Category Archives: Community

Recent Arrivals A Benefit To Hedley

Our new neighbours in Hedley, Dian & Tap.

At the beginning of 2017 a number of homes in Hedley were for sale. Linda and I hoped for an influx of quality people willing to commit to our community. By the end of the year almost every for sale sign had come down and it appears our wish has been granted.

Among the new people are our next door neighbours, Tap Nevalainen and Dian McKusick, who moved from Maple Ridge in August. They have very quickly acquired a deep appreciation for the simplicity and peacefulness of rural life. “We lived near railway tracks,” Dian told us. “There were train whistles all night. I had difficulty sleeping.”

Both had experienced a failed relationship when they met in a bar 6 years ago. “I had decided I’d never do that again,” Di told us. Tap wasn’t looking either, but admits he was smitten quickly. “It was pretty close to love at first sight.” Di nodded and said, “It was the same for me.”

Like most of the new emigres to our community, Tap and Di have been matured and tempered by life experiences. Until they made their move to Hedley, Tap worked in construction, building high rise apartment buildings, at times 40 to 50 stories. “I was foreman overseeing the construction of the foundations,” he said. “All the concrete work. On the last building, we dug down 6 levels. On these projects there is always water to deal with.”

Tap was 13 when he moved with his parents from Finland to Canada. Having a pragmatic bent, he knew at a young age he wanted to be a carpenter. “I quit school after grade 10. That was enough to get me into an apprentice program when I turned 19. I didn’t see a need for more education.”

At age 12, Di learned from a sister she was a foster child, not the biological daughter of her parents. “It was a huge shock. She also told me my birth mother had just been found murdered. I first met my biological father and siblings at a Catholic prayer time for my mother.”

Deeply troubled by the unexpected revelations, her life spiraled downward and she ran away. “I was mixed up and didn’t understand. I was unhappy with school and myself.” Unable to cope with Di’s erratic behaviours, her mother enrolled her in the school at Convent of the Sacred Heart, hoping this would settle her. It proved to be an ineffective solution. Di was then placed in a group home where she lived until age 18.

She didn’t become bitter toward the family. “I consider myself lucky, ” she said, “I didn’t get moved around like a lot of foster kids. They are my family and I have a lot of contact with them.”

Di attended school only to grade 7. At age 16 she began working weekends in a rest home, preparing breakfast and dinner for residents, giving medications and doing other tasks. Her husband’s business took her to Quebec for 25 years. When the relationship collapsed she returned to B.C. “I was determined to prove I could make it on my own. I cleaned houses and high rises. On weekends I cleaned at Canada Place.”

Meanwhile, for about 30 years, Tap was a foreman on high rise construction. Getting the foundation exactly right was crucial. He needed to develop the thinking to deal with complex challenges, some of them people related. “It’s nasty out there in big construction,” he said. “The people can make your life miserable. I’m very happy to be out of there.”

Tap, holding one of his rustic birdhouses.

Now in Hedley Tap is again in construction, building dwellings for birds. With Di’s deft decorating skills, each house becomes an intricate work of art, with an alluring rustic aura. It’s a great common ground for them.

Di decorates Tap’s creations.

Until I met Tap, I didn’t think I’d ever be happy again,” Di said. “Moving to Hedley and doing the birdhouses together has been good for us. I’m very happy.”

Like most of those who migrated here in 2017, Tap and Di show up at community functions, including the early morning coffee time at the Seniors’ Centre. They intend to volunteer their time and talents to assist local organizations. Very likely other rural centres are benefiting from a similar influx of solid contributing citizens. Many come with experience, ideas, and skills that will make communities more attractive, and enrich us all.

Only A Child, Only At Christmas

Taegert, B.C. 1979. It was Christmas Eve in Taegert, a small remote former gold mining community in northern B.C. Snow had begun IMG_0742falling steadily the previous night and the mountains surrounding our little town were now bedecked with a soft white mantel. Through the still falling snow,  plumes of grey wood smoke streamed upward from chimneys into the dark sky.

My wife and I leaned forward, pressing into the chill north wind flinging snow into our cold faces. Not far ahead snow laden figures loomed out of the whiteness of the night. We were all hurrying, adults and children, to get a good seat at the Christmas Eve celebration in the community hall.

We arrived to find the hall already packed with a boisterous crowd. The only place was along the back wall with other stragglers. Outside, cold snow hurled itself at the hall, but inside it was toasty. The ancient pot bellied wood stove was working its magic. In one corner an enormous fir tree, with lights, ornaments and tinsel encouraged a holiday spirit.

The program MC, Marty Dyke, slipped from behind a curtain at the left end of the stage. She was a robust woman, something her loose, bright red dress could not hide. With a hearty laugh and booming voice, she said, “ Welcome to our community’s 38th Christmas concert.” Then she turned to the side of the stage where she had entered. “ Without further adieu, let’s put our hands together and bring on the famous Jones family!” There was clapping, hollering and stamping of feet.

The Jones clan came hustling on stage with guitars, fiddles, harmonicas and a banjo. Grandpa Jones began belting out the tunes and his whole lusty clan backed him up like they were on stage at Nashville, Tennessee. Pretty quick folks were smiling and singing along. A few pretty young girls in bright dresses danced in the aisles. It was a Christmas hootenanny. Marty always introduced them first because they knew how to stir up the crowd’s Christmas spirit.

Everyone settled down when 11 year old Susie Thomas began telling about the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger. “It happened in a stable,” she said, “and there were probably sheep and donkeys watching. And shepherds came from taking care of their flocks in the fields.” She seemed awed by the event. Susie was followed by Mrs. Brown reading her latest Christmas poem.

Everyone was having a grand time. Everyone except me, that is. Just before the program started, Marty Dyke had whispered to me, “I’ve asked your friend J.K. Barnabas to bring his guitar and sing two or three tunes at the end. Be a fine way to wrap up the evening, don’t you think?” It was too late to change things, so I remained silent.

I was concerned because J.K.’s a black man. A big old white haired blues singer who used to perform in bars in cities like Winnipeg, Vancouver and Seattle. Not that anyone in Taegert would object to him singing blues, or to him being black. No one that is, except Gerhardt Gruber. And, in a way, old Gruber had a pretty good reason for not liking black men. He had nothing against black women.

In the big war back in the forties, he and his son were in the same company in the German Wehrmacht. In close combat, a black Yankee soldier shot the son dead right in front of Gruber. He’s been bitter against black men since that day.

That’s why I was troubled about J.K. Barnabas getting in front of this crowd. Gruber might have a flashback. What if he did something crazy? J.K. isn’t a well man. He doesn’t need that.

While my mind was thinking about these things, the evening was flying by. Now Marty called on J.K. He walked to the front slowly and sat down on a hard wooden bench. After taking a moment to adjust the guitar strings, he grinned at the children in the front row and launched into a frisky rendition of Frosty the Snowman. Next he pleased the crowd with Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer. Everyone cheered when he was done, but not Gruber.

Then the raucous, buoyant mood was gone and he seemed to forget we were there. He drifted into a tune I was sure he had written himself.

“I woke up this mornin’ and the sun, it didn’t shine,
Was sittin’ in my room all alone, didn’t have one friend I could say was mine.
Too many nights in the bars, too many days on the road, now this body’s gettin’ old.
Snow’s fallin’ and I’m feelin’ mighty low, oh yes, I’m feelin’ mighty low.
My little baby’s gone.
She’s grown up big, don’t come to her daddy no more to play.
Sure has broke this old man’s heart.
Oh Yeah, sure has broke this old man’s heart.”

Then he was quiet, still sitting on the bench, a lonely old blues man. A single tear rolled slowly down one cheek.

A hush fell over the hall, and no one cheered or moved. It seemed everyone was expecting something to happen.

I heard the rustle of a dress and I looked to my left where old Gruber was sitting, arms crossed over his chest and face hard as the barrel of a German army rifle. Before he could stop her, his pretty little granddaughter had slipped off his lap and was running to where the white haired J.K. Barnabas was sitting.

Gruber's granddaughter offering her baby to Mr. JK
Gruber’s granddaughter offering her baby to Mr. JK

“Here, Mr. J.K.” she said, holding a little blond doll toward him. “Take my baby. She’ll make you happy. I have more babies at home.”

I think everyone stopped breathing and looked at old Gruber. His stiff white Wehrmacht moustache made him look real serious.

And then it happened. Gruber got up. Using his cane, he walked unsteadily to where his granddaughter and JK. were. He sat down on the bench next to J.K. and lifted the little girl onto the black man’s lap. Although he wasn’t a religious man, far as I knew, he began singing “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht,” in his native German, his sweet tenor carrying the words throughout the hall. After hesitating a moment, the old blues man joined his deep baritone to Gruber’s tenor.

“Silent night. Holy night. All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.”

Then everyone was singing, and when the song was done, I saw men and women laughing and crying, shaking hands and embracing. At the front of the room, I saw the old black man and the old German army officer rise and embrace.

Taegert was never quite the same again. There was more of a sense of peace. And that’s why I say, “Only a child could have accomplished what happened in our little town that night. And only at Christmas.”

(first published Dec. 2014)

Jody Woodford, Proud of Tulameen Fire Department

Jody Woodford, Chief of Tulameen Fire Department

Considering Jody Woodford’s chaotic early home life, I would not have guessed she would one day be chief of the Tulameen Fire Department. “We lived in the Yukon for about 10 years,” she told Linda and me. “My father was a heavy equipment operator. We lived in a school bus and every time Dad was sent to a new job, we moved. Sometimes my sister and brother and I went to a school for a week and then we moved. One year we moved 10 times.”

In spite of the family’s lacklustre circumstances, there was a positive thread. “Mom and Dad wanted us to have a better life. They wanted us to be resourceful, resilient and independent. We were a tightly knit family and when our parents had health problems, us kids accepted a lot of responsibility.”

Her Dad was a big man, close to 500 pounds. “He drove fast and was hard on transmissions. When I was 13, my two younger siblings and I changed the transmission on our Chevette. Dad coached us at every step.”

Her father’s health began to fail and in 1983 the family moved to Princeton where she graduated from high school in 1988. “I enrolled in a heavy transport mechanics course,” she said. “I did the practical training and got my papers. By then Dad had terminal cancer and Mom’s health wasn’t great. My parents had bought a small home in Coalmont, their first ever. The foundation consisted of cottonwood stumps. I went there to take care of Dad. It was just something we had learned at home. Dad died in 1993.”

Her mother didn’t have the income to make the mortgage payments so Jody and her sister worked and by 1995 the home was paid for. Then a flood destroyed the home. “There was no insurance, so my sister, brother and I began building a new house for Mom,” Jody said. “I studied books to learn how. Our neighbours helped and the building inspector gave us advice. It was a community project and Mom got her first brand new home ever. That was my beginning in carpentry, which is how I now make a living.”

Physically strong and willing to contribute to her community, she was asked in 1998 to join the Tulameen Fire Department. “For the first 17 years the Fire Department paid only for basic training. I took extra courses and paid for them myself. I wanted to have the knowledge to do the job.”

Ten years ago the department needed a new chief, but no one stepped forward. By this time Jody was probably the most qualified member of the department. “It scared me,” she said, “but I accepted the position.” At that time there was no remuneration for going out on calls.

Jody Woodford & the Tulameen Fire Department

It’s a team effort,” she stressed. “I’m very lucky to be working with committed firefighters. The community has been great too. We work together to make things happen. We have year round bottle drives. We put on dances and sell fire wood. The whole valley gets involved in fund raising. In the beginning they used a septic truck to haul water. Now we have 3 trucks. In February we took delivery of a new Freightliner. We turned an impossibility into a possibility.”

Being Chief requires her to be strong in crises. “I’m pretty emotional but there are times when I have to be a rock,” she admitted. “It was extremely hard when a very close friend, a fellow fire fighter was killed in a car accident.”

It became clear to me that Jody has reflected on her life and gleaned insights. “Some people allow themselves to be consumed by their circumstances. At home us kids learned we could make better choices. From my friend who died I learned I should get to know people, and not make assumptions.”

She is proud of the Fire Department and the community that has worked and sacrificed to strengthen and modernize it. She values the opportunity to grow. “It has enabled me to help people in crises situations,” she said. “Sometimes I’m as scared as they, but I have to act in spite of the fear.”

Living in a bus, changing schools repeatedly and not being able to develop lasting early friendships, could have caused Jody to flounder. Instead, she chose to view her life experiences as preparation to take on greater challenges in the future.

Jody & her siblings are still close. This is a gingerbread house she created with her niece and nephew last Christmas.

The Nelsons of Cawston

Phyllis & Fred Nelson

Sitting at a table among fruit laden trees in the midst of Fred and Phyllis Nelson’s Cawston orchard late this past summer, Linda and I felt embraced by their large family of neighbours and friends. The surrounding mountains outlined crisply against a pristine blue sky lent an aura of grandeur to the occasion. Scattered among the trees were about 200 people, all at tables, enjoying a delicious potluck meal. At the end of a protracted, dry summer, this was a welcome break in the routine of hard work. In the growing dusk, with talented musicians performing on stage, there seemed a pervasive sense of goodwill in the atmosphere.

Several very young boys with plastic shovels were digging vigorously in Fred’s potato patch. The expert manner in which they used their small shovels suggested they were offspring of local farmers.

Linda and I were intrigued by the Nelsons’ vision for this remarkable event. Wanting to know more, we returned to the orchard last week for a 2 hour conversation. “We’ve done this potluck annually for about 10 years,” Phyllis told us in reply to my question. “It’s a celebration of the harvest. We also celebrate music, and the fact we’ve been here another year. I get on the phone and invite our neighbours and friends. It’s strictly by invitation. There would be too many people if we opened it up.” We quickly grasped that she is a capable, proactive event planner.

I reminded Fred of seeing him shoo the youngsters out of his potato patch and asked if there are problems associated with the evening. “Digging up potatoes is not a permitted activity,” he said good-humouredly. “We spend a day preparing and another day cleaning up.”

Fred and Phyllis both grew up in Nelson, B.C., are only a few months apart in age and attended the same elementary school. “I became interested in Fred at age 8,” she said. “He wasn’t aware of me yet, but by age 13 we were dating.” Clearly Phyllis understood early how to make things fall into place.

After graduating in 1966, Fred trained in forestry at BCIT and Phyllis graduated from UVic with a degree in education. They were married at age 21. When their careers proved unfulfilling, they bought a VW bus and travelled for 26 months in Canada, the US and Mexico. Subsequently they fell in love with Cawston and rented the house in which they now live.

In time they were able to buy the house and a 10 acre portion of the orchard on which it is situated. The orchard was old and not producing an income. It would demand all the qualities normally required for success in any difficult endeavour. Their patience, perseverance and belief would be tested repeatedly. Fortunately Brian Mennell, a neighbour across the street, offered Fred employment and instruction in orcharding.

By this time they had 2 sons, Forrest and Pharron. Life became a financial scramble. Phyllis taught school and gave private piano lessons. Fred for some years was the water bailiff for the Fairview Irrigation District. He also did carpentry.

In 1996 they took what must have seemed a hazardous plunge into the unknown. Fred went into orcharding full-time. In the coming years they would encounter late frosts that destroyed blossoms, cold weather, crop destroying hail and much more. Lately, due to global warming there are new pests that destroy fruit and trees. All problems familiar to farmers. Their decision would require them to become a team forged together by love, trust, commitment and strength of character. They could not falter when disaster threatened.

Fred & Phyllis Nelson

I began a l0 year orchard development program,” Fred said. “Each year I took out one acre of trees and replanted with a variety of fruits, especially apples. I also switched to organic growing. For this I needed specialized equipment and materials. We are the only ones in the valley growing organic Aurora apples. They are particularly sweet, but delicate and require great care.”

Pherron Nelson (centre) & helpers packing organic aurora apples.

Now close to retirement, they will soon sell the orchard to Pharron and his wife, who already live and work on the property. Their other son, Forrest and his partner, also live in the Cawston area, and grow organic vegetables. Fred and Phyllis look forward to a slower pace and spending more time with their grandchildren. “I’m amazed at how quickly the years have flown by,” Phyllis said. Fred nodded agreement.

Hedley Gondola Project

Former Senator Gerry St. Germain & USIB Chief Rick Holmes

Hedley residents turned out in force last Saturday (Sept. 9, 2017) to learn about the gondola project under consideration by the Upper Similkameen Indian Band and a group of entrepreneurs, mostly from Texas. A couple of local ranchers, former Senator Gerry St. Germain and his son Jay, appear to be key in connecting the band with the Texans. The senior St. Germain has a wealth of business and political experience and connections.

Band Chief Rick Holmes said, “It’s an idea that has been talked about for at least 10 years. We are concerned for the entire community and we want people to be informed.” He told the audience he had become excited about the project after talking with Gerry St. Germain. “The band needs to generate more revenue,” he said. He had taken the investors from Texas to the former Mascot mine site and they believe the gondola concept has possibilities.

We already have contracts with the Squamish Nation,” Jack Matthews said. “Hedley is quaint and the view from the mine site is spectacular. There is still a lot of research to be done before we know if it’s feasible. We’ll have more answers in a year.”

One of the challenges for the proposed enterprise is where to situate the gondola at the bottom and also at the mine. At this time two sites are favoured. One is in the vicinity of the pump houses for the town’s water system. Lynn Wells, chair of the Hedley Improvement District registered her concern, citing the potential of pollution and other issues. The town has an easement allowing for its pumps. The land is owned by Barrick Gold.

The other site the group likes is on Lot 2900, located on the far side of the Colonial Lodge and the Gold House. I’ve been told this property is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Mines.

The business group recognizes that the tourist season here is limited, due to weather. Initially they talked about “layering.” They mentioned building a zip line and offering gold panning.

During the question period, some interest was expressed in the project, also a number of concerns. One resident drew chuckles when he said, “I don’t want people looking down on me when I’m sun bathing in the nude in my back yard.” He likely doesn’t sun bathe in the nude but his objection was understood by all.

It was apparent that one of the main issues for a lot of people was the likely disruption of the peaceful way of life we enjoy here. People were nervous about the possibility of hotels and restaurants being added to the gondola concept to make it more attractive and profitable.

Several of the business group said they want to consider the concerns of local people. Gerry St. Germain said, “I don’t want the town to change in a big way.”

At the end of the meeting I said that for the Hedley Gondola project to proceed and be good for the Band and the town, the promoters will need to win our trust. They will be under tremendous pressure to add amenities to attract tourists. This will certainly be disturbing to many residents. We came here, at least in part, to escape the noise and pace of city life. Promises about not changing the town in a big way will be kept only if the people who make them are of good character.

Rededication Of Hedley Cenotaph, Part 2

The Lloyd family, descendants of Lieutenant T.C. Knowles.

The Lloyd family, descendants of Lieutenant T.C. Knowles, came to celebrate his war service. He served in WWI, finishing in the RAF. Upon his return to Hedley, he became the town’s postmaster.

Beverly Knowles & Anne Lloyd (nee Knowles), daughters of Lieutenant T.C. Knowles
Sandy Wightman (grandson of Alec Jack), Moira Herold (daughter of A. Jack), Stephanie Malahoff (granddaughter of A. Jack).

Captain Alec Jack came to Canada in 1913, indentured to the Bank of British North America in Hedley. In 1915 he signed up for war service with 16 other Hedley boys.  He saw action in the Battle of the Somme and Vimy Ridge, plus other battles. He proved himself as a courageous leader and was awarded the Military Cross. Sandy Wightman has done considerable research concerning Captain Alec Jack and the Canadian war effort. (The foregoing information about Captain Alec Jack comes from this research).

Hedley Postmaster Ruth Woodin reading a war letter.

After the rededication ceremony, there was an English tea for the public in the backyard of the Hedley Historic Museum. A number of letters written by Hedley Boys serving in Europe were read. Ruth Woodin read 2 letters concerning Walter Matthews after he failed to return from a bombing mission (WWII). The first was written by his RCAF commanding officer. The second one came from the Canadian War Office.

The following material is excerpted from the research notes of Jennifer Douglass & Andy English of Hedley.

“In May of 1944, F.O. Matthews’ squadron was involved with the bombing of key strategic sites in preparation for the D-Day invasion of Normandy on the coming 6th of June. After one such mission, Matthews’ plane failed to return from a bombing raid on the Le Mans railway yards in France. It was determined the plane was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and crashed south of Le Mans, near a village called Monce au Belin. All on board were killed instantly. A neighbouring French woman laid flowers on the site of the crash for a long time afterwards and sent news as such to the RCAF in Canada.

F.O. Matthews was killed in action on 23 May 1944. He was 28 years of age. He is buried in a collective grave with four of his crew mates at Le Mans West Cemetery, France.”

 

 

Rededication Of Hedley Cenotaph

Researchers Jennifer Douglass & Andy English

Hedley residents, Jennifer Douglass and Andy English, devoted approximately 3 1/2 years to researching the names on the local cenotaph. They discovered 2 additional names that should have been included, and these have recently been added. When Jennifer and Andy speak of the young men who were killed in action in World War I, it is as though they know them personally and think of them as friends.

During the time of their research, they developed the Hedley Cenotaph Committee and attracted a lot of interest and support in the community. This summer the unstinting efforts of the committee resulted in the refurbishing of the cenotaph, including replacement of some lead lettering. In a statement to the Keremeos OK Falls Review, Andy said, “Many people helped and donated to the restoration fund, from local Hedleyites who had known the cenotaph all their lives, to people who recently moved to the area but who recognized the importance of preserving this memorial and for what it represented. Families who had lived in Hedley but had moved away contributed, as did relatives of many of the Hedley men who served in the wars. The biggest contribution came from Veterans Affairs Canada.”

Seaforth Highlanders Regiment, Vancouver; representatives from Princeton Royal Canadian Legion Colour Guard, Keremeos Royal Canadian Legion Colour Guard, Erris Volunteer Fire Dept., Hedley Volunteer Fire Dept.

On Saturday August 26, 2017 the Hedley community celebrated the completion of the refurbishing of the cenotaph, and took time to remember the fallen men whose names are inscribed on it.

Chief Rick Holmes of the Upper Similkameen Indian Band spoke about band member Jack Lorenzetto, who was killed in World War I.
MP Dan Albas, Chaplain Sandra Lawlor, Princeton Royal Canadian Legion, & MLA Linda Larson

Nickel Plate Reunion In Hedley

Former residents of Nickel Plate townsite.

This past weekend Hedley was the scene of a pretty unique reunion. Participants came from various points in the province. With the exception of one individual, as children they had all lived at the Nickel Plate townsite, high on the mountain overlooking Hedley. Their parents worked for the Kelowna Exploration Company, the entity which operated the highly lucrative Nickel Plate Mine.

The mine ceased operations in 1955, so these people are now seniors. Although they’ve had several reunions previously, some had not connected since the mining days. Bob Richards of Penticton, whose father was a foreman at the mine, largely organized the event. Now age 74, he has worked in mines himself and has also earned his living as a wrestler. Like the others, he spoke fondly of his childhood years living in the Nickel Plate community.

Bob Richards

I was one when my parents moved up,” he said. “We left when I was 12. Those were good years. The mine provided a bowling alley and a skating rink. It helped us create a ski run, and much more. I attended school up there until grade 6.”

Patsy (Williams) Ehlbeck

Patsy Ehlbeck (nee Williams), spoke of her father (known by miners as Dibbs) who was mine superintendent during the family’s years at the town site. Her parents had given the Museum a painting of the family home on the mountain. This was of particular interest to Patsy.

Garnet Graham

Garnet Graham, now living in Prince George, said “There were about 40 families up there, plus singles. My dad worked in the mine and is mentioned in Mines of the Eagle Country. It was a great place to be a kid. We had lots of freedom. Sometimes we rode our bikes to Nickel Plate Lake. I have awesome memories of that time.”

Ore was sent down the tram line in skips (ore cars) to the Stamp Mill on the periphery of Hedley. The skips were controlled by the Hoist Man at Central Station part way up the line. “There was one house at Central, and this is where our family lived,” said Carl Lofroth, now of Terrace. For this reason he didn’t have as much interaction with the children of the Nickel Plate community. Even so, there are plenty of great memories. “We had Disney movies,” he said, “and there were Chinese dinners. We went camping together and had picnics.” He doesn’t recall any quarreling. When he was 6, his family moved down into Hedley where he attended school.

Jim Munro

Jim Munro lived at Nickel Plate from age 9 to 14. His dad was the camp administrator. “Kids had the run of the town,” he recalled, “but we couldn’t get too far out of line. Everyone knew who your parents were. It was like having 40 moms and 40 dads.”

Carl Lafroth

During the open mike session, there were a number of references to riding the skip down to Hedley. “People would ride the skip down and do their shopping,” Carl Lafroth explained. “On the way down, we sat on the ore. This allowed us to have a great view of the valley. On the return trip up the mountain, the skip would be empty. We’d be lower and couldn’t see much.”

Don Armstrong provided 2 cakes. This one had a photo of the stamp mill. The other showed the trestle bridge crossing the Similkameen river.

After many laughs, the reunion group was joined by locals for an outdoor roast beef dinner hosted by Don Armstrong and assisted by Judy Turner, Sharon Sund and others, all of Hedley. In the evening the Black Birds provided music for a street dance.

Collaborating For Better Health Care

Nienke Klaver & Ed Staples

Thirty six acres straddling the Tulameen River several miles from Princeton seems an unlikely, overly serene retirement setting for a couple that has traveled, worked and lived in diverse places around the globe. For Ed Staples and Nienke Klaver though, it’s just right. Their wide ranging experiences had prepared them to take a leadership role in striving for better health care in the Similkameen valley.

Sitting in our sun room with a cup of steaming coffee in hand, Ed said, “our time in other countries made us more compassionate. In Chile we watched a young boy playing with an old, deflated soccer ball. I bought a new ball. When I handed it to him, his expression of gratitude and wonderment was life changing. What we experienced helps us understand how fortunate we are in Canada.”

Nienke nodded and said, “One day in Lhasa, Tibet we were walking in a circle, participating in a ceremony. An elderly woman grasped my hand and walked beside me. We didn’t understand each other but we smiled a lot. The needs and wants of people are very similar.”

Nienke came to Canada in 1981 to visit her sister and pursue a masters degree at the University of Victoria. Ed had recently returned from 3 years of teaching in Saudi Arabia. They met one evening when Nienke and her friend Gwen ran out of gas a block from Ed’s home. Gwen knew him so she asked if he had gas. He did and gave it to them. A few days later Ed accompanied them to a Doug and the Slugs concert. He and Nienke sat side by side and it was the beginning of a romance that blossomed into marriage and a life long adventurous partnership.

They traveled extensively and have memories that still influence their thinking and values. “Some roads in Paraguay were so bad I didn’t take the Toyota out of first gear,” Ed said. Tibet provided aunique experience. Two Buddhist monks invited them to their monastery. Here they were granted a rare private audience with the Rinpoche, a highly revered religious leader who had trained with the Dalai Lama. In Japan, where they lived 10 years, Ed taught music at the American School in Japan and Nienke taught violin. She has played with symphony orchestras in Amsterdam, Victoria and Edmonton.

Upon returning from Japan they bought the acreage outside Princeton. “Traveling and living in other countries gave us a greater appreciation for what we have in Canada,” Ed said. “It helped us understand more fully that people need to accept responsibility for the well being of their community. It doesn’t just happen.” He recalled his father’s words, “if you want things to change, you need to get involved and help bring about the change.”

We became aware of a gradual erosion of health care in our community,” Nienke remembers. “We had only one doctor on call. Then there was an announcement that the Emergency Ward in our hospital would be closed 4 nights each week.”

When Nienke began circulating a petition on behalf of health care in the area, Ed was initially reluctant. Seeing people were concerned and were signing the petition, he too became active. “At first people didn’t believe anything would change. Nienke isn’t afraid to try things though,” he observed. “She persevered in spite of the pessimism.” The petition collected 3,600 names and public officials took notice.

Ed and Nienke are grateful for the support and help they received from others. Brad Hope (Area H Regional Director at that time) and his wife June were knowledgeable and helpful. “Also,” Ed said, “we received good advice from Walter Despot, former mayor of Keremeos. He gave us a tour of the South Similkameen Health Centre and advised us to work constructively with Interior Health. There we met Susan Brown. Without her, nothing would have happened. Dr Monro of Princeton has provided great ideas. She’s a firecracker! We became collaborative, not confrontational.”

They developed Support our Health Care (SOHC), a local grassroots organization dedicated to the improvement of Princeton’s model of healthcare. It has joined the B.C. Health Coalition. SOHC has begun working with similar organizations in other rural communities.

We now have visiting specialists, and Princeton and Keremeos have Community Paramedicine programs,” Nienke said at the end. Ed added, “we can’t claim the credit, but our group has developed fertile ground for improvements in health care.”

Hedley Citizens Clean Cenotaph

(clockwise) Bill Day on ladder, Peggy Terry, Andy English, Linda Martens, Margaret Skaar

Carrying buckets of water, soft brushes and toothbrushes, six enthusiastic Hedley citizens showed up at 9 am this past Sunday to thoroughly clean the Hedley cenotaph. Restored recently, with the help of fundraising and a matching grant from the federal government, the cenotaph will be rededicated at 1:00 pm on August 26th. The impetus for the refurbishing came from local researchers Jennifer Douglass and Andy English. From early issues of the Princeton Star and the Hedley Gazette, and conversations with descendants of service men named on the cenotaph, Douglass and English gleaned considerable information that might have been lost without their efforts. Their research brought to light 2 new names that needed to be added. According to English, the cenotaph may have been the first in Canada. Its location marks a point where 17 local recruits assembled in August 1915, prior to departing for Penticton where they enlisted. They were given a rousing send off with a marching band, a large banner and much applause and cheering.

Bill Day observing Jennifer Douglass meticulously cleaning with a toothbrush.
Peggy Terry, Terry Sawiuk & Andy English coming up with a plan to repair the cement floor. (The repair has since been successfully completed by Terry Sawiuk & Bill Day).