
Their company has been responsible for reforesting vast areas of North America. In this role, Fandrich was responsible for developing the Fandrich Cone Harvesters Scholarship, which has provided educational funding for students interested in pursuing engineering for the last 22 years.
The late mayor of Abbotsford, George Ferguson, spoke highly of Fandrich, remarking on her being steadfast in her beliefs while also remaining open to the view of others.
She was seen as a hardworking and fair negotiator, with a “personal integrity beyond reproach,” and was an ambassador for Abbotsford in fostering a sister-city relationship with Fukagawa, Japan.
Fandrich has travelled to a total of 105 countries, bringing back intercultural learnings from each place to help enrich her own community.
She has been recognized as a lifetime honourary member of the BC School Trustees Association, was named one of Abbotsford’s most influential people in 2009, and was Woman of the Year in 2008 with the Business and Professional Women’s Club.