When the Quesnel Kangaroos take to the ice at the West Fraser Centre there is always a friendly, familiar face filling water bottles, grabbing tape, taking a few sticks to the bench, and making the senior men’s team laugh.
Since the 2021/22 Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL) season started, Dennis Baptiste hasn’t missed a home game to volunteer.
“I’ve been doing that since I was 12 years old,” Baptiste said.
“I like hockey, and I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go.”
Many newspaper articles have been written about Baptiste’s volunteer efforts over the years.
He grew up in Quesnel and became well known within the community. He helped beautify Quesnel with a broom usually held in his hand between April and September.
In 2013, the City of Quesnel purchased a ‘golden broom’ for Baptiste, who retired after 39 years. Director of public works and engineering Ken Coombs estimated Baptiste had worn out 351 brooms and swept his way from Vancouver to Halifax and back to the outskirts of Hinton, Alta.
“If you are from Quesnel and lived during the era that Dennis was working for the city, you could see what kind of person he is,” Shannon Matter said of her 2019 book “Irreplaceable: A Biography of Dennis Baptiste.”
“That’s why I called the book irreplaceable because he’s so unique—there’s just nobody like him.”
It was through her job waitressing, serving and bartending at Begbie’s Restaurant and Pub from 2002 to 2011 that Matter said she got to further know Baptiste.
“What he did for the community was so above and beyond, and it’s not just that he was a phenomenal city worker and that it takes three or four people now to replace the work of one guy,” Matter added.
“He didn’t just do that.”
Baptiste was also a volunteer firefighter, and the Governor General of Canada lists him as a 2012 recipient of the Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal.
In addition to senior hockey, Baptiste has been involved with numerous other sporting teams such as the Quesnel Millionaires and still volunteers with baseball.
Some Quesnel residents may also remember him carrying the 2010 Olympic torch into Spirit Square for ceremonies and entertainment.
“The team loves having him around,” said Quesnel Kangaroos Captain Alessio Tomassetti, noting Baptiste is like family to them.
Tomassetti said Baptiste makes the team laugh and gives them a hard time when they need it.
”He has been around a lot of Kangaroos hockey teams, so we are lucky to have him be a part of ours,” Tomassetti continued.
“He has been with us since we came back into the league 12 years ago and before that was around for years. We love Denny and always will.”
Baptiste, now in his early seventies, enjoys watching TV and going for walks in his spare time.
He said he is looking forward to the CIHL playoffs and doesn’t see himself stopping his volunteer efforts any time soon.
”As long as I can walk and as long as I can see,” Baptiste said on if he ever intends to quit volunteering.
Do you know someone in the Quesnel area who is worthy of being called a Hometown Hero? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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