Sylvia Hofhuis, a Central Elgin mayor who was loved by her own council and credited with working tirelessly for the public, died Sunday morning at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital.
Hofhuis, 55, a resident of Port Stanley, died after a lengthy illness.
She and her husband John, a family practitioner and coroner for the area, moved to Port Stanley from Toronto 35 years ago, recalled Tom Marks, Central Elgin deputy mayor, in an interview with the Times-Journal on Sunday.
“I guess what I remember most about her is the people person. She always tried to help people.”
Marks said he got to know her well over the last six years after Central Elgin was created, the result of amalgamation, and both were elected.
In the 2006 municipal election, Hofhuis was elected mayor and Marks, deputy-mayor.
“I said to her, ‘let’s work together.’ She treated me like gold. She never lost an election.”
Marks said a hallmark of Hofhuis’ time on council was her passion for her constituents.
“She put a lot of time into helping people,” Marks stressed.
St. Thomas Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman worked with Hofhuis on the St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre board.
“She always fought for the art centre,” she noted. “She was able to get increased funding for it from Elgin county council. She was able to convince her colleagues it was a wise investment.”
Jackson-Chapman said one of Hofhuis’ greatest strengths was her ability to see the big picture and make fair assessments based on that.
Hofhuis knew even though the art gallery was located in St. Thomas, it was for both city and county residents to use and enjoy.
“She knew the outreach components of the art centre programs benefitted everyone,” Jackson-Chapman said.
St. Thomas Mayor Cliff Barwick said Hofhuis was a mayor who strived to be accessible to her ratepayers.
“Her primary purpose was to make sure everyone had access to her,” he said. “She was a person very involved in the community. She was a very pleasant person, very optimistic.
“I know we were both enthusiastic about the Ontario government’s intention to build up the psychiatric hospital.
“She was a very fine lady and an excellent warden,” added Aylmer Mayor Bob Habkirk. “My condolences to her family.”
Malahide Township Mayor John Wilson praised her work on county council.
“She was a good county councillor, a very progressive thinker and someone who understood how things worked.”
Elgin Warden Bonnie Vowel noted county council will miss Hofhuis.
“County council was deeply saddened by the passing of Sylvia Hofhuis,” she said in a statement. “As each month went by since her illness began, we never gave up hope that she would one day return to the table.
“Sylvia was a pleasure to know and it was a privilege to work alongside her at county council. Sylvia was able to make decisions and take a stand for the good of the county when called upon to do so. Sylvia worked so very hard for her community and what she believed in.
“She will be missed greatly by all who knew of her good works.”
Hofhuis held several elected positions in Port Stanley and later, Central Elgin.
She was a reeve of the former village of Port Stanley and later a councillor, deputy mayor Elgin county councillor and Central Elgin mayor.
Hofhuis served as Elgin warden in 2008.
Flags flew at half-mast today at the Central Elgin municipal offices, located in the Elgin County administration building on Sunset Road.
The sad passing of Central Elgin Mayor Sylvia Hofhuis
Sylvia was my friend for life. We grew up together in elementary school (grade 5). I was at her wedding and she was at mine. Sadly I just heard the news a short time ago from John, her best friend and husband. Speechless at her death. She was a great friend, loyal, selfless, courageous, dedicated to her family, friends, colleagues and her town. She led an amazing life. It was a honour and privilege to have known her. My heartfelt sympathy to John, Erin and David; Marion and her sons, Richard, Alec, their mother and all the extended family. I send my love and prayers to all of you. I am stunned and am at a lost for words.