Don was a self-made business professional in the difficult BC Lumber industry and had a successful remanufacturing business which employed numerous people for over 35 years. In his spare time, Don enjoyed fishing and outdoor activities which led to a love of travel and he happily toured the globe. He loved his children and grandchildren, welcoming great-grandchildren in recent years with joy. He had a huge, tender heart, loved to laugh and tease and his blue eyes would twinkle with delight when he was especially enjoying a joke. His last several years, with Roxanne by his side, were filled with special family trips and other enjoyable experiences, until his health failed, and he needed constant care. After a difficult battle with pneumonia, he passed away, peacefully, early Tuesday morning on March 24, 2020 at 84 years of age.
Born in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, Don arrived during the Great Depression. His parents, Edith and Albert, were homesteading on a little farm near White Fox; their home was small with a mud roof. Times were tight and the family of 3 moved out to join other family members in Victoria prior to Brian's birth 7 years after his big brother, Don.
Don grew up In Victoria, enjoying fishing from an early age as well as being active playing sports and doing outdoor activities. He coached Brian's baseball team to the Provincial Championships prior to getting married – not something many big brothers would commit to at that age!
Don married Colleen in 1956 and they had daughters Lorri and Elaine in Victoria, then their son Russell after moving to Vancouver in 1963. Despite divorcing in 1967, Don's love for his children kept him in BC even when the lumber industry went through two different recessions and was having more success outside the province. Don regularly took his children out on Saturdays to go swimming, bowling, to a movie, or just driving around the Central Park parking lot as the kids sat on his lap steering the car (cheap entertainment when finances were tight). Every so often he would surprise them with something he made for them at the mill – like Barbie beds for the girls - or a box of black jawbreakers that he got from a work colleague.
Don was remarried in 1978 to Ollie Booth, who had been his companion for many years. They eventually moved to Surrey and enjoyed any available time boating, camping and doing some travelling, while Don was investing most of his time building his company. They were together until Ollie's health failed and her passing in 1996.
Roxanne Watson came into Don's life in 2002 and they were married in 2004. Roxanne's addition to the family initiated more frequent connections with family and everyone enjoyed interacting with Don in his sunset years. Don and Roxanne's interests were very similar, and they enjoyed travelling all over the world, as well as closer to home. As a matter of fact, it is probably easier to state the places they did NOT visit, rather than where they did go! Even after Don's heart attack, they managed to go places still on their bucket list. Highlights included their trips to Kenya, South America, South Africa, Europe, Haida Gwaii and the Great Bear Rainforest in BC. Roxanne remained by Don's side through his failing health and was with him when he passed. He was reliant on her and she cared for him with great love and patience. Don's professional life demonstrated a remarkable work ethic and intelligence. His first real job (after years delivering papers on his bike), was resetting bowling pins in a 10 pin bowling alley – this was in the days where the pins were reset by hand, so he had to be careful to get his fingers out of the way if another ball was thrown before he was ready! Eventually, he became a self-made business professional, working his way up through various companies before owning his own, Arbutus Manufacturing Ltd which began in Port Coquitlam before he moved to a larger facility in Aldergrove. He employed many people and treated his employees well, caring about their well-being and giving them opportunities to advance with training and support. He was consulted by others in the BC Lumber Industry and was inventive in ways remanufacturing
could make the most of using wood with value-added products with minimal waste. Love of family kept Don engaged with each of his children and he was especially joyful when the grandchildren started arriving!
Lorri and Brian waited the longest to get married and have children - Joey and Ellie - but the opportunities after retirement to visit and spend more time together created lifelong memories for all. Some of Lorri’s most treasured times with her Dad were birthday getaways at his sanctuary in Pender Harbour, on and by the ocean. Don relied on both Lorri and Brian for their wisdom and support as he aged. Don appreciated living close by family on the north shore, and invitations for Grandad & Nana get-togethers were always accepted with enthusiasm.
Elaine most loved being on the ocean with her dad and loved the way he always tried to set the kids up for success with fishing. She has three children: Jed (Cheri), with great-grandson Zayden already 10 years old, joining the family a few years ago; Catie (Brent) was the first grandchild to get married and Don was excited to be at their wedding; Daniel was born once the family had moved to Peachland and was happy to have had an ocean fishing experience with his Grandad with an epic story of having a good-sized salmon on the line that threw the hook – no picture available, of course. Visits from the Okanagan clan were always welcomed by Grandad and Nana.
Russell, his only son and youngest child, worked with Don at the mill for 14 years and was trained in manufacturing and eventually worked with Don to help grow the business. Russell was also able, on a few occasions, to go on fishing trips with Don and to witness first-hand the love Don had for Haida Gwaii, River's Inlet and the wildlife and incredible salmon fishing common there. Russell and Leanne have one daughter, Emily, and because Russell's singing arrived in Emily's DNA, the musical side of the family blessed Don in many ways, including Russell singing to Don by his bedside just before Don passed. Emily married Renan and they have added two beautiful great-grandchildren to the family (Emerson and Paisley). Emily and Renan have made sure Great-Grandad got lots of visits with the young folks. His face always litup when he saw the young ones and enjoyed having them placed on his knee even after he lost the ability to communicate with them.
Don's wider family connections included his bond with brother, Brian. They were able to visit several times in Hawaii once Brian settled there, as well as connecting by phone whenever possible. Cousins in the Garrett and Astrope clans have maintained connections over the years. His Ontario family, via Roxanne, became important to him through the visits they had in Ontario, as well as travel with Roxanne's sister Marlene and husband Donald.
Don had an enduring friendship with Leo Shields which started at their first place of employment in Victoria, before both of them were hired at Van Isle, where Don started as a Planerman. These boys, turning into men, had many adventures hunting, fishing and later, just enjoying nature in many forms. Leo's recollections of their times together fill us with great mental pictures of Don in his leisure and demonstrate his love of nature.
Pets were something not always associated with Don (fishing was usually the main topic), however, he had some great dogs in his life that he loved deeply. Laddie (border collie) was his earliest pet, but later he had Trapper (Sheltie), Kiki (Sheltie) and then Roxanne brought Brandy (Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever) into his life, and later, Molly the rescue dog (we joke that Molly rescued her humans) who was so compliant sitting on Don's lap and cuddling with him, bringing him such comfort in the last couple of years especially.
Don was a loyal, caring individual. He loved nature in many forms. He was interested in people of all walks of life and enjoyed his visits every single time.
There is no service planned at this time. The family will hold a small private celebration of his life at a later date. We appreciate your many expressions of love and caring. In lieu of flowers, if you are interested in supporting any of his conservation passions in his memory, please feel free to check out one of the following links:
Percy Walkus Hatchery
Pacific Salmon Foundation
Corporate Donations (and Recognition)
Contact Cory Matheson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-664-7664 ext. 106