Longtime Cariboo resident Dayton Clifford Mack will be greatly missed by his friends and family all along Highway 20.
Dayton fell into the Fraser River at Soda Creek while dip-net fishing on August 13, 2005.
Search and Rescue teams from Williams Lake and Quesnel were on site within hours of the accident, and extensively patrolled the river by air and water for over two weeks without finding him. The family sincerely thanks both teams for their efforts beyond the call of duty in the search for Dayton.
Dayton was born on January 19, 1937 in Bella Coola. The fourth child of Orden and Lucy Mack, Dayton and his seven siblings were raised in the Nuxalk village of Qomqots, next to the Bella Coola town site. Orden Mack was a hereditary chief, and brother to Clayton Mack, mountain guide and author of Grizzlies and White Guys.
He is survived by two sisters, Caroline and Melvina Mack, as well as his four children and six grandchildren.
From an early age Dayton excelled at athletics, especially in running and basketball. He played in basketball tournaments all over the west coast, winning trophies and recognition for his prowess on the court.
He was known for teasing his opponents by gripping the basketball with one hand and holding it in front of their face, before he stole past them. However, his athletics were intermittent with work from the young age of 15, when he began his 50-year career in the logging industry as an accomplished faller.
Dayton fell timber all over the west coast and interior of B.C. packing his chain saw up some of the steepest mountainsides this country has to offer. He was a “bull of the woods,” strong, quiet and hard working by nature. He sometimes topped trees as well, climbing onto the 100-foot tree stump as it swung 20-30 feet back and forth.
He used part of his earnings to help support his family and siblings who were going to school in Vancouver, and also kept up with the latest fashions and fancy cars.
Dayton had four children, the first of whom was a son named Christopher, with Gerri Cooper from Bella Coola. However, in the 1970s, Dayton moved to Williams Lake where he met his wife, Bev Sellars, from Soda Creek.
Together they had three children, Jacinda, Scott and Tony. They were married for 15 years and lived in Deep Creek, where Dayton continued to log and learned about ranching while tending the family hay fields. Dayton was always proud of his children, and was a hockey dad for much of the 1980s. During his last years, he became a grandpa to Jacinda’s son Orden, and Scott’s two daughters, Kiara and Mya. He was always visiting the little ones and took great pleasure in their presence. Chris now lives in Oshawa, Ontario with his wife Lisa and their three children, Jordan, Ashleigh and Trinity.
When he was 40 years old, Dayton was seriously injured in a logging accident when a tree fell on him, crushing one of his legs. For over two hours he blew his safety whistle but nobody came. He was forced to reach his power saw with a branch and cut himself free, and crawled away until other workers realized that something was wrong. He spent several months in a rehabilitation hospital in Vancouver, mending his nearly amputated leg and had to relearn how to walk. However, the accident did not stop him from returning to the woods for another 25 years.
Although he was always very careful in his work, another logging accident nearly blinded him when a stick caught his eye underneath his safety visor. He underwent eight eye surgeries and was able to recover most of his vision.
Although his eye became very sensitive to light afterward, he took it all in stride with a nice pair of Ray Ban sunglasses.
Many people in the Cariboo-Chilcotin knew Dayton. He was always travelling to rodeos, wearing his cowboy hat and visiting with old friends. He was raised in a musical family, and carried on the tradition, often playing his guitar and singing country and western songs at gatherings with friends and family.
One of his prized possessions was a beautiful 12-string acoustic guitar that impressed and inspired many other people to pick up their own guitars and find their own voices. Dayton like to joke, and often changed the lyrics of songs to tease people in his audience.
Once in Anahim Lake, he and his friend Sammy Leon were kicked out of the pub for their version of White Lightening that still gets laughs today.
Dayton was also an artist. In his later years, he spent many quiet hours drawing and crafting hand drums out of deer hides and cedar frames. He was very particular about his work in general and if a drum or shed wasn’t quite to his liking, he would take it apart and start over again. He was also very strict about keeping a tidy home and didn’t allow smoking inside, whether or not it was a chilly -30 degrees Celsius outside. He took pride in his home.
Dayton brought together many people in his 68 years, and many stories about his life are scattered across the lives and landscape between Williams Lake and Bella Coola.
Friends and family can tell you about how nobody could beat him at arm wrestling, or the time he and his friend Ron Moody broke down on the Bella Coola Hill in the middle of winter and had to walk all the way from Red Hill to Firvale, nearly freezing to death.
Or about when he had to clean up a buddy’s logging mess, lining up the snags and dropping them like dominoes in one cut.
Or who could forget the practical jokes he played on his closest friends. Most of the stories, though, were about his quiet generosity, shown through friendship and a helping hand. Dayton never had to be asked to help.
He would just show up and do what needed to be done. Many people claim him as their own in one way or another. He was without a doubt a very strong, creative, caring and hardworking man, a man who touched the lives of many people and will be greatly missed.
Although Dayton’s body has not been recovered, his family has decided to have a funeral for him on January 21, 2006 in Bella Coola. The service will be held at 1 p.m. at the United Church, with a riverside flower ceremony in lieu of a burial. It will be followed by a traditional Nuxalk Spirit Dance and Feast at the Nuxalk Hall.
The family would like to express our deepest thanks for all of the continued support and love, and acknowledge Dayton’s many friends who share in our loss.