Just about everyone in Mississauga is familiar with the name, Robert Speck. That’s mostly because of the Robert Speck Parkway that can be found just off of Hurontario, near the city centre. Busy roads aside however, how many of you know how Robert Speck, the man, was?
Well that’s the point of today’s Mississauga Retrospective. We want to take a short walk down memory lane to remind everyone just who Robert Speck was, and why he was an integral part in the history of Mississauga.
Robert William Speck was born on April 16, 1915. He grew up on a big fruit farm in Clarkson and was well-known in the community as an honest individual, and someone who genuinely cared about his town. It was in 1956, at the age of 41 that Speck first entered local politics where he served as local Councillor for just one term. From there he bcame Deputy Reeve for 3 years, before being appointed Reeve for a full seven years.
Having served Clarkson and the surrounding areas so diligently, Robert Speck was chosen to lead the town of Mississauga when it was first formed. Thus, Robert Speck became the first-ever Mayor of Mississauga in 1968. That’s right, there was a Mayor before Hazel McCallion. In fact, there were four of them, but if you’d like to know more about Hurricane Hazel’s rise, check out our Retrospective on her.
Historians may remember that, at the time of Speck’s appointment, neither Streetsville nor Port Credit were an official part of Mississauga. However it was Speck himself, four years previously, who applied for the Toronto Township to be recognised as a town, and thus Mississauga was born. So when it came to choosing the first Mayor, Robert Speck was the obvious choice.
Sadly, Speck couldn’t much enjoy his appointment as Mayor however, as he was in hospital at the time, recovering from a heart attack. Naturally, that didn’t stop Speck, who quickly emerged from hospital and set about turning Mississauga into a city. He even once famously said, “A city will happen here”. And boy, was he right.
Under Robert Speck’s reign, areas like Erin Mills and Meadowvale were born and blossomed, and the plans for Square One Mall were set in place. Unfortunately, Robert Speck never got to see what Mississauga would become though, as he died from heart transplant complications in April 1972.
Mayor Speck was succeeded by Ron Searle, who had this to say about his predecessor and friend:
“Robert Speck was one of the strongest men I have ever known- both morally and philosophically. All that we shall say here today is that Mayor Bob was a leader, a hardworking man, a man who possessed integrity and was truly dedicated to the well-being of his growing community.”
Mayor Searle had the Mississauga Civic Square named after Speck, but it’s gone today. However Robert Speck Parkway remains and there’s actually another, lesser known tribute to the man. Lakeshore’s Richard’s Memorial Park was named after 14-year-old Richard Wolniewicz, who tragically died but donated his heart that eventually went to Mayor Speck.
Robert Speck may be gone but there are a few touchstones of his to be seen today. Sure it’s only a road and a park, but those places get their names from pioneers and trailblazers that shape the world we so comfortably live in. That said, the real legacy of Robert Speck lives on throughout Mississauga, as it’s perennially beating heart.