July 28, 1928 – August 14, 2019
In the early hours of August 14, 2019; we lost our beloved ‘Uncle Ron’ who passed away peacefully at home with family by his side. He was born July 28, 1928 to Canadian parents living and working in Royal Oak, Michigan, USA, a suburb of Detroit. In 1932, the family moved north to the Peace River area of northern Alberta where his father had homesteaded before the First World War, and after a short time there, finally settled in the small hamlet of Solina, near Oshawa and Bowmanville in Ontario.
In 1940, while brother Alan was off serving with the Royal Air Force in the UK, the family picked up their household and drove west, taking one month to cross Canada in a 1939 Chev and putting down roots on a patch of land out in Sahtlam, west of Duncan on Vancouver Island. On the advice of locals, they quickly got a roof on their new house before the fall rains came, a house that turned out to be where he would spend the next 79 years of his life.
Ron attended nearby Sahtlam School for his elementary schooling and high school in Duncan, then requiring a 4 1/4-mile bicycle ride each way. He started his working life in a small auto repair shop near the Duncan United Church, and after showing an aptitude for auto body painting, moved on to Duncan Garage, now a local heritage building and market, to implement his skill full time until it closed in 1983. He then went on to own and operate the Satellite Park Water System until his retirement.
Early on in his life, he developed an interest in all things mechanical, building model ships and railroad engines, and eventually constructing working model steam engines from scratch. In the ’50s and ’60s, he was interested in boating, but instead of going out and buying a boat, he built one; in fact he built several, up to 20 feet in length.
Perhaps Ron’s biggest legacy, however, was his dedication and contribution to the local volunteer fire department in Sahtlam. Captain Gadget, as he was fondly known to all the firefighters in the Sahtlam Volunteer Fire Department, was one of the founding members of the department in 1969 along with his brother Alan and 9 others in the area. Building their first truck from whatever they could lay their hands on, he continued applying his mechanical and inventive skills to solve whatever issue lay in front of him whether it be keeping engines and pumps running, building or modifying tanker trucks, or developing and building an innovative solution to a technical challenge.
While eventually handing in his pager and no longer answering fire calls, he still remained an active member, attending meetings and providing input on issues at hand. At a 91st birthday celebration recently held at the Sahtlam Firehall he was honoured for 50 years of serving the Sahtlam community and granted the title of Honourary Fire Chief. It should be noted that through all his years in the department, he always declined the opportunity to be fire chief, preferring to remain in his comfort zone behind the scenes, doing his job and serving the community.
Ron is pre-deceased by his parents Harry and Mary, his brother Alan, nephew Kenny, and great grandnephew Logan and great grandniece Lilly. Left behind to honour his memory and celebrate his life is nephew Michael (Anna), grandnieces Coralie and Jessica (Khale), grandnephew Hanxiang (Dandan), great grandniece Aria and great grandnephew Rhys, along with countless friends in the fire department and around the Cowichan Valley. Many thanks to the VIHA Home Support team who helped him at home, to Dr. Ismail and all the nurses and support staff at Cowichan District Hospital who looked after him so well in his final few days, and special thanks to Susan McBride who coordinated his return home for his final few hours.
A celebration of life will be held at the Sahtlam Firehall on September 22, 2019 from 1 to 4pm. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Muscular Dystrophy Canada or BC Childrens Hospital.
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