On July 28 of last year we celebrated Paul St. Pierre’s 90th “Unbirthday” in Fort Langley.
His actual birthday was on Oct. 14, but he never liked to celebrate on that day. Why? I received several answers to that question, all equally plausible.
Maybe it really did have something to do with Napoleon whose birthday was on Aug. 15.
It was a lovely backyard celebration, the sun was bright and hot, his favourite “Plonk,” as his family called his red wine, was flowing freely, and St. Pierre was holding court and telling tall stories, mostly from the Cariboo.
He was just so good at that! One of the very, very best.
He would sit there, look into the past, suddenly get this little twinkle in his startling blue eyes, a wicked little grin appeared, and off he went.
He could do that for hours. I loved every minute of it and felt so honoured to be there. If you have not read his books, please do so.
Start with Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse, his best known one, and go from there. You will find them all at the public library.
Many of you will remember the TV series he created, Cariboo Country. St. Pierre was the one who insisted on actually using First Nation actors in his films and it was he who discovered Chief Dan George.
And did I mention he was a passionate politician?
Now his voice is silenced.
St. Pierre passed on July 27, 2014, not quite a year later, peacefully and surrounded by his family.
He died at home, as he detested being held “captive” in a hospital.
The funeral was a private family affair.
When I first was informed about it I was sad for days.
I know there always will be a little hollow spot inside me as there is just no other one like him.
When I went to the celebration given for him on Nov. 2, I still had a heavy heart. But then it all turned around and I suddenly enjoyed myself immensely.
St. Pierre had very close ties to Mexico, had a house there, even adopted a little girl to be able to give her a good education in Canada.
That little girl is now all grown up and a beautiful young woman and mother. Her name is Yesica and she looked after the refreshments.
St. Pierre always liked a good party, so one was organized for him. The women wore beautiful traditional dresses and flowers in their hair. They made huge amounts of delicious Mexican food and drinks, and once again the “Plonk” flowed freely.
There were about 150 people, talking, laughing, having a great time in the community hall of Fort Langley. Even his oldest friend managed to be there.
Ron Rose started as a journalist for the Vancouver Sun in 1938 and met St. Pierre in 1946.
They were friends for all these years. Rose is turning 95 on Nov. 8. Happy Birthday, Ron! I was happy to bring greetings from the Cariboo, including Williams Lake and TRU.
After all the speeches had been heard and much laughter had been shared, three Mariachi players entered the room and got everyone’s toes tapping.
After a couple of songs we gathered the flowers from the tables, many took burning candles and we followed the Mariachi players outside into the rain.
It was dark by then and we slowly wound our way toward the graveyard, the music playing all the way.
We gathered around the grave marker, placed our flowers on it and then each one of us received a small shot glass of Tequila.
It was a magic moment— standing there in the slow rain, the dark lit up by so many candles, the band playing spirited melodies, and then we all together gave a loud cheer to Paul St. Pierre, now a true legend.
And yes, his grave marker really does say: “This was not my idea.”