Prince George fixture Ben Klassen was almost rendered speechless when presented with a token of appreciation for his contribution to the community - almost.
Klassen received a Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal from Prince George-Peace River MP Bob Zimmer in front of his congregation at Lakewood Alliance Church Sunday morning.
"I don't know what to say and I usually don't have trouble talking," Klassen said, after Zimmer pinned the award to his lapel and presented him with a Governor General-signed certificate.
Klassen, best known in town for his work as head of Homesteader Meats, moved to Prince George in 1982. He was also heavily involved with the Chamber of Commerce, his church and sat on numerous boards of directors.
"His reputation as a man of God goes even further than this business reputation," said Zimmer, who also called Klassen a "shining example of a man who walks with his faith."
While Zimmer - who Klassen first met when he was only two days old in the hospital in Dawson Creek - said he couldn't think of a better person to receive the commemorative prize, Klassen was completely surprised.
When the 74 year old found out about the honour two weeks ago, he said it was out of left field.
"I was thinking of so many people that would suit that type of thing, but I didn't think of myself," Klassen said. "I was very surprised."
The Diamond Jubilee medal was created to mark the 2012 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. The medals are awarded to 60,000 Canadians for their contribution to the country or community.
His love of people and eagerness to help where he can were what led to Klassen's honour, he supposed.
"I think one of the things that have been a really big enjoyment for me is to learn from people that you meet," he said. "And if I can be an encouragement to people, that's my motive, too."
Klassen and his family - which includes his wife, three daughters and nine grandchildren - celebrated his receipt of the medal on Sunday afternoon.
He said he's always felt young at heart and that the privilege of going to a job he loves with people he has fun with help to keep him that way.
"We feel a tremendous support from the people in the city," he said, calling the business more like "building friendships" than a retail operation.
"There's something special about getting older," said Klassen. "You just have certain things happen in your life that you never realized were going to happen. I feel very encouraged by having been chosen for this - very honoured."