Delta’s John Horton is among 13 new recipients of the Order of British Columbia – the province’s highest form of recognition.
Lt. Gov. Janet Austin made the announcement on Monday’s BC Day holiday.
Horton, a celebrated marine artist, has made significant contributions to the appreciation and safety of B.C.’s coastal history and its waters through his paintings showcased in collections across Canada, commemorative coin designs for the Canadian Mint, and a lifetime of volunteer service to keep mariners safe.
Horton told the Optimist he found out about the honour a couple of weeks ago when he received a phone call from the Lt. Governor’s office.
“I was flabbergasted,” he recalled. “I was also very humbled by it because of course you are joining a group of people that have done wonderful things for British Columbia and you feel very humbled to be elected into their presence.”
Other recipients this year include Burnaby crooner Michael Bublé, West Vancouver real estate developer and philanthropist Ryan Beedie and former MLA Carole Taylor.
In his paintings — over 1,400 in number — Horton depicts the history of the coast of B.C., bringing to life the historic voyages of captains Cook and Vancouver. His work has attracted the attention of officials at the Department of National Defence who selected him to produce paintings of Canadian warships serving in the Arabian Gulf and on international exercises.
Earlier this year, the City of Delta presented Horton with its Delta Friends of Heritage award. Horton was recognized for promoting awareness of Delta’s maritime heritage through art, specifically his painting Arrival at Port Guichon, which was gifted to Delta in November following a year-long fundraising campaign. The painting will be on permanent display at the Delta Cultural Centre when that facility opens to the public hopefully next year.
Equally significant is his long-time volunteer work in marine search and rescue.
Over the years, Horton has been active in the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, Canadian Lifeboat Institution, Royal Naval Sailing Association (B.C.), Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, and the Naval Officers Association of B.C. He was instrumental in the development of the Lifeboat Institution and used his own vessels to respond to 600 incidents.
Since joining the Canadian Marine Rescue Auxiliary in 1979, his focus has been on assisting the native and commercial fisheries in B.C. along with any other mariners in distress. Volunteering under the auxiliary flag, he has assisted in the rescue of hundreds of vessels either in distress or disabled.
In 1988 Horton began volunteering with the Canadian Lifeboat Institutes’ Search and Rescue service (SAR), a not-for-profit registered charity that provides non-government supported search and rescue assistance in the Lower Fraser River and Gulf of Georgia waters. From its base in Steveston, Horton has trained volunteers to be competent crew members. As well he has devoted thousands of hours and his own money to maintain its 52-foot Delta Lifeboat, formerly the Steveston Lifeboat. To date almost 900 incidents have been attended by Horton aboard the Delta Lifeboat.
In recognition of his marine art he is the only Canadian artist mentioned in the late Dennis Brook-Hart’s definitive book, Twentieth Century Marine Painting. He is a founding member of the Canadian Society of Marine Artists and member of the Federation of Canadian Artists, the Naval Officers Association of B.C. and the Honourable Company of Master Mariners. Through his art, he has supported many schools, museums, hospitals and community-based charities.
“You don’t do these things for awards – you do it because you want to help your fellow man,” Horton said. “I always remember when I was very young my father was always one to give to others. He said whatever you do son, always try to leave the world a better place than you found it. So I suppose that was instilled in me and you go about your life in a different way than some people.
“Life is a journey. When you get to my age you realize just how long that journey is and all the little things you pick up along the way make you the person that you are, but you don’t set out to do that necessarily.”
He said he is especially proud to be a part of such a diverse group of people being recognized.
“What a brilliant group of people,” he said. “Not only the people this year, but the ones next year and the ones who have gone before us. I guess all we can hope is that by so doing that you instill some of these values into other people.”
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the usual Order of B.C. investiture ceremony was postponed. This year’s recipients will be invited to a ceremony in Victoria next year.