Vernon Richard Griffith, born Nov. 2, 1931 was a husband, father, grandfather, friend, lodge member, union organizer, political motivator, outdoors man, aviator, beekeeper, prospector, traveller…
All of these roles he leapt into with enthusiasm and a smile.
Vern passed away Oct. 3, 2006 at Cariboo Memorial Hospital.
Vern is the eldest son of Wilbert and Marjorie Griffith, with one brother Delbert Griffith and one surviving sister Joanette (Griffith) Normanton.
On July 19, 1954 Vern and Irene Mary Jane Burke wed and celebrated over 52 happy married years. From this union came one son, Lloyd, and four daughters, Wanda, Cindy (Shaw), Reta and Georgina (Nichols).
One of his proudest claims was being a grandfather to three grandsons — Mitchell, Kerry and Dale, and three granddaughters — Natalie, Hailey and Mallory.
Vern grew up on farms where he was particularly interested in woodwork and trapping. His love of the outdoors was inspired by his beloved uncle Jim Lattimer and Vern passed this love on to his own children and grandchildren.
One of Vern’s first jobs was as a carpenter helping to construct the NATO Air Base in Moose Jaw. Later, while working as an apprentice linesman for National Light and Power, Vern met his future wife, Irene Burke, a student teacher from Gainsborough.
While employed with National Light and Power, Vern became extensively involved with trade unions and politics, serving as Moose Jaw Labour Council president; helping to amalgamate CCL and CIO and serving on the CCF federal constituency executive.
In 1954, at 23, Vern ran as alderman for the City of Moose Jaw and lost by only 314 points.
In the fall of 1955 the family moved to Vantage, Saskatchewan, where Vern was an agent for Ogilvie Flour Mills.
In 1960 the family loaded all their worldly possessions in their 1948 Dodge and a small homemade trailer and headed to B.C. where Vern found work in Williams Lake with the B.C. Power Commission.
After the commission was downsized Vern went to work as a tail sawyer at the Regal Lumber Mill. Vern was instrumental in organizing a union at the mill. The IWA recognized his abilities and put him to work as a regional organizer.
In 1970 Vern gave up the nomadic life as an IWA organizer and returned to his first love, working with wood. He joined the local Carpenters’ Union and worked in mines, pulp mills, malls, schools, hospitals, etc. He also operated his own construction company until he retired in 1994. He served as president and business agent of the Carpenter’s and Joiners Union for 23 of the 24 years he was a member. He served on provincial apprenticeship and educational committees, and was a guest speaker at conventions.
Vern always strived to recognize, support and improve the life of the working man. His staunch defense of what he felt was right and his ability to view all sides of the situation gave him an advantage in negotiations.
Vern enjoyed a wide range of hobbies including ballroom dancing. When he and Irene first started dating they were chosen to represent Moose Jaw in a major ballroom dancing competition in Regina.
Vern was also a polished pool player and enjoyed curling. As a boy he dreamed of playing the fiddle. At a bonspiel in Assinaboia his team placed second and won two cases of motor oil. Vern sold his half-case of oil for $10. and spent $9.99 on a fiddle, lesson book, and pitch pipe. With time and a lot of help from a blind musician named Jerome Kunz, Vern learned to play and mastered many tunes.
In 1974 Vern learned to fly and took great pleasure in flying his children around the Cariboo-Chilcotin in his co-owned Taylorcraft.
At one time Vern also had up to 50 beehives in his apiary.
For a number of years Vern umpired the ladies softball league.
His youngest daughter Georgina watched him in his role as “Vampire” — her word for umpire, and occasionally questioned his calls on her favourite teams. He was always a good sport.
His love for the outdoors included trapping, camping, fishing, fly-fishing, and hunting. He never missed an opening day of hunting season and enjoyed three fly-in hunting trips in Northern B.C.
Vern possessed extensive knowledge of the history and geography of the Cariboo-Chilcotin and took great pride in his community. He enjoyed sharing his knowledge of the Cariboo and it’s rich history.
Reading allowed Vern to knowledgeably discuss many different interests and to travel the world and beyond. Some of these topics would include astronomy, geology, local lore, history, and more recently forensics, which was his grandson’s profession.
Vern was an active member of the Williams Lake Elks Lodge for almost 40 years and enjoyed being able to give back to the community. Vern, with Irene at his side, were an impressive team when it came to selling raffle tickets for fundraising draws.
Vern was immensely proud of all of his family and their accomplishments be it sports, academic, or career advancements.
He will be sorely missed for his wisdom, advice, caring, smiles and big hugs by his family and they can take comfort in the fact that he richly touched so many lives.