Thomas Shura donated a 33-foot spruce tree for display on Kenora, Ont.’s Main Street. Photo by Angie Shura

No limit to giving for Thomas Shura

  • December 20, 2020

A spruce tree donated by a retired Catholic teacher is helping to make Christmas in Kenora in northern Ontario a little merrier.

The 43-foot evergreen was placed on Main Street this holiday season thanks to Thomas Shura, who grew the tree in his backyard. 

“I planted that 33 years ago and I nurtured it with water, black soil and so on,” said Shura. “There’s a slant at the back of my property towards that tree so it’s got its moisture and the nutrients of the soil. I decided that others were helping out with the donation of spruce trees for the City of Kenora and I thought, well, I better do it this year and that’s what I did.”

Several residents in the community made submissions to donate Christmas trees this year. An assessment team had a look at all the entries and Shura was thrilled to learn his was selected. It was transported, decorated and lit, and on Nov. 20 officially presented to the City of Kenora.

With several other trees on his property, Shura says this tree was the most beautiful and he is grateful to have been able to bless the city with it this Christmas season.

“It’s just unique because of its symmetry from the bottom all the way up,” said Shura. “They put a big star on top and everybody’s absolutely thrilled with it. I’ve never heard so many comments of appreciation to see a symmetrical tree like this one.”

Giving back has become a full-time job for Shura since retiring in 2014 after a remarkable 61-year teaching career, the final 29 with the Kenora Catholic District School Board. He keeps himself busy philanthropically in retirement, donating to a Coats for Kids program he started a few years back to make sure little ones in the school system stay warm all winter.

Since 2002 he has donated $20,000 to the Lake of the Woods District Hospital Foundation and $22,000 to Notre Dame Church in Kenora, where he is a parishioner.

“He’s a very active and faithful member of the church,” said Fr. Rudy Manaloto, the parish priest. “As members of the same human family it’s important that we reach out to people who are in need, especially as people of faith. We want to be compassionate and charitable to those who are the most in need and I think that’s what Shura has been doing. He’s a very good man who helps a lot of people with his time and resources.”

Shura jokes that he went from being “extremely busy” to “very busy” after retiring and expresses a commitment to donate as much as he can whenever he can.

“I never stop and say, well, maybe I’m donating too much,” said Shura. “I’m donating what I think somebody might need.”

Shura grew up on a farm in Manitoba with his parents and two siblings who also became teachers. He says he learned the importance of giving back from his immigrant parents (his mother was from the Ukraine and father from Poland). Each year the family would send warm winter clothes to Europe to help family members in need. After Shura’s parents died he and his brother continued sending items overseas for 21 years.

“The Lord created people that are more wealthy and less wealthy,” said Shura. “I had the experience of the lower ends of the scale when I started off as a kid, so I said, ‘I’ll, make my money and I’ll try to help as many people as I can,’ and that’s what I’ve done.”

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