CCRA vice-president Gerry Divaris creates beautiful woodcarvings in his free time.
By Kathy McGrath
In few months from now, our quiet part of the city will get quite busy. With the widening of Port Union Road and the expansion of the Rouge Hill GO train station (including the addition of a third rail), getting around the ‘hood may become an exercise in frustration.
Fortunately, Gerry Divaris has our backs. Gerry is the CCRA vice-president and also chair of the transportation file. He will keep an eye on these projects, as well as the planned extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.
Gerry is a self-described “political animal” so he likes to keep his thumb on the pulse of developments anyway, whether they are municipal, provincial, federal or even global.
His deep interest in politics is understandable considering his upbringing in southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). As a young man, he became embroiled in the political unrest that dominated his homeland and those memories have never left him.
At age 18, Gerry was conscripted into the Rhodesian army and selected to serve on a special group of airborne paratroopers. He encountered both guerilla and classic warfare – neither of them a picnic, as Gerry puts it. He was released at age 21, returning to civilian life “much older”.
In 1980, Gerry immigrated to Canada, landing in Montreal “in the middle of a snowstorm and woefully dressed.” He moved to Toronto in 1982 and worked for the provincial finance ministry as a property assessor, doing valuation of homes all over the city. He soon received a promotion that brought him to Scarborough where he eventually worked on an appeal case in Centennial.
“When I saw this area, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was,” he recalls. “It had all the benefits of a small town, with the safety and quaintness of a small village.” He moved here with his wife Soula and their two daughters in 1995.
As Gerry built his own business and was busy “putting food on the table,” he became aware of Jeff Forsyth, president of the CCRA at that time. Jeff was fighting the conversion of the Johns Manville plant into a housing project that was very high-density and would have severed the community from the lake.
“Jeff impressed the hell out of me,” Gerry said with his typical candor. “He knew what he was doing, was driven and had the right support from the community. What we have now (in terms of development) is in character with the neighbourhood.”
After Gerry sold his business, he served as the vice-president of a lobby group called Bright Point Strategy, became the first director of the International Property Tax Institute and received a federal appointment on a tax advisory panel.
Several years ago, he decided it was time to join the CCRA and he has never looked back.
One transportation issue he would like addressed is the bottleneck of cars leaving the Rouge Hill GO station at rush hour. “The city says they’re looking into improving traffic flow, but there is still only one way to get to the 401 – and that’s from Port Union,” he said. Fortunately, Gerry will keep our community up to date on developments as they arise.
When asked for his thoughts on volunteering for the CCRA, Gerry offers this advice:
“Take the plunge! It’s rewarding beyond belief. It gives you an immense sense of pride to be able to volunteer your time, which is the most valuable asset any of us has.”