The alexander family has more than a lifetime worth of years-of-service at syncrude, and that’s a family legacy they are proud to share.
Allison Alexander is a Heavy Equipment Operator for Tailing and Lease Development projects team, and he’s not shy about sharing that his immediate family has about 136 years of service with Syncrude, and even more with extended family members.
“Ever since my dad took a job offer from Syncrude long ago, our family has greatly benefited and my siblings and I have been able to create great lives for ourselves,” says Allison, a 34-year employee. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for our parents deciding to move to Fort McMurray.”
Many family members contributed to the grand number of service years but it all started with Allison’s father, Bill Alexander, who worked at Syncrude for 12 years until his career was cut short by a battle with cancer.
Bill was a miner in northern Quebec before he was hired by Syncrude as a bucketwheel supervisor after company recruiters visited eastern Canada in the late 1970s. He and wife Madonna, along with their six kids, moved from Schefferville, Quebec, to Fort McMurray, Alberta in 1979.
Allison’s brothers Andrew (Andy) worked at Syncrude for 35 years, brother Calvin had more than 15 years of service, and their brother-in-law Robert Begin had more than 30 years when he retired. Along with Allison, his sister Shelley Hobbs continues to work at Syncrude today and is close to her 40-year milestone.
“We came from a small isolated community, so Fort McMurray felt very big at the time of the move. The possibilities were exciting for our family,” says Shelley, Warehousing Operations Area Leader, who eventually raised a family of her own in Fort McMurray.
According to Shelley, Syncrude was a big help for her family’s adjustment period in the Northern Alberta.
Through my dad working at Syncrude, it didn’t take very long for us to meet a lot of families that came from different places having a similar situation as us. We bonded quickly and made life-long friends.
Many individuals and families that moved to Fort McMurray were able to build new relationships through Syncrude activities such as team sport leagues.
“I can remember having a lot of fun with colleagues outside of work. We had bowling leagues for Syncrude employees, we had softball teams, and my brothers played on the Syncrude hockey team,” says Shelley. “It seemed like you were somehow always involved either directly or as a spectator which gave the company and community a close-knit feel.”
“First my own children, and now my grandchildren, attend the Syncrude family fun events and Christmas parties, and many other community programs and facilities that our company supports,” she adds, referencing events prior to COVID restrictions.
Throughout her time with the company, Shelley found more than just a rewarding career. Her husband Calvin Hobbs worked at Syncrude for 33 years with the draglines and bucketwheels and as a panel operator in the north mine, before retiring in 2013. The two met during Shelley’s first Christmas in Fort McMurray in 1979. Bill invited Calvin, along with other people he worked with, who didn’t have family to be with during the holidays in Fort McMurray. This action would say a lot about Bill and the spirit of Syncrude at the time.
“Many people were here by themselves without any family. We were quite lucky in that aspect,” adds Shelley. Her and Calvin eventually married and went on to have two children, both of whom later became summer students at Syncrude.
Fort McMurray as a city was growing simultaneously as Syncrude continued to expand as a company, and the Alexander family witnessed this first hand.
Looking back, Shelley is amazed at how quickly 39 years have passed. “Earlier in my life, I was focused on being a teacher but I really enjoyed a summer working for Syncrude. I saw the opportunities and never left,” says Shelley, who went on to get her parts ticket and held various leadership roles. “My career has been more than I ever could have imagined. I am grateful for every bit of it. My dad was so proud to work for Syncrude – he called it the opportunity of a lifetime. He would beam with pride to see all of us continue this legacy.”
Although both Shelley and Allison are nearing the ends of their careers, a new generation of family members continues to keep the Syncrude tradition alive. Andrew’s son Damien Alexander is a trainer at Aurora; Allison’s son Kaylen Alexander is millwright in the RAP program, and his son-in-law Michael Falcones is a heavy equipment operator at Mildred Lake. Shelley’s son-in-law Matthew Leblanc is a team leader in upgrading and her niece Tanya Begin is a heavy equipment operator at Aurora.
Like the Alexander family, many other families at Syncrude can relate to the pride of being part of their own legacy within the organization, whether as an individual contributor or as part of multi-generational stretches.
Allison smiles as he reminisces on his memories here. “I have done a lot of fulfilling work in my time here,” says Allison.