ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – The name Flemming Sondergaard brings up tones of admiration and reverence from those who knew him closely and likewise from those who crossed his path on occasion.
For more than 50 years, Sondergaard was an active member of the British Columbia Trucking Association.
He spent time as the association’s president, served on the executive for a number of years and on numerous committees.
When he succumbed to cancer in June of last year, it was a huge loss to everyone he knew and touched.
“What came to my attention is he was a mentor to so many people, businesses and everyone in trucking,” said Paul Landry, president and CEO of the BCTA. “And also outside of trucking he was always there with a helping hand. He loved this industry.”
“He was one of the most respected guys in the trucking industry. He was well-known and well-respected by many, many people,” added Robin Ross, a longtime friend of Sondergaard.
Having played such a positive role in the lives of numerous people, it was decided by a group of Sondergaard’s friends that they needed to create a way to keep his memory alive.
“A small group of us who were close to him decided to get together and start a memorial to keep his memory alive. We talked about different things like a bridge or a park, but we decided because of his love of the industry and of teaching we would start a memorial education fund for drivers and heavy-duty mechanics,” explained Ross, one of the fund’s volunteers.
The group created the Flemming Sondergaard Memorial Education Endowment Fund with the goal of establishing the endowment fund to a minimum of $250,000.
As a young man, Sondergaard arrived in Canada with his family from their home in Denmark. Throughout his life, Sondergaard remained very involved in the Danish community, Ross explained.
Early in his working life, Sondergaard found employment with Collins Manufacturing, a supplier to the trucking industry. During the 1960s he went to work for a Cummins distributorship in B.C., but soon found himself back to work with the manufacturing supplier.
“He went back to Collins on a contract to handle all the sales and marketing,” noted Ross. “Then later he bought Collins. Collins built truck bodies, tailgates and liftgates.”
Sondergaard’s involvement in the trucking industry stretched far beyond his employment.
He maintained a lifetime commitment to the education and training of its employees.
“He had a second interest in training and certification that led to becoming president of BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) for a period of time,” explained Ross.
As the Memorial Education Endowment fund was established just this year, it seems to be a perfect fit for a man who had such a hands-on interest in the education and training of the trucking industry’s employees.
Through the fund, the organizers are hoping to provide funding support for students seeking employment as professional drivers and heavy-duty technicians.
All of the education fund workers are volunteers; so all funds generated are applied to training costs, Ross explained.
One of the main sources of fundraising for the education fund will be an annual reverse draw dinner.
“We will hold a draw down dinner on Oct. 18, which happens to be Flemming’s birthday,” Ross pointed out. “It’s sold out and looks like it will cover the finances of recruiting and training for new drivers this year. The trucking industry is a major part of the support we receive, but there has been a lot of support from other walks of life.”
Under the auspices of the BCTA, the fund will be used to recruit and retain new drivers and technicians in the industry in B.C. The Flemming Sondergaard Memorial Education Endowment Fund will compliment a broader base plan to develop in particular a driver-recruiting program.
“The plan is to get information about the scholarship programs out to the public. To get the information out we developed a network of career councilors and guidance councilors. Flemming’s contribution will be honoured as the scholarships are attached to his name,” explained Landry.
“We plan to make sure it’s a province-wide program and not just on the Lower Mainland, so every community as is possible will be available to access the funds. It will be an ongoing program and not a one-count affair.”