Headingley Heritage: John Bock
by Amber McGuckin
For being an “accidental” resident of Headingley, John Bock has had a lot of purpose in the area.
In 1957 Bock was biking around Headingley looking for a place to have lunch when he stumbled upon his future home.
“I saw the roof of this little house sticking over the weeds... I figured it could be liveable,” he said.
Bock found its owner, a woman who used it for organic gardening.
They made a deal for him to put $25 down and $25 a month to pay off the $3,000 price tag.
The 84-year-old said that was a high price back then, and the home was less than ideal. There was no running water or windows, as the building was only used for drying alfalfa for the previous owner’s bunnies.
“We had to bring water in cream cans or pails in the back of a truck. Those were some interesting and challenging days,” Bock said.
The property was adjacent to Camp Manitou, a camp for disadvantaged youth.
“When something went wrong (at the camp), it became a habit to say ‘Go see if John has this, see if he has this wrench, ask him if he can fix this,’” he said.
Bock helped the camp out even more in 1995 when it fell into financial trouble. At the time, the plan was to sell the camp.
“I said to my wife, ‘They can’t do that. Where are the kids going to go?’ She says, ‘Well, what are you going to do about it?’” Bock recalls.
In order to stay open, the camp’s board of directors needed guaranteed funding of $100,000 a year. Bock volunteered to help get the cash and persuaded the board to keep the camp open. Now, the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation operates the thriving enterprise.
Bock still sits on the camp board and a building named after him, the John Bock Friendship Centre, was opened on the site in 1997.
As involved as he was in the community, Bock was doing a lot to further his education. He attended university part-time for 11 years to earn his bachelor’s degree. But he did take time off to obtain a PhD.
People in the community call him Dr. John Bock. He’s even listed in the local phone book with the title. But Bock wants people to just call him John.
“Titles don’t mean much to me, people do,” he said.
People have meant so much to him that he has built a life around helping them. Through that work Bock has received the Order of Manitoba in 2008 for his community activity and service, which has involved, among other things, helping to save Camp Manitou and assisting in the launch of the Headingley Chamber of Commerce.
A former country schoolteacher, Bock worked for the Corrections Department and in Child Development Services, where he was instrumental in the creation of Child Find and the Manitoba Teen Touch line. Despite his achievements, Bock is uncomfortable in the spotlight.
“I don’t like to talk about myself, but I love to talk about Headingley,” he said.
Page revised: 1 March 2015