Joke’s over, Harry Dick Road namesake tells sign thieves

Harry Dick gets the joke — he just doesn’t think it’s that funny anymore, and he’d like the thieves who keep stealing the road sign that bears his name to grow up.

“All I want is some peace and quietness,” he told CBC recently from his home on Harry Dick Road near Eganville, about 125 kilometres west of downtown Ottawa in Bonnechere Valley Township, Ont.

Well, people think that’s very, very funny, and the signs started to disappear.– Lois Dick

Dick — his real name is John Henry but he’s gone by Harry his whole life — was born on the rural property, and in 1957 he and his wife Lois moved into one of the three houses at the end of the 800-metre gravel drive. They’ve lived there ever since.

The family has called this place home for a century — five generations. Dick’s grandson now lives next door and runs a business in town with his wife.

Their collective memory is a bit foggy on exactly when Harry Dick Road got its name, but it’s believed to have been in the 1980s or ’90s when 911 emergency service arrived in the region.

Sign stolen 4 times a year

“Nobody asked us what to name the road, it was just named,” Lois Dick told CBC. “And so Harry Dick Road. Well, people think that’s very, very funny, and the signs started to disappear.”

They’ve been disappearing at a rate of three or four times a year ever since, she said. (In an email to CBC, the township’s CAO confirmed the signs are stolen about four times a year, but couldn’t provide the replacement cost.)

The Township of Bonnechere Valley has tried greasing the steel pole to deter thieves and has reinforced the concrete at the base to prevent people from ripping out the whole thing. 

At a recent meeting, the township council even raised the possibility of welding the sign to its post.

The Dicks said their grandson has considered electrifying the pole with a solar panel and once installed a camera to catch the thieves in the act.

It was stolen, too.

Harry Dick was born on the road that bears his name and still lives there with his wife Lois. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

‘A bunch of idiots’

“I think they’re a bunch of idiots, but they’re very smart, they don’t get caught. But what can they do with these signs?” Lois Dick wondered.

“Have you nothing better to do? I’d be really ashamed of my children or grandchildren if I thought they were doing something as idiotic as that.”

Faced with the cost and inconvenience of constantly replacing the sign, the township got in touch with some of the Dicks’ relatives and resolved last month to rename Harry Dick Road. 

“I’m all for it. It’ll just make life easier, and I’m sure that they can find a perfectly appropriate name — although I think having a road named after you is so lovely, and it’s kind of sad,” said Mayor Jennifer Murphy during a township committee meeting on Sept. 5.

During the meeting, Murphy noted that signs for nearby Hussey Road keep disappearing, too.

“It happens all over. People are children,” she observed.

Council decided to come up with a short list of three new names, in consultation with the residents of Harry Dick Road. Eventually, they will settle on one.

Name change a surprise

That decision came as a surprise to the Dicks, who said they weren’t consulted and learned about the pending name change in their local newspaper. 

Now they have a new worry: the onerous paperwork involved in changing their address after living for decades on Harry Dick Road.

“I thought of all the things that we’re going to have to change, any legal document with our address on it is going to have to be changed,” said Lois Dick.

An elderly neighbour who rents the third house on the road was also unaware of the pending name change, she said.

Dick said she has since contacted the mayor to express their concerns, but was told that leaving the road without a sign is not an option. 

Murphy declined an interview with CBC, but confirmed the Dicks have since asked that the name remain despite the constant theft.

During last month’s committee meeting, Murphy acknowledged that while having your road sign stolen several times a year might be a pain, so is changing your address.

“They will have to change everything — their driver’s licence, their health card, their mailing address … they’ll have to change things with CRA. It’s not as easy as just slapping up a sign that the county makes for us, it’s a big process,” she told her council colleagues.

“If it was as simple as just changing a road sign — but it’s not.”

While the matter did not arise during a Sept. 19 committee meeting, Murphy seemed to indicate at one point that the name change is now on hold.

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