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Helpers: Tireless volunteer improvises way to keep giving back during pandemic

Retired meteorologist Jack Decorby found a way to volunteer from home during COVID-19
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Jack Decorby has found a way to keep volunteering during the pandemic by baking muffins for a local church that helps feed the homeless. (Supplied)

Rain or shine, retired meteorologist Jack Decorby is there to give back to his community and, in these unprecedented times, he has demonstrated that sometimes it means improvising the way in which we volunteer. 

Decorby grew up in Manitoba, the son of a beef and grain farmer. His parents and siblings tended to about 50 head of cattle. 

“My younger brother was the only one who carried on the farming lifestyle,” said Decorby.

So, what lured Decorby into a weather-related career and to northeastern Ontario?

While attending high school in his hometown of McAuley, Decorby got a job as a labourer on a neighbour’s farm. One of the farmers he worked for was the brother of the regional director at Transport Canada Air Service (later Environment Canada). The farmer was also a trustee for the high school and did some career counselling with students. Many years later, Decorby thanked his old employer and school counsellor for steering him to a career he really enjoyed. 

“The science of weather has come a long way since I began in the business. It has gone from a manual system to one using supercomputers. Today, the Internet plays a big part in getting weather information and forecasts to ultimate users.”

Decorby and his wife, Joyce, spent five years in Churchill, Manitoba. On hearing they were relocating to Sudbury, friends in Churchill remarked, “You are moving from a place with no trees to another place with no trees!” 

Shortly after arriving in Sudbury, Decorby earned the position of manager of the Sudbury weather office, located at the Sudbury Airport. 

“We met so many wonderful people and made many good friends over the years. It’s hard to believe we moved here almost five decades ago.”

With nearly 40 years’ service with Environment Canada, Decorby retired in 1999 when Environment Canada closed 13 weather offices in Ontario.  

In retirement, he expanded his community, fundraising and volunteer efforts with several local organizations, including the Salvation Army, St. Peter’s United Church, ParkSide Centre, YMCA, Sudbury Rocks Run, the Ontario Summer Games, United Way, Cancer Canvas and the Bridge of Nations, as well as both of the city’s Rotary Clubs. 

Decorby is a very keen volunteer with the Salvation Army Kettle Campaign and he urges more people to volunteer, especially young people.

Decorby is particularly proud of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) and its commitment to training doctors to meet the unique needs of the North. For the last dozen years, he has contributed his time to NOSM’s course curriculum as a standardized patient (SP). Although the Standardized Patient Program offers a stipend, Decorby has opted to donate his payments back into the school’s general student bursary program. He also volunteers with the school’s online evaluations and later on with the multi-mini interviews, known as MMI. 

“Many NOSM graduates have established their medical practices across Northern Ontario where the need for more doctors has been so dire.”

Jack and Joyce Decorby have always enjoyed travelling the world and living busy volunteer lives with a variety of local organizations. “The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on all public activities, but I discovered a way to work from home by making muffins for St. Andrew’s Church’s efforts to feed the homeless.”

Jack Decorby’s Volunteer Words of Wisdom

"Volunteering makes one aware of the needs in a community. As human beings, we should all contribute toward the good of society, and not just for pay! Volunteering is good for the soul. You always meet great people and learn new things. There are so many volunteer opportunities that you can find one that you will enjoy regardless of your age and abilities.  Approach local organizations and ask how you can help. There are jobs you can do from home. Do not let the pandemic stop you. We need more volunteers than ever! Think outside the box on ways you can continue to give back."

Marlene Holkko Moore is a local communications professional and regular contributor to


About the Author: Marlene Holkko Moore

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