Valley lost many prominent citizens in 2012
It's time to take a moment to remember on those people or organizations who retired or died in 2012.
- It was a tragic start to 2012 when Joanne Crystal Joe, 19, was identified as the person found dead in the ash-covered aftermath of a New Year’s Day fire on reserve land near a Tzouhalem Road residence in Duncan.
- Mayor Phil Kent explained tight budgets and busy schedules softened council’s connections with sister cities Meru, Kenya and Montmagny, Quebec. Kent said, “It was a program put in place quite some time ago, and since I’ve been on council, we haven’t had a particularly active relationship with either of those places.”
- Buckley the miniature horse passed away of natural causes in January. The family of former North Cowichan councillor Melissa Hailey announced Buckley's passing in the Sidney-based Peninsula News Review. Cowichan's most famous miniature horse rose to prominence outside the community during Hailey's council term when the municipality attempted to force the horse from her North Cowichan home on the grounds its presence violated bylaws against farm animals.
- Chemainiac Hilary Everitt was remembered as a star among the valley's galaxy of unsung volunteers. The foster mom, artist, actress, musician, organizer, genealogist, reporter, history buff, animal lover, author and grandmother earned Mural Town's Golden Brush Lifetime Achievement Award following her death in 2011. She was 68. Husband Wes said he liked to think Hilary would be painting the town red after posthumously winning the big Golden Brush. "I think she'd have been pleased as punch — I'm sure she was there when it happened. Hilary would be humbled to be honoured that way."
- Rex Hollett, North Cowichan’s longest-serving, most-quotable former mayor, died in hospital surrounded by family and friends in April. He was 79. Folks were shocked about the passing of the Chemainiac most locals simply called Rex. Former baseball and soccer coach Hollett started Chemainus’ B&H Tire in 1956 after moving to the struggling mill town earlier that year. “He’ll be remembered with respect and affection,” Dr. Gerry Philippson said. “Rex was best known for his integrity and fiscal responsibility while in office — he also took responsibility for his own health and habits. The community will miss him.”
- Logger, valley businessman and RV rover Ken Williams died at the age of 82 after an accidental death. Daughter Sandra Quesnel explained her father died doing what he loved: falling a tree. "It was a pure-and-simple accident; it was instant.'' The tragedy left Williams' wife of 63 years, Josie, plus three kids and four grandchildren. Williams knew the dangers of logging all too well, Quesnel explained. "He had five accidents in his life, and we thought he was gone, but he recovered. "One time, he was squashed by logs at Slegg's Mill at Cowichan Bay in early '60s. He was truly devoted to forestry."
- Duncan freeman and councillor, community sparkplug and Cowichan Capitals' fan Mike Caljouw died of heart complications Monday in Victoria hospital. He was 78. "Mike probably had the biggest heart of anybody on the council in the 25 or so years I spent there," said former mayor Mike Coleman. "He was very much a people person, committed to his family and his extended family, which was the whole valley. "He was a good man and he'll be sorely missed." Coleman noted Caljouw — awarded city freeman status in 2009 — was a workhorse for the Cowichan Valley Heart & Stroke Foundation. Nanaimo native Caljouw helped with the River Race for Heart, the Hearts in Motion Walking Club, the Mall Walk for Heart, Celebrity Breakfast Kickoff, was a past president of Heart and Stroke Fondation, helped with the Big Bike Ride for Heart & Stroke. City Mayor Phil Kent remembers serving nine fruitful years on council with Caljouw, including three years as mayor. "He loved Duncan immensely.
- Cowichan Tribes declared a state of emergency because of the rising number of completed and attempted suicides. Chief Harvey Alphonse announced the crisis at a press conference in May. Local, provincial, and federal governments and VIHA stepped in to help with funding and to create programs to prevent further suicides in the community.
- Dr. Larry Fenton, one of Chemainus’ longest-serving physicians, died in May at age 78. The optimistic family doctor — who shared a popular practice with colleagues Gerry Philippson and the late Dr. Gordon Heydon for more than a generation — struggled with Huntington’s disease for 16 years. Philippson said, “Larry was the kindest, most co-operative, sensitive man I think I’ve ever seen." Fenton served Chemainus area patients for 36 years. “Larry was patient beyond belief, particularly with his patients and the issues they brought to him about health or personality, or the trouble they got themselves into — Larry was there to listen.”
- Vern Wellburn, Cowichan's well-known historian, forest-artifact and car collector, died at age 86 in May. Wellburn died peacefully after a brief illness, his family said. "He was a good dad and very generous with family and friends," said son Gerry. "He did lots of favours for people, and took people under his wing." Cumberland-born Wellburn moved to the Cowichan Valley in 1929 where he attended school. After serving in the army, Wellburn graduated from UBC in 1948 with degrees in forestry and engineering. While at UBC, Wellburn met and married Frances Schofield. In 1964, Wellburn became vice-president of forestry and logging for the Tahsis Company. In 1972, he joined UBC's Faculty of Forestry as a special lecturer. In 1975 he became the western vice-president of the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada until retiring in 1990. "Dad was very high-energy," Gerry said.
- A hush fell over the offices of the Seniors Resource and Support Society housed in the basement of city hall when the society folded in May. Its fate was sealed when members decided to dissolve the organization that has helped seniors in the Cowichan Valley for a quarter century. Government and Cowichan United Way funding dried to a trickle, as well as a general shortage of volunteer board members, said acting president Tim Trousdell. "I'm relieved that we're going, but sad at the same time," said Trousdell, who served 18 years on the society's board from its inception in 1987 and then returned last August in a bid to preserve its supportive programs. "We have to face facts, the need is still there, but the support isn't," said Trousdell.
- In June, Dino's Grill, a popular downtown Duncan restaurant, was gutted by fire. The fire was investigated as suspicious, Cpl. Kevin Day of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP said in a press release."The fire is being investigated as suspicious at this time, and it is not yet determined whether this is an arson." Dino's co-owner Dean Soler said, “The whole (restaurant) has been gutted because of smoke damage." Soler had hoped to reopen the eatery at the Government and Jubilee street corner.
- In July, Cowichan history-hero Myrtle Haslam, who pioneered the Cowichan Valley Museum and archives, died in her 80s. "Myrtle was the driving force in finding a home for the museum," said curator Kathryn Gagnon. "I think back to those who were passionate about finding a home for the history and heritage of the valley, and no one else was doing this — there was the forest museum, but no one doing the whole history of the valley. She really understood that sometimes you just have to push to make things happen." Haslam pushed local and provincial leaders, and even Via Rail brass, for use of Duncan's heritage train station as the Cowichan Valley Museum, and later gained use of city hall's third floor for the archives.
- Geoffrey (Duffy) Chaster died Sept. 14 after his latest battle with cancer. He was 82. Chaster, along with wife Pat, was a city of Duncan Scroll of Honour winner in December 2010. Chaster was a man for all seasons, a man who didn't need any reasons for getting involved in something other than the love of his community. Duffy's long association with sports in the valley included basketball, baseball, golf and soccer. A scholarship is still given out today within the Duncan Basketball Association bearing Duffy and Pat's names.
- Will Abram, Cowichan's long-time teacher, community activist, monetary revisionist, and government watchdog, died quietly at home in October. He was 84.
- The extended Cowichan Secondary School family was saddened in October by the loss of Grahame Corsan. He died after a five-year struggle with Alzheimer disease at age 85. "Grahame was a long-serving, well-respected educator,'' noted current Cowichan Secondary School principal Charlie Coleman.
- Cowichan Tribes members mourned the passing, in hospital, of elder statesman Abraham Casper Joe, who paved paths to the reserve's housing reform, plus land-claims inroads. He was 86.
- Veteran reporter, Russian prisoner of war, log-camp worker, miner and cowboy Klaus Muenter recently died in Duncan's Cairnsmore Place lodge. He was 89.