GUELPH, Ontario, Canada – It’s official: Al Charbonneau has comfortably acclimated to living in the U.S. tropics, better known as South Florida. Not even Hurricanes Francis and Jeanne which battered Florida last summer and wreaked havoc on the high-rise condominium apartment the former managing director of the Michigan Credit Union League and president of the World Council of Credit Unions lives in seven months out of the year Singer Island with his wife Aggie of 52 years on , could scare him away. “What the heck, that’s the price you pay for living in paradise,” says the 73-year old Saskatchewan native recalling the cement floor the two of them lived on for two months before new carpeting was installed and all the furniture they lost to storm damage. Several of the windows on their sliding glass doors were also destroyed and remain boarded up. They’ll eventually be replaced with windows that can withstand winds up to 190-miles an hour. “Besides, my wife would never give up the beach,” he adds. Charbonneau confesses when he worked with credit unions – his career spanned nearly 42 years – he was a workaholic. Since retiring in 1993 and buying his condo in South Florida, Charbonneau is more likely to be found at the gym where he works out three or four days a week for an hour, or playing golf. “It took a good couple of years for me to realize I could really be happy being relaxed,” Charbonneau unabashingly admits. “I’ve taken to heart what we used to say about the old-timers of credit unions having a tendency to hold on too long. I promised myself I wouldn’t be a hanger-oner regardless of the temptation. I’ve totally cut the cord,” he adds. For a man who assumed in his youth that he’d spend his entire life in Canada, it’s ironic that Charbonneau wound up living in the U.S. for most of his credit union career except for the eight years from 1974-1982 he was CEO of the Credit Union Central of Ontario, and at the outset of his career for five-and-a-half years as assistant manager of the first rural credit union in western Canada – LaFleche Credit Union – which his father founded and chartered. Charbonneau spent another seven years working at the Saskatchewan Credit Union League first as education director and then as managing director – the equivalent of today’s president/CEO – before coming to the U.S. in 1964 to work at CUNA in Madison, Wis. as assistant managing director. At the time, he recalls, CUNA was a “fledgling organization, primarily U.S. based with international interests.” Charbonneau was put in charge of six departments one of which was called the World Extension Department, the precursor to the World Council of Credit Unions. His responsibilities were a perfect fit – Charbonneau developed an early interest in the international credit union movement thanks to a chance meeting with Paddy Bailey, who at the time was Registrar of Cooperatives in Jamaica and who went on to serve as WOCCU’s first director/CEO. Three years later, Charbonneau left CUNA to work at the Michigan Credit Union League as managing director. At the time, he recalls, the Michigan League was considered to be the largest and most progressive CU league in North America. Another feature of the Michigan League that appealed to him was it was very involved in international credit union development. “The (Michigan) League was very political at the time because a large portion of its membership were members of labor unions,” says Charbonneau. With a 42-member board what was eventually scaled back to 23 members, he says “every board meeting was like a convention.” “The league and affiliated credit unions were willing to innovate even at tremendous costs,” says Charbonneau. For example, he says, the league was a pioneer in data processing, “and it made a ton of mistakes, but that didn’t deter them. In those days it was one step forward and two steps back. “They were willing to take risks, and everyone has benefited from that today,” says Charbonneau, adding that, “History will prove that the Michigan League today is one of the best financed leagues in the world.” Charbonneau returned to Ontario for seven years to work at CU Central of Ontario as general manager – that title was changed to chief executive officer before he left – before coming across the border again in 1982 to head up WOCCU. When he retired in 1993, he was 62. Now instead of traveling around the country and internationally for credit union meetings – he went to GAC meetings for 37 consecutive years – Charbonneau has learned to take it easy. “The people I worked with will attest to the fact that I wasn’t the most patient person in the world,” says Charbonneau. “Well I’ve acquired a lot of patience. I even do all the grocery shopping.” He’s also enjoying two things “more than I ever thought I could,” that is getting to know his six children and 14 grandchildren better – they all live in Ontario not far from where Charbonneau and his wife live May-September. “My wife brought up the family virtually by herself because I was working with developing credit union leagues,” he says. Charbonneau is enjoying his retirement life. When he’s back in Ontario, he’s very involved with the Canadian Cancer Society organizing golf tournaments to raise money for the local cancer office that assists patients who need transportation and other assistance. He’s also developed a new attitude on living. Even after experiencing two devestating hurricanes and dealing with the aftermath, Charbonneau’s acquired new priorities in life and is undaunted by challenges that are thrown at him. “Life goes on,” says Charbonneau. Friends of Charbonneau who would like to contact him can reach him at (561) 844-5739. -

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