Obituary of Arthur Gilbert
Arthur Woodley Gilbert, age 85 years, of Quesnel, passed away peacefully on Sunday January 21, 2018 at Dunrovin Hospice, with his loving family at his side.
Arthur was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday April 8, 1932. He married Donna Jeanne (Edkins) Gilbert on Jul 4, 1958 in St. Andrew's United Church, Quesnel, BC.
A Memorial Service for Arthur will be held on Sunday, January 28th at 1:00 p.m. at Clayton's Event Hall, with a reception tea to follow.
Those wishing to honour Arthur's memory by way of donation may do so to the Quesnel & Dist. Hospice Palliative Care Association, or to "Better at Home" Quesnel Branch (make cheques payable to NCAFPS - North Cariboo Aboriginal Family Program Society).
Eulogy – Arthur Woodley Gilbert
As Dad would say ‘Let’s get this show on the road’! We are going to do our best to get through this in a coherent way, so please bear with us if we need to pause
Art was born April 8, 1932 in Vancouver BC. He moved, with his three older siblings to Wells, BC in 1934, where his father was hired to work at the Cariboo Gold Quartz mine. He was raised in a small house on the hillside in Wells that was largely completed using the recycled wood from the mine’s dynamite boxes.
Dad would tell stories about skiing at Mt. Agnes and Mt. Murray with his pals and his brother and sisters George (G.G.), Joan, and Louise (Wee). In those days, there were no ski lifts and everyone had to hike up before you could ski down.……. Dad was a ski jumper and entered competitions in Wells and Burns Lake…
The family didn’t have a lot of money, Dad said everything he had was a hand-me-down; clothing, shoes, boots and a bike that he had to ride from ‘under’ the cross bar. He told us the story of how one Christmas, at the age of about 8 he got his first pair of brand new skis. He was so thrilled! He couldn’t wait to try them out! He quickly dressed, went outside, skied down the front steps and promptly broke them both in half.
Another childhood story was his love of ‘rolled oats and brown sugar’. He would ask his Mum if he could have a bowl of porridge as an evening snack. Having received approval he would secretly make two bowls of porridge. He would hide one on the very top shelf of the cupboard and then take the other one to eat in front of his Mum. Then he would say goodnight, go upstairs, lift the floor board and retrieve the other bowl!
In the 40’s Dad played lots of sports, including basketball, badminton and volleyball. The teams engaged in round robin tournaments with other towns, each taking their turn at hosting. The students rode to venues in school buses and were billeted with local families. It was a weekend of competitive games and a Saturday night banquet and dance. This is where Art first met Donna and they started courting at the age of 16. It was a long distance romance with few travel options, but a smitten Arthur was determined, so one summer he rode his bike all the way from Wells to Quesnel to see her. That was 50+ miles and gravel road, I think riding to Quesnel was a lot better than the uphill ride home.
Art graduated from Wells High School in 1950 and moved to Quesnel. While Donna was away at Normal School (Teacher College) in Vancouver, he found a job at Pacific West Mill tallying lumber and doing office work. He bought the lot at 655 McLean Street in 1951 with a $50 down payment. Total lot cost was $650. Over the next few years, while money was saved, he progressed on stages of house building.
Art and Donna married in July 1953 and they finally moved into the basement of the house in 1956, as work continued on the top floor. Art became very ill in 1963 and spent 3 months in St. Paul’s Hospital. Work on the house stalled a bit, but the top floor was finally completed in 1964 and his and Mum’s dream was realized. The family then moved upstairs, renting the basement for another 2 years before occupying it completely. Art was very proud of the work he’d accomplished.
First daughter, Lindsay, was born in 1957 and favourite daughter, Allison, followed in 1960. Dad loved his girls, Lindsay Lou and Punk. He would often tease us and it would go something like this:
Us: Daddy, may I have a cookie?
Dad: What did you say?
Us: Please, may I have a cookie Daddy?
Dad: Please may I have a cookie Daddy, what?
Us: Please may I have a cookie Daddy, Father Sir?
From those early days forward, birthday cards and Christmas present were always addressed to, or signed from, Lou, Punk or Daddy, Father, Sir, even though Mum did all the shopping and Dad had no idea what the gift contained. In 2007, Linds and I dedicated a star, through the H.R. Macmillan Space Center program and we called his star ‘Daddy, Father, Sir’. So, he is forever up there in the galaxy for which he had so much wonder.
In 1958, Dad, our Uncle Fred Freeman, and Aunt Vivian Jones, purchased a property at Dragon Lake. By the mid 1960’s they built a very large cabin that became the summer home. For the next 20 years, the summer cabin was filled with scores of family and friends and laughter and food! What feasts we had. There was swimming and leaches and contests and portraits and hornets and bonfires, and reed scything and outhouses and cougars and cow impressions (Doug Freeman) and a turquoise dog…. The latter having rolled in a dead fish (the dog, not Doug).
Art had an eclectic working career (during his youth this included working for Mr. North’s butcher shop in Wells, delivering papers, working at a fish processing plant in Steveston, a tomato-canning plant in Ashcroft and as a summer roustabout on Kelly’s Ranch at Soda Creek). After leaving Pacific Western Mill in the early 50’s, Dad was employed by Johnson Brothers Motors, by Weldwood, and then by Meridian Motors. During this time, he completed 3 years of an accounting course and was hired as the Business Manager at G.R. Baker. After leaving there in mid 80’s, he continued to do books for Johnny Lazzarin at Gulf Oil for about a decade. Before he retired he also worked as a guard at the Quesnel Detachment of the RCMP which helped satisfy his ongoing curiosity about others!
Between and during office jobs, he also was part owner of the Quesnel Hotel, worked at Time Air and formed ‘FLEAT Mining’ with four close friends. They bought claims on Burns Mountain and played at prospecting for a few years.
Overriding all his official employment was his association with the Quesnel Fire Department. He joined in 1965, was an active member for 25 years and became a Captain. He remained an associate member for the rest of his life. He enjoyed years of curling both before, and with, the QVFD, and travelled to numerous bonspiels all over the province.
Another great love of Dad’s was dancing; and he really had quite a flair for it! Mum and Dad danced every Saturday night at the Legion Hall, Bouchie Lake, Dragon Lake and Kersley Halls and at numerous Fireman’s banquets over the years. He was highly sought after on the dance floor by many of the other wives.
The McLean Street Open golf tournament was a great social event started by Lazzarins, Gilberts, Denny Reid and many others on the 500 and 600 blocks of McLean Street. It was a neighbourhood event and barbeque. Each year a different family would host and each household would build a mini golf hole in their back yard. The men would golf, the kids would caddy, the women would cook…it was the late 60’s early 70’s! Dad revelled in creating and constructing his hole each year, using any amount of garage paraphernalia, eaves-troughs, funnels, discarding wood, old tires and such. I loved to help Dad with these and the one I remember well was a wooden box, equipped with an electro-magnet switch that was secured on the clothes line. Standing on our back porch, the golfer had to run the box out the clothesline until he thought it was positioned over an inverted ceiling lamp and then release the ball via the light switch on the wall hoping to have it land in the right location. It was very creative and a lot of fun.
Helloo ‘dis place
Dad has given us so much material…really so many funny stories and crazy events. We have a few here that some of you may know ….
One of the many dancing stories involves the time he and Mom were at the St. Ann’s Hall, the floor was jam packed, great music playing, and during a jive, Dad swung Mom out and turned himself in just the right way to hook his finger neatly under the hair of the neighbouring woman dancing and neatly and precisely flung her wig onto the floor. Poor Mom….
Well….Dad was a great one for thinking about how to do things and for planning ahead. He thought lots about how things should be done and equally as important was how to pass on this critical information to his daughters. We were usually quite unaware of what Dad was about to impart to us. One day while the family was driving south to the coast, girls in the back seat, Dad suddenly and loudly said “Lindsay, I’ve just skidded and gone off the highway into a water filled ditch. We are upside down and water is quickly filling the car. What are you going to do? I said “I don’t know Dad”……his reply “you just save your sister – do not worry about your mother and I, forget about us, do whatever you have to… just save your sister for God’s sake” I think I was about 6….
Allie was not left out of this random and terrifying sudden instructions about life and death…. Allie was Dad’s little helper and number 1 assistant in all repairs and house projects. One day in our basement family room Allie was watching Dad as he worked on an electrical outlet. He had removed the faceplate, when suddenly and without warning, he said “Punk, I have just stuck the screw driver into the electrical outlet and for some reason the power is not off. What are you going to do? Allie said “I don’t know”…to which he replied. “You grab that 2 x 4 and hit me as hard as you can.” Allie was about 9, so again mature enough to calmly accept this terrifying information….not….
Always thinking, yup that was Dad…no one else would ever think of some of the nutty stuff he thought up. And he was always so certain about these brilliant ideas…stamping keys with our home address, hiding name labels so that the thief wouldn’t find it, secret marking dots in his signature, how to hide a key, how to theft-proof a baseball glove. Dad built so many secret cabinets, openings and cupboards in the house at 655 that I am sure the new owners haven’t discovered them all. As extreme as he was about the obscure chance of theft, he was more than trusting of the obvious. For example he left the keys in the car ignition so many times, that in fact the car was stolen 3 times. He was always amazed that someone would have done that.
Dad started collecting coins as a young man taking it on as his Mom had started a collection with Chinese coins. As with many things Art Gilbert, Dad’s collecting had to have a theme and a purpose…so he collected probably every 12-sided nickel in Canada. He had everyone who knew him collecting those square nickels from Halifax to Whitehorse. At some point, when he had acquired all the nickels to be had, he started with series of Loonies and Toonies. He was still very interested and proud of this lifelong passion, and hoped to pass it on to us. The tellers at the Royal Bank Branch were so incredibly patient and lovely to him as he tottered in there the past year with his walker to “search for just the right coin.”
When Mom and Dad had been married about 25 years he decided that it was time to bump up the diamond haul for Mom. He acquired two more beautiful stones and somehow without Mom knowing, had a gorgeous new ring made. On Xmas morning Mom was handed this enormous present – easily as big as a bread box – as she unwrapped it she was amazed (and probably slightly disturbed) to see a 10 gallon, pink felt Stetson…For those of who know my mother, the chances of her wearing a cowboy hat were slim. She kept the smile on her face and Dad encouraged her to keep looking. Buried in mounds of tissue she found a small box…..inside the gorgeous new engagement ring. No fuss, no muss, just the surprise. That was Dad to a tee.
For as long as I can remember Dad had a fascination with the stars / universe and all things space program. In the same way that his mother had influenced his interest in coins, she also was an avid star gazer. In fact some of the first star maps I own were copies that had been used by my Nana. From an early age (pre school age)…when the initial space shots were happening – Gemini & Apollo missions in the early 60’s – Dad would awaken me from a deep sleep in the pre-dawn hours (usually 0400 as Cape Canaveral is 3 hours ahead). We would get very close to the grainy, black and white TV and gaze at the serious looking broadcaster as he talked us through the launch. Watching the astronauts walk to the space capsule, steam hissing and billowing up and then the countdown….I found the whole thing thrilling and it remains a strong, enduring memory of time with my Dad. In the summer, on many starry nights, we would go down to the lakeside at Dragon Lake to look at the night sky. Dad taught me everything he could about the stars and galaxies. He continued star gazing and reading astronomy magazines up until about 5 years ago when he felt he just couldn’t see well enough anymore.
He loved science fiction and encouraged me to read Heinlein, Wyndham, Asimov, and Clarke. One of the most compelling books I read was called The Chrysalids by John Wyndham – a profound book for a 10 year old.
Car rides – what kid didn’t love a car ride (well maybe my sister who was often car sick). Dad and would load up the car and we would head to family and friends in Wells, Terrace, Whitehorse, Kamloops, Vernon, Vancouver, Gibson’s, and Banff. We must have driven thousands of miles over the years, but we sure saw the province and were able to connect regularly with the disparate family members. Dad was an excellent driver, and as with all things there were certain ways to do things right. Many tips were given…how to drive over a cattle guards, speed bumps and railway tracks with minimal shaking, keeping the 10 and 2 o’clock positions, lighting a cigarette with the car lighter without looking at it, wet towels tucked into almost closed windows to create air conditioning, map at the ready, pumping the brakes exactly right….
Growing up we played outside almost constantly and in all weathers. On one particularly cold day, some friends and I (they will remain anonymous for their protection) thought that a bonfire inside my friend’s father’s wood shed would keep us nice and warm. It certainly did work nicely for a few minutes but then of course the whole place started to burn too! Fire department was called of course and Dad had to respond with the department to put the started by his daughter… By the way, were very young!!
The second incident happened when I was a little older. I came home from school one day – Mom was in the living room and I asked where Dad was. “Oh, he is outside fixing some wiring thing on the back porch.” Oh ok, but what is that burning smell Mom? OMG, a fire. Dad has started a fire at his own house – the department responded and quickly put it out, but he may be the only QVFD member to set fire to his own house. He was not amused…..
On a cold winter’s night probably in about 1973 there was a house fire in West Quesnel that had the fire department out all night. When we got up in the morning, Mom and Dad were sitting having coffee in the living room and Dad was telling Mom all about this crazy fire and house. I entered the room and Dad said “Lou, look at what I brought home – craziest thing is I don’t know if it’s an antique or what –sure is interesting.” I turned my attention to a HUGE Hookah pipe taking pride of place on the mantelpiece. I didn’t know how to explain that I knew what it was, and it certainly wasn’t an antique…..
Art continued to ski for many years, teaching his girls first at Dragon Mountain and in Wells, and then at Troll resort when it opened in 1972. Allison fondly remembers those days – lace up boots, cable bindings, woolen mittens, frozen fingers, and the large wood stove in the original lodge. But it was important to Dad to ensure she properly mastered and understood the difference between a stem Christie and a parallel turn.
In Mum and Dad’s later years they did a lot of travelling including trips across Canada to the Maritimes and Newfoundland, trips to Reno and Switzerland and cruises to Alaska and Hawaii. Mum recalls Dad’s keen interest in the Pearl Harbour Memorial in the blazing heat. As Mum faded and waited in the air conditioned car, Dad keenly read every plaque and piece of literature. While in Switzerland, he side tracked on a few occasions as he investigated local volunteer fire houses or chatted with the firemen.
All our childhood Dad told us proudly that he planted the three beautiful birch trees out front at 655. Many a picture was taken in front of those trees. Only as adults did we realize that, in fact, he did not plant those trees, as evidenced by their size in old photos where the trees were already huge, and obviously many years old.
Many people have commented on how kind Dad was, how helpful and thoughtful. Dad was loved by so many people in this community. We have seen, read heard so many tributes and loving comments over the past week that have surprised (and not surprised us). Many of Allie’s friends have commented on how he was ‘such a nice guy’, and two of my girlfriends from teen years both feel that he was the role model for the fathers they had lost. After all these years they still remember how sweet and comforting he was – offering advice and support. Dad was very friendly and he loved to meet people and say hello and strike up conversation. He certainly loved to sit downtown somewhere, with a coffee and watch people go by. Coming home later to tell Mom about all the folks he had seen or spoken to.
My husband, of 26 years (Brent) is certainly my rock – but he became the other rock for the family as Dad became weaker and more unwell. Brent has stepped up and been there consistently for both Mom & Dad, Allie & I. Between repairs, car maintenance, bill paying, hospital stay coordination, dog wrangling, yard work, snow shovelling, ice picking, advice, and general labour he has uncomplainingly gotten on with any task presented. He has helped so much and in so many ways. He & Dad had their own quirky and funny relationship that involved lots of teasing and light-hearted banter. I would like to take this moment to sincerely thank Brent for all he has done to support Dad and all of us. Thank you honey.
Dad’s story could not be complete without talking about his grandsons. Lindsay and Brent were married in 1991 and in November of 1992 Mitchell was born in Vancouver. A short 16 months later wee Duncan came along in 1994. Dad always loved children and babies but his own grandsons were very special to him. He loved and cared about them so much. He quietly and closely followed their growing up years and always wanted to hear all their latest news. He was so tickled and proud this last year as Mitchell graduated from SFU and Duncan continued to pursue his computer science degree in 3rd year. He always wanted to make sure that “they were set up for life” and knew that they were becoming fine young men. He had the opportunity to get to know their partners a little and was so pleased that they both have found lovely young women (Aika & Brianna) to share their life journey with. “Good” he’d say, “very good” whenever I recounted an accomplishment, or a trip the boys had taken. When I arrived at hospice on January 15th the boys had taken the time to write a card each to both Grandma and Grandpa. Dad was too unwell to read them or even have them read to him for a couple of days, but on Friday the 19th he asked to see them. Those cards were the last things he ever read – and he was just so pleased to hear their words. He was Papa Art to them and I know they love him dearly.
Dad was just a funny guy right to the end. On the day Allie was to take him to hospice, Dec 1st, she told Dad that she and Mum had to go do a couple of errands and that we would be back to take him to hospice at 1100. He just looked up, deadpan, and said ‘Oh good, I’ll be back from my run by then’.
We would like to leave you with some “Art isms”
Everything she’s a-copasetic
Bull of the woods – his nickname for Mum
Goodly, very goodly
And Dad, everything is copasetic. Xoxoxoxoxo