One wintry afternoon in 2009, Dave Morrow, a co-owner of Oak-Bay-NB-based Milltown Trucking, went on a snowmobile trip from which he never returned.
Morrow was an experienced sledder and native of the area. Oak Bay is in southern New Brunswick, near the Calais crossing into Maine.
The last contact he had with his buddies was when they stopped in the village of McAdam for a bite to eat. Afterwards, they separated and headed home.
Next morning, Dave’s wife Bev called her brother-in-law Doug to see if Dave had stayed over for the night. That’s when they realized something was wrong.
The townspeople sprung into action and a search was begun.
Heather McCulloch, the Safety Coordinator at Milltown Trucking, which the Morrow family runs, says as soon as the search began, “there were snowmobilers all over Charlotte County.” Among them, one of Milltown’s most respected drivers, Stephen McGibbon.
McGibbon, now 44 and single, was a lifelong friend of the Morrows. It was just his fate then, after three hours of searching, to find his deceased pal. According to Doug Morrow, authorities believe Dave must have lost control of his machine and hit a tree, dying instantly.
McGibbon called the first responders and waited at the scene for four hours until the coroner arrived. In doing so, McGibbon saved Morrow’s family the sad act of having to identify the remains.
“It’s what a true hero does,” says McCulloch.
“It’s not the sort of thing you want to do twice in one lifetime,” McGibbon said.
This past April 21, McGibbon found himself revisiting the Morrow tragedy. His heroic action was cited as evidence of McGibbon’s
moral fiber when he was named was named the 2012 Highway Star of the Year. (See “Have You Spotted a Highway Star?” next page.)
The award was presented by Rolf Lockwood, Vice President Editorial of Newcom Business Media, at a special ceremony at Truck World 2012 in April in Toronto. Newcom owns this magazine and the Truck World show.
This year’s contest saw a record number of entries. The judges noted that this was one of the most tightly competitive contests since the award was introduced eight years ago. Among the judges this year was the first Highway Star of the Year, Rene Robert.
As is typical of drivers who have podiumed as Highway Stars, McGibbon’s trip to the mic in Toronto wasn’t his first. In 2011, McGibbon was named Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association Volvo Trucks Canada Driver of the Year. Several times, he has earned the Driver of the Year Award from his company, which employs about 30 drivers.
And, suitably, after Milltown Trucking introduced a citation honoring the respected owner who died in the sled crash, McGibbon was its first recipient. It was called the Dave Morrow Memorial Award.
The Highway Star of the Year for 2012 is a man of few words.
McGibbon started driving “at 13 or 14” around his father’s construction company; he took to heavy-duty trucking when he turned 18. He’s been with Milltown for 15 years and 90 percent of his runs are between Toronto and New Brunswick, hauling steel one way and particle board the other.
Milltown’s McCulloch describes McGibbon as extremely professional, and says he believes in constant upgrading and professional development. “He is very courteous and polite, with not only our customers but our management, dispatchers, office staff, mechanics, and fellow drivers, both on and off the highway.”
Morrow says McGibbon has more than two million safe miles under his belt buckle, adding that he is an inspiration to his colleagues and coworkers. Whenever any driver recognition program comes around, Morrow says, the men and women around Milltown know to look to McGibbon.
McCulloch also says that the atmosphere around Milltown is conducive to productive employees. “Milltown’s a typical small family trucking firm and Doug’s a very warm hearted and thoughtful man.”
In his acceptance, McGibbon displayed characteristic humbleness and said that while he appreciates being honored, he added: “There’s lots of other drivers just as qualified as myself for this.”
Among those watching were McGibbon’s teenaged nephew Seth Woodside, whose trip to the award ceremonies with his uncle marked a first-ever visit to Toronto.
And finally, standing beside Master Woodside were Brenda and Edgar Morrow, the award-winning driver’s mom and dad.
Afterwards, Mrs. McGibbon said the words almost any trucker would love to hear come from a mom.
“We are all,” she told Today’s Trucking, “just so darn proud of our son.”
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