Category Archives: People

Breathing Life Into a Defunct Camaro

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This 1981 Camaro has been thoroughly neglected for 15 years. Hasn’t been driven. Hasn’t even been started. For much of this time it has been parked on Mike’s yard, the next door neighbour of our daughter Vivian and her family. No one demonstrated any interest in the car, except for one person.

For about 2 years our grandson Brandon has periodically said to Mike, “When are you going to give me the Camaro?” He was 14 when he began asking the question. Mike is about 40, a big guy with a big voice. He just laughed.

Maybe he was waiting for Brandon to be old enough to drive. Approximately 3 months ago he said to him, “O.K. you can move the Camaro onto your yard now. It’s yours.” Brandon will turn 16 at the end of June.

It’s a Z28, with a 350 cubic inch motor, the biggest one available in this top of the line model. This is a lot of power for a driver at any age, especially a young man of 16. It has Granny a tad concerned but we know Brandon has demonstrated an ability to make wise choices. Even so, Granny will say some extra prayers once the car is road worthy.

Having stood idle so long, the car needs more than just some tender loving care. Fortunately Brandon’s Dad, our son in law Troy, has plenty of experience with breathing life into classic vehicles. His restoration of a red 1970 Cuda convertible still produces a sense of awe in me. One of the Dukes of Hazard bought another car he had restored. He sets a high standard and gives meticulous attention to detail.

Brandon admiring some of the changes that have been made.
Brandon admiring some of the changes that have been made.

Most of Troy’s working life has been in automotive parts outlets. Fora number of years he has been with Mopac Auto Supplies (“where power is everything“). He knows cars and is the brains behind the restoration of the Camaro. He gives the directions and Brandon does most of the work. They can be found in the shop long after dark.

In the photo at the top they are discussing the best means of removing the gas tank. Troy has an automotive scope camera that allows him a peek at the inside. “There is a lot of gunk in there,” he said. The problem at this point is that someone put a hitch on the car years ago and it won’t permit the tank to come down. It’s hard to believe anyone would put a hitch on a Camaro.

It’s actually somewhat amazing to see Troy working on a Camaro. From the beginning, he’s been a loyal Chrysler Corp. fan. I’m certain he hasn’t worked on a General Motors Co. product previously. It’s good to see that his loyalty to Chrysler is outweighed by loyalty to his son.

There will be a cost to bringing this old lady to life. Fortunately Troy can buy at wholesale and he also knows people who have used parts. In a few instances, some individuals have taken an interest in Brandon’s project and have donated parts.

Some years ago Chev General Manager Pete Estes said, “the name Camaro suggests the comradeship of good friends, as a personal car should be to its owner.”

This Camaro is also deepening the comradeship between father and son.

The Jacobs of Hedley

Michelle & Mike Jacobs of Hedley
Michelle & Mike Jacobs of Hedley

In the poker game we call life, some individuals believe they have been dealt a losing hand. Talking with Mike Jacobs, a Mohawk from Ontario, I quickly gathered that he gives a swift and decisive boot to these kinds of thoughts.

In response to my question concerning the impact of his early years, Mike wouldn’t give me permission to write anything that could be interpreted as “snivelling,” (to use his expression). He said only “When I was young I worked on farms. A couple were good, some weren’t. Sometimes I had to get up at 4:30 to milk cows. Often I had to work until dark. I don’t look back or complain. Those experiences prepared me for challenges later in life. They made me tougher and stronger. Life is what we make of it. I look ahead.”

Mike and wife Marie live just outside Hedley on 8 acres, with a spectacular view of the Similkameen River. Mike’s daughter Michelle lives in Hedley.

He became aware early of an artist’s fascination with wood and for a time developed this interest. Within him lived a powerful drive to succeed financially though, and he turned to work that brought in money. His motivation far exceeded the usual. “From the age of 17 to 57 I always had a job,” he said. “I was a workaholic. Even when I was young, while others were partying, I was putting a roof on someone’s house, or installing doors. I partied when the work was done. Most of the time I had 2 or 3 jobs.”

Mike’s practical abilities enabled him to launch a home renovation business and also a pre-purchase home inspection business. He constantly scanned the horizon for opportunities to acquire new skills. “When I was working for the City of Burnaby,” he said, “I took every course they offered, in case the job with the city didn’t last.”

He declined to list his various trades but did admit to being a journeyman carpenter. After an injury and the arthritis that followed, the city made him Coordinator of Maintenance.

In his youth Mike didn’t learn the Mohawk language or culture. Later though, he looked into his First Nations heritage. “As a kid I never thought of myself as white,” he said. “Our heritage should always mean something to us. But we don’t need to be militant.”

People sometimes tell him he threw away his gifting when he focused on work rather than pursuing his artistic interests. He responds with, “I didn’t throw away my gifting. I passed it on to my daughter Michelle.”

We were sitting at a work table in his shop, with Michelle listening intently. At one point she said, “Dad always had the Mohawk ability to work high above the ground. His sense of balance was off the charts.”

Michelle has certainly inherited Mike’s interest in artwork. While we talked she worked patiently, drawing a man wearing a wolf headdress. She also does beadwork. Although this isn’t where she earns a living, much of what she makes is for sale under the name “Beadwork by Michelle.” Some of her inspiration comes from the legendary Chief Dan George. “He had a modern life style and still taught the older ways,” she said. “I’ve read a lot of his poetry.”

Like her father, Michelle has practical working skills. She’s a certified electrician, working north of Fort McMurray. She gets a thrill, she told me, “when a project is completed and we turn on the lights.” When I asked if working with crews consisting primarily of men was intimidating, she said, “right now there are 4 females and about 180 men on the project. It doesn’t bother me. I’ve worked with Dad a lot. I’m used to being around men on the job.”

Mike and Marie arrived in the Hedley area in 2008. Since then they have become deeply integrated into the community. They belong to the Community Club and the Seniors’ Centre. At the latter, along with others, they take turns hosting the morning coffee time. Mike supervised a complete renovation of the Centre and Michelle did the electrical work.

The Jacobs believe in contributing. “When people get involved,” Mike says, “everyone benefits.”

Mike has recently returned to his love of working with wood. On Saturday, March 28th he will display his and Michelle’s creations at the Hedley Seniors’ Centre Annual Craft sale.

A “Chicken Soup for the Soul” Moment

Beryl Wallace probably has more “Chicken Soup for the Soul” moments than most of us. Unlike the two Biblical religious leaders who passed by on the other side of the road when they came upon an injured Samaritan man, Beryl invariably moves in close.

A few days ago she noticed three teens with heavily loaded bikes in front of the Dollar Store on the main street in Princeton. They were obviously on a serious expedition.

Later, on her drive home on the winding and not smooth Old Hedley Road, she came upon them again. One had fallen and his bike was lying in the middle of the road. They appeared to be in a state of uncertainty, not knowing how to deal with this crisis. Beryl had no first aid kit and might have been excused if she had decided she couldn’t be of assistance. That isn’t the way she is wired. She pulled over. “Do you need help?” she asked. She quickly realized the young man had serious abrasions and was in pain. Beryl flagged down a vehicle, hoping the driver had a First Aid kit. She didn’t.

When the next car came, she got lucky. The driver had a First Aid kit and also some experience with situations like this. After causing wincing with a generous dose of iodine, she bandaged the scrapes. Very impressed with the woman’s skill, Beryl asked, “are you a nurse?”

“No,” the lady answered. “I’m a mother.”

Beryl then asked the boys their age and where they were from.

Photos courtesy of mile by mile.com
Photos courtesy of mile by mile.com

“We are all from Coquitlam” the fallen rider said. “I’m 17 and my friends are the same. We are in grade 11. We have come through the mountains on the Hope-Princeton Highway, on our way to Penticton. This is the farthest away from the city we have ever been.” It’s not surprising they appeared lean and very fit.

Touching one of the bandages, the young man who had suffered the scrapes then asked, “will I be able to have a shower tonight?” Beryl assured him this would be possible. “Just start riding now, and in about 15 minutes you’ll feel better.” She then drove home, picked up more bandages and 3 bananas and found them again.

They expressed their great gratitude to this angel who had unexpectedly come upon them and stopped to help. “Is there anything else I can do for you? she asked. “Yes,” the young man with the scrapes said. “Could I have a hug?”

For Beryl, it’s a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” memory she will always treasure. For many of us, it is an example of how to be a good neighbour even to those we do not know.

Ruth Woodin, Hedley’s Congenial Postmaster

I used to believe happy, successful individuals must have received

Ruth Woodin, Hedley's Congenial Postmaster
Ruth Woodin, Hedley’s Congenial Postmaster

more lucky breaks than the rest of us. Anyone who thinks as I did needs to have a conversation with Ruth Woodin, Hedley’s congenial, upbeat Postmaster.

Most people would not guess that she has experienced traumatic, unnerving moments and days that could have pulled apart the seams of her life. An early tough break came at age 12 when her father unexpectedly walked away from the family, leaving her mother with 5 children to feed and raise. For Ruth the parting was not pleasant and it created memories and emotions that troubled her well into adulthood.

Her dream was to teach elementary school, but when she graduated, there was no money for university.

“My mom pulled out a newspaper and circled several help wanted ads,” she remembers. “There was one for a Time Keeper/Clerk with a forestry company. I told her I didn’t even know what that was.”

“You’re smart,” her mom said. “You can learn.”

Ruth had little confidence, but she applied. After writing the company’s test she was told no one had ever completed it as quickly and accurately.

The company flew her to Pt. Alice on Vancouver Island. “The last lap was in a Beaver with pontoons,” she said. “I was so scared I thought I would die. An elderly Chinese man reached out his hand. I grabbed it and hung on until we landed.” She laughed heartily at the memory.

Initially Ruth didn’t know how to operate any of the office machines. However, she quickly learned to keep time and prepare paycheques for a lot of workers.

On an excursion to Penticton she met Dwayne and fell in love. They got married in 1972 and in time adopted 2 children. When they moved to Hedley for employment reasons, Ruth considered the community small and isolated. The marriage ended unexpectedly in 1991. She had not seen the end coming, and was still bearing the scars from her father’s desertion. The experience threatened to unravel her emotionally.

“My life descended into chaos,” she said. “I was divorced. My daughter and I moved. During that time my mother committed suicide. Also, I still missed my mother-in-law who had recently died.”

Ruth considers it fortunate she was working for the One Way Adventure Foundation. “Jean Roberts (co-founder with husband Len) held my hand through this time. We cried together and prayed. I didn’t pray but she did. The people in the Foundation were wonderful. They sent me encouraging notes.” With the undergirding of her 2 children, friends and co-workers, she experienced inner healing. When the Foundation began downsizing, she found part-time work with the Post Office.

One day a call came from Canada Post. “You are now Hedley’s Acting Postmaster,” she was told. This was the beginning of a new adventure that delights her to this day. “I love my job,” she said, smiling broadly. “People talk to me, sometimes about their heartaches.”

One day a young man told her she was fortunate to have a wonderful family. He felt unworthy because he and his wife were unable to have children. “My children are adopted,” Ruth told him. “You can adopt too. Just do something.” He and his wife now have 3 children.

I’ve had my share of hard knocks,” she said, growing serious. “This helps me understand when people are feeling down. I’ve received a lot of love from people in Hedley. I want to give something to others. Love comes back.”

Over the years Ruth has given generously of her time and energy. She belongs to the Community Club, the Seniors’ Centre, is a Director at the Hedley Museum and is a Trustee of the Hedley Improvement District.

Recently Ruth’s financial advisor told her he’d like to help her retire early. “I’m not ready,” she said. “I love my job.” She let it slip that if she stays another 4 years, she will exceed the longevity record of war hero and iconic Postmaster, TC Knowles (1937- 1959).

Often when people come in to access their mail box, Ruth can be heard singing on the other side of the wall. She has a pleasing voice and a positive spirit. In most places going to the Post Office isn’t an uplifting experience. In Hedley, it often is.

Community Pastor and Firefighter

When Graham and Myrtle Gore moved to Hedley in 2002, he

Graham Gore
Graham Gore

harboured no vision for involvement in the community, certainly not in church work.

I’ve been a pastor,” he told his neighbour Rick, “but I’m here to retire.” He had been a pastor in Kamloops, a missionary in Nicaragua and an associate in a nation wide evangelistic tent ministry.

Sitting at our kitchen table with him and listening to him talk about his life, I sensed that Graham’s emotional energy had been at a low ebb when they arrived here on September 20 of that year. He was 63 and the years of working with people had exacted a serious toll. Plus their converted Greyhound bus had been smashed the previous month and their daughter had passed away.

Since that time he has regained his passion for life. He is guiding a small flock in the town’s only church and is also manager of the Hedley Fire Department. Many see him as the “community officiant” in rites of passage ceremonies. He dedicates babies, conducts marriages and guides the community through Celebrations of Life. He has become a pillar in the Hedley community.

His spiritual journey began early, but was seriously derailed. “When I was 17,” he said “I was reading the Bible late one night in the Anglican church in Penticton. God very clearly impressed on me that I should enter the ministry.”

He kept God waiting. At age 20 he entered into a difficult marital union. “I didn’t have the maturity to work through the issues. I was 28 when we divorced.”

In 1968 Graham married Myrtle. This matured into a stable and deeply satisfying relationship, an example to the community of a committed life partnership.

Initially however, a dark cloud enveloped them. He was manager of the auto parts department in a dealership. “When we moved to Revelstoke,” he said, “I began drinking too much.” Alcohol became a potent force in his life and nearly destroyed him.

Everything changed in 1974,” he said, “when I found the Lord (became a Christian). I stopped smoking and drinking”. He describes himself as a “delivered” alcoholic. He and Myrtle have developed a good relationship with his ex-wife.

When I asked one parishioner what makes Graham an effective pastor, she said “a good heart,” then added, “and life experiences.” Graham agrees life experiences play a crucial role in his ministry. “Our blended family gives me greater understanding when I’m counselling blended families.”

Having observed him in his roles outside the church walls, I agree with those who say he is pastor to the community. Volunteering with the Fire Department might be viewed as “ministering”. When the community purchased a new fire truck some 5 years ago, Graham joined the Fire Department because it needed members with an air endorsement. Since then he has come to be a mainstay of the department. He has taken courses such as Incident Safety Officer and Incident Command. He attended seminars taught by Larry McIntosh, former Assistant Fire Chief. “Much of my learning has come by sitting down with the books and studying.” Until a year ago he did most of the theory instruction. He still runs fire practises at times.

In the Fire Hall and church Graham is a mentor, encouraging and training future leaders. Concerning the Fire Department, he says, “I want to continue to raise the level of professionalism here.”

His work and influence constantly spill over into the community. In his view, sending children to camp is one of the most important things the church does. “This year we sent 14 children and young people,” he told me. “A number were from homes not associated with the church. We don’t turn anyone away, regardless of whether they can contribute to the camp fees.”

Graham is gratified by the help of the community in the bottle drive that provides a portion of the funds for camp. “People bring bottles to my home almost everyday,” he said.

Graham and Myrtle minister to a diverse congregation and a diverse community. It is evident they have a love for Hedley. It is equally evident many in town respect and appreciate their positive leadership and unstinting work in the community.

Bill Robinson at Camp Defiance

I first spotted Bill Robinson’s cabin in 1976 when I began regularly

Bill Robinson's Camp Defiance, still there but in a state of decay, Jan. 2015
Bill Robinson’s Camp Defiance, still there but in a state of decay, Jan. 2015

travelling the winding #3 Highway between Hope and Hedley. Nestled among trees and brush, and separated from the highway by the Sumallo River, the cabin seemed shrouded in an aura of mystery.

It appeared well constructed with a stone fireplace and chimney. Whoever built it must have planned to stay awhile. It’s ravaged, weathered exterior had obviously already been exposed to many years of frigid winter winds and heavy snowfalls.

In addition to the cabin, there were two outbuildings, all apparently empty and equally neglected. I wondered what sort of individual had chosen to live in this remote mountainous valley. Had its inhabitant become dissatisfied with the expectations of civilization? Had he (I assumed it was a man) felt rejected by people? What had driven him to this place where contact with society must have been scant?

In the hope of satisfying my curiosity, I began seeking answers to my myriad questions. Bill Robinson didn’t make my quest easy. He apparently didn’t leave behind any account of his life. Michael Cluckner’s ” Vanishing British Columbia” did provide some useful information, as did comments on his blogsite left by others.

Robinson named his home Camp Defiance, probably because he was defying the wilderness. He was a prospector and the proprietor of Foundation Mines. I came across no record of him having hit pay dirt, but he must have discovered a bonanza in the realm of life experience.

It is believed Robinson was there from the end of World War I. In Vol. 46, 1982 of the Okanagan Historical Society, Joan Greenwood wrote that in August, 1926 a nurse, Mary Warburton set out from Hope by foot to pick fruit in the Okanagan. The #3 Highway did not yet exist so she must have been on the Dewdney Trail, which ran close by Camp Defiance. She knocked on Robinson’s door but he was still in bed. By the time he had got dressed and opened the door, she was disappearing from sight down the trail. She got lost in the mountains and was missing for several weeks. Coming across the cabin owned by “Podunk” Davis, she lit a fire in the stove and accidentally burned the place. This drew the attention of Podunk and she was rescued.

In 1929 Rev. John C Goodfellow was walking from Hope to Princeton. He later wrote “After a while … we came to the first sign of civilization since leaving the Overland (car) at Mile 9 Bridge. This was Camp Defiance. We walked right in and received a royal welcome from a man named Robinson.”

A couple of years later Bruce Hutchinson, a writer for the Province Sunday Magazine also walked the trail. In the August 10, 1931 issue he wrote, “Camp Defiance is almost the farthest thrust of civilization in these mountains. His little garden of strawberries, lettuce, and potatoes, 6 petunias and 8 Sweet Williams, in the narrow gorge between the mountain and the stream, are a welcome sight to those who have just come out of the wilderness. And so are the big firm trout Bill caught at his back door last night, and the pie made from his late ripening strawberries.”

It is evident from the few brief accounts that Robinson was not deranged, a malcontent or a hermit. Rather he was gregarious and hospitable. Many years later Leo McIver worked along the Hope-Princeton Highway. Sometimes he visited Camp Defiance. His son Len wrote “Bill burned wood in his fireplace and coal oil in lamps. He and his cronies told stories, fished, drank and dreamed.”

Sometimes men brought their wives, but I have seen no mention of Robinson having a wife. In this setting it would almost certainly have been mentioned if there had been a woman present. White men frequently had common law relationships with aboriginal women. Bill Robinson apparently did not.

The fact that Leo McIver visited Camp Defiance after the highway was built in 1949 indicates Robinson was there at least until then. In the end though, he slipped into oblivion as quietly as he had come. He left behind no diary so all we have are the minimal memories recorded by others. This winter Linda and I pulled over onto the shoulder of the highway to capture a few photos. Not much left of the cabin. Like Bill Robinson, it will soon be only a memory, still shrouded in mystery.

Hedley Arborist Gets High, Naturally

This past Saturday and Sunday morning, while many local citizens

Travis Barck, comfortable in high places.
Travis Barck, comfortable in high places.

were sleeping in or having breakfast, Travis Barck was already clambering about in a tree high above the ground. Hedley’s premiere arborist, he had been contracted to tidy up the massive trees alongside and behind the Hedley Historical Museum. It was a major job but as usual, he appeared confident as a bald eagle perched on a high mountain outcropping.

“This is a Box Elder,” he said,

Travis Barck plying his trade in the Manitoba Maple
Travis Barck plying his trade in the Manitoba Maple

“sometimes it’s also called a Manitoba Maple. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever worked on. At least 3 feet in diameter.” The main impetus for having the trees pruned was a neighbour’s complaint that branches of a tree on one side of the property were touching his roof and leaves were making a mess on his driveway.

“It really was time to give all the trees a pruning,” Travis said. “The winter storms broke branches and some were hanging up in the trees. It was dangerous.”

“They probably have not been pruned in many years,” he explained. “In the past the Box Elder has been topped. This can cause decay. It wasn’t real bad on this tree, but some has set in.” The other large tree behind the Museum is a Norway Maple.

Travis is a U.S. citizen with permanent resident status in Canada. He is applying to be a dual citizen.

Although only 36, he comes with an impressive array of experience and training. He began his horticultural career in 2000, working at the illustrious Las Vegas Springs Preserve, then obtained a BA from Cornell University in 2004. In 2006 he worked at the Morris Arboretum, one of the most renowned tree museums in the world. He moved to BC in 2007. Until he came to Hedley about 3 years ago, he worked for Bartlett Tree Experts. In his day job he is a Utility Operator with Public Works in Princeton. Due to the winter storms, he has plenty of work to do there.

Locally he’s been seen silhouetted high against the sky, 80-90 feet above ground, trimming Douglas Firs. His artistry with a chain saw is helping tidy up and beautify the town.

Manning Park Has Another Prettiest Girl

Toward the end of 2014 I wrote about Laura, “the Prettiest Girl in Manning Park.” A couple of days ago Linda and I stopped there to pick up coffees to go, and discovered that for the past year Laura has had an equally pretty work partner. Manning Park often surprises and delights us with its grandeur, beauty and fresh air. Meeting Janis was another Manning Park surprise.

When we walked into the store, which Laura manages, we sensed quickly she was even more upbeat than usual. She embraced us warmly – the first time ever.

We had not seen Laura since posting the column about her. The hugs seemed to suggest the story had been a positive experience. I mentioned that the blog had received a vast increase in visits for a few days after that post. “You must have a lot of fans,” I said. She smiled.

“The Lodge manager become aware of the post.” she explained. “He publicized it around here”. She seemed happy about the recognition.

Then she told us about Janis, a young German gal who has worked at Manning for a year. As she spoke, I began to wonder if Laura had something in mind. “Janis learned about the Lodge at the Jobs Fair in Vancouver,” she said. “Adolfo, one of the young men who works here, was at the fair. He thought she was wonderful and urged us to hire her.” She glanced at her watch. “Janis is due to come into the store in 5 minutes.” It seemed she hoped we’d wait. “Her time in Canada will be up in 4 days, but she wants to come back and live here. She says Canadians are more friendly.” Laura’s voice exuded warmth and excitement as she spoke of her work partner and friend.

While she went to serve a customer, we examined a display of warm

Janis at Manning Park
Janis at Manning Park

gloves knitted by women in Nepal. When Janis entered the store area, she and Laura spoke quietly for just a moment. Then she approached us smiling. Extending her hand she said, “hi, I’m Janis.” Her lovely face was attractively framed by auburn brown hair. It was the smile that captivated us and won us over immediately.

We asked Janis a few questions and she answered without hesitating, apparently completely trusting Laura‘s assessment of us. Her command of English was virtually flawless and her smile radiated joy. It was as though she knew about us and had anticipated our arrival and our questions. I wondered if Laura had primed her for this moment, hoping she too would be written about and have a positive experience to take back to Germany.

“When I learned about Manning Park Lodge,” Janis told us, “I wanted to work here. I met Adolfo at the Fair but I don’t remember him. There were too many distractions. He is the one who told Laura they should hire me. When I met him here, I fell in love right away, and he did too.” She smiled.

“Adolfo is from Mexico,” she continued. “In a few days I have to return to Germany. My time in Canada is up. In May I will go to Mexico.” The smile on her pretty face was that of a young woman who loves and is loved. “Adolfo and I are both interested in tourism,” she said. “I plan to go to university in Germany to get trained for it.”

Knowing we needed to let her attend to her duties at the cash register, I said “will you let me take a picture ?” I reached into the pocket of my jacket for the camera.

“Yes,” she said. Again I felt she had expected I would make this request. By now I was definitely wondering if we were following

Janis & Laura
Janis & Laura

Laura’s mental script for this occasion. After snapping several shots of her by the Manning Park Lodge fireplace, I requested a photo of Janis and Laura behind the counter. Laura put an arm around Janis. Her joy at seeing her friend get this attention warmed our hearts. Their love and caring for each other was like that of two sisters who have shared a significant life experience and have grown close.

A Friend Helped Him Change

 

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I think of January as the unofficial season of good intentions. Like a lot of people, I’ve made numerous New Years Resolutions to change some aspect of my life. By February they have always been pretty much forgotten.

Having worked with inmates in most Lower Mainland prisons, I know that for men and women coming out of prison, change is even more difficult. Many have lost family connections. Often they have few employment skills. They may know only other ex-cons and have no positive vision for themselves. There is little hope for a better future.

Upon release some return immediately to their previous haunts. Prison regulations have stripped them of the ability to plan and organize their lives. It was only with the assistance of a mentor that my friend Peter was able to throw off the far reaching shackles of prison life.

As a boy, Peter told me, he sometimes helped himself to items in stores. If caught, his father made him pay, then gave him a whipping.

“As I got older,” he said, “I started drinking and hanging out with a rough crowd.”

He credits his father with ensuring he knew how to work. “I always had a job,” he said, “and I always had money. When I was 20 I bought a brand new convertible. I traded that for a pickup and drove from Ontario to B.C.”

In BC he attended a noisy drinking party. “I had money so I brought booze. I didn’t realize some of the girls were under age. The police came and I was arrested.”

That earned him time in Oakalla for contributing to juvenile delinquency. Here he became acquainted with hard core criminals. Upon release he began doing B & E’s with a partner. That netted him 2 years in the B.C. Penitentiary.

He applied to M2/W2 (Man to Man, Woman to Woman) for a citizen sponsor and was matched with Henry, a no nonsense poultry farmer who attended a conservative Mennonite church. Henry visited Peter regularly and they engaged in some intense discussions, especially concerning his culture, simple life style and faith. Peter came to respect Henry for his inner strength, solid character, and total integrity. He had never been close to a strong, compassionate individual before. Pragmatic and astute, Henry evidently saw the potential in this head strong young man.

Over 14 months, a bond developed and through Henry’s influence, Peter came to have a more positive understanding of life. It was by no means a complete change though and when he was given early parole, his intention was to return to Vancouver. “I had nothing and nowhere to go,” he said.

Henry picked Peter up at the prison, with the understanding he would drop him off in Vancouver. Realizing Peter would almost certainly return to his criminal life, he suggested, “why don’t you come and see my farm?” Having no better plan, Peter agreed.

“Henry introduced me to his wife and children. They welcomed me. I felt at ease and accepted.” He stayed a few days and when the contractor building a barn for Henry needed a worker, he hired Peter. “You can live with us,” Henry offered.

The family’s simple lifestyle was unfamiliar to Peter at first. He didn’t resent their ways though. “Henry always gave thanks to God before meals. I liked that.”

“At first going to church with them was scary because it was so unfamiliar,” he remembers. “ But people were friendly. They already knew about me from Henry. I felt accepted.”

Before long he married Sylvia, a young woman from the church. He learned several trades and always had work. They bought a small acreage and raised their 4 children there. Peter is now semi- retired.

His words when we spoke recently helped me understand more fully what had made the transformation possible. “Henry was a good influence,” he said. “ I give him and the people of the church credit for helping me learn to have stability in my life. And I give God the credit for giving me a family, friends, the jobs I’ve had, and our little farm. Everything. I could not have done this on my own.” Change comes more easily when we have a friend who encourages us to go in a good direction.

RBC Donates to Hedley Cenotaph Fund

Peggy Terry retired from the RBC on June 30, 1999. Last

Peggy Terry (left) handing cheque to Museum Treasurer, Margaret Skaar
Peggy Terry (left) handing cheque to Museum Treasurer, Margaret Skaar

week the bank sent her a $500 cheque for the Hedley Cenotaph Renewal Project.

The money came out of a fund current and former employees can apply to on behalf of a charitable organization in their community. Those making such a request must be actively volunteering in their community.

Peggy began working for RBC several years after completing grade 10. She started as a teller at the Main and 25th branch in Vancouver. From there she transferred to several other cities, including Richmond and Duncan. After receiving training in finance and administration at UBC, in 1975 she was assigned to the Visa Centre in Vancouver. Here she gained a breadth of experience in such departments as Collections, Security, Customer Service Audits and Bankruptcies. In time she was elevated to the position of Supervisor of Authorization.

Prior to her retirement, Peggy and her husband Bill, now deceased, searched widely throughout the Okanagan Valley, looking for a home in an area where it was quiet and he could fish. They bought a home just outside Hedley and moved in the day after she retired.

Peggy came to Hedley with much needed organizing capability, a will to get things done, and plenty of energy. She also had experience in volunteering, having begun as a member of the Legion Teen Auxiliary at age 15. Later she organized a Big Brothers bowling fund raiser each year . As a member of the Variety Club, she persuaded the organization to advertise the availability of Visa and MasterCard for donation purposes. This boosted the group’s income.

It was Mitzie Helmstead, now living in Princeton, who persuaded me to join the Museum Society,” she said. “Then the president, Harry Alton, also now in Princeton, talked me into becoming a Director.”

She joined the OAPO and when the local group decided to break away from the parent organization and become the Hedley Seniors’ Centre, she did the considerable paperwork to make this happen. Presently she is serving as Treasurer. She is also a board member and Treasurer at the Hedley Grace Church.

“I worked with  a lot of good people at RBC.  Now in my volunteer roles, I am again meeting many wonderful people,” she said. “I enjoy having these people around me.”