In many ways Tom Dailey lived a life larger than life, which made it all the more fitting to have a bridge officially christened in his honour.
The Thomas D. Dailey Bridge in downtown Brockville has been open for months but received its official designation on Tuesday during a ceremony honouring the late businessman, and those who made the bridge project possible.
“I think he would have been very humbled by it,” said Dailey’s son, Campbell, following a brief ceremony hosted by the Brock Trail Committee on the new bridge over Buell’s Creek.
“He was a humble man, but he believed in this town.”
The long-awaited bridge, placed in February of this year, was the last piece in the Brock Trail’s waterfront section reconnecting the trail east of St. Paul Street to Henry Street and Hardy Park.
The abrupt closure of the trail over Buell’s Creek at the Old Grist Mill landmark on Water Street 10 years ago, due to a deteriorated wooden bridge, took almost 10 years to restore.
Campbell Dailey recounted how his father loved to go out and walk the breath and width of Brockville, and after his death a bequest from him to the Brockville and Area Community Foundation for $35,000 helped kick start the bridge project, along with the Brock Trail Committee and others.
“It was a prefect fit,” said foundation board chairman and president Rose Lalonde. “I think Tom would be pleased.”
Described as a man of vision, a longtime community advocate, businessman, and ambassador for the city, Dailey was a fixture downtown with his travel and leather goods store. Dailey died in 2009. He was 92.
“His business cards used to say ‘You have a friend in Brockville’ and throughout the years when he travelled he would present those business cards to absolutely anyone who would take them,” said Campbell.
“He was really one of Brockville’s first ambassadors.”
Campbell Dailey, accompanied by his wife Carole, was also part of an unveiling of one of two plaques that will adorn the centre of the bridge.
The plaques recognizing the structure as the Thomas D. Dailey Bridge contains a line: ‘in recognition of his lifelong support of Brockville.’
It continues with recognition of Dailey’s involvement as a founding member of The Brockville Foundation and the saying his son had quoted: “You have a friend in Brockville.”
Dailey’s involvement in the community also included a role as founding member of the Brockville and District YMCA, and he served as president of the Rotary Club during its heyday in the mid 1950s.
Brockville mayor David Henderson said it was Dailey who convinced him to join the Rotary Club, and the completion of the bridge marked almost his full tenure as mayor.
“There was a long time it just couldn’t make the top of the project list,” he said. “And it wouldn’t until John (Taylor) and a whole bunch of people got together and started getting companies on board and foundations on board and getting key people on board, and suddenly it started rolling again.
“It just took a lot of determination in the same direction.,” said Henderson. “And the fact Tom Dailey was a part of it is important too.”
The second plaque yet to be installed recognizes the Brockville and Area Community Foundation (Thomas D. Dailey Endowment Fund) and a host of other contributors, including the ‘The Citizens of Brockville.’
Fittingly, so close to Remembrance Day, the bridge also honours a decorated Second World War veteran. Dailey flew more than 40 missions in a Pathfinder leading bombers into raids over Germany.