For Ivan and Monique Goward Williams Lake is just the right size for themselves and their family.
“We just love the place,” says Monique. “It is a great place to raise kids. You can have the country and still go to a Studio Theatre play or the Gibraltar Room to watch a musical performance.”
She says they also like the fact that the Williams Lake economy always seems to remain steady with economic ebbs and flows rather than booms and busts, primarily because the community has a diverse economy supported by ranching, forestry, mining, tourism, support services, etc.
It’s also just big enough to maintain some privacy and small enough so that you often meet someone you know on the street.
Monique (nee LeBlanc) was born in 100 Mile House and came to Williams Lake with her family in 1977 as a young girl.
Her parents Jeannine and Phil LeBlanc met in Maillardville in the Lower Mainland.
The LeBlancs married in 1953 and moved to Lone Butte where Phil was working in a sawmill owned by his brother-in-law. During the mid-1950s they moved the mill to Knife Creek. They stayed at Knife Creek for a year then moved a little cabin from Knife Creek to Lac La Hache on a flatbed truck. In Lac La Hache they added on to the cabin as their family grew.
Phil started Little Frog Logging in Lac La Hache and as the company grew the family moved to Williams Lake where he sold timber to Weldwood.
Monique is the youngest of five children who all continue to make their homes in the Williams Lake area.
Elder brother Donald bought out Little Frog Logging Company when their father retired. By then they were the number one seniority logging contractor at Weldwood.
Brother Lawrence bought the contract from Donald, naming his company Lamar Logging. About a year ago brother Donald bought the contract back and changed the name back to the original Little Frog Logging.
Brother Leonard went into ranching, served with the RCMP, and is now a top international team-roper who spends winters in Arizona and summers in the Cariboo. One of the saddles he won is now at the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin.
Sister Julie Pinette lives with her family in Williams Lake and works as a portfolio administrator with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources.
Monique graduated from Columneetza Secondary School in 1985 and went to live in her grandfather’s house in Maillardville to take the two-year Community Social Service Worker program at Douglas College in New Westminster.
She then returned to Williams Lake in 1987 and became a youth outreach worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association.
In 1988 she met her soon-to-be-husband Ivan Goward, who came to Williams Lake from the Okanagan to complete his apprenticeship as a heavy duty mechanic with the Ministry of Highways. Ivan earned his journeymen papers just as highway maintenance was turned over to private company Cariboo Road Services.
Ivan was offered a job in Bella Coola so the young couple headed west where Ivan worked as supervisor of Tweedsmuir Services providing maintenance and repair for automobiles and heavy equipment and Monique became a child care worker at the school in Hagensborg.
The couple lived in Bella Coola for three-and-a-half years then returned to Williams Lake on Halloween 1993 where Ivan went back to school to earn his welder/pipe-fitter ticket.
Monique was pregnant with their first child and they bought the house on Hodgson Road from her parents where she was raised.
“I raised my kids in the house where I spent my memorable youth,” Monique says.
Growing up she says Williams Lake wasn’t as developed as it is today. Their playground was all the way from the west side of the city to the Fraser River. As kids she says they would spend whole days exploring trails on horseback, or by snowmobile, motorcycle, quad or four-by-four trucks.
Ivan has the skills which are highly prized in a resource community such as Williams Lake and has supported the family, as many locals do, through a combination of self-employment and working for others.
After earning his welder/pipe-fitter ticket he worked as a welder and heavy-duty mechanic for a private logging company for a few years. Then he bought his own logging truck and hired a driver. Soon after he established his own mobile service company.
After that he was offered and accepted the job of service manager for Inland Kenworth. After six years with Inland Kenworth he returned to school in 2008 to become a welding/heavy duty mechanic instructor with Thompson Rivers University’s continuing studies program.
The job didn’t provide enough full-time hours so Ivan filled out his work week doing home renovations.
This past January Ivan returned to work as a heavy duty mechanic with Hytest Timber.
While their daughters, Danielle, 18, and Sydney, 16, were young, Monique kept the books for their companies and did other odd jobs.
In 2007, with their daughters in high school, Monique returned to work full time, first to help out friends at Grosso Pre-Cast for a year, then as an assistant social worker with the Ministry of Children and Families.
For the past four years she has worked as an addictions/mental health worker with the Cariboo Friendship Society.
Daughter Danielle graduated from Columneetza in June and is just starting her first year at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake with the goal of becoming a registered nurse.
During high school she volunteered as a peer tutor, mentor for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program, helped out with the Catholic Women’s League catering service and cooking at the Stampede concession. She also played high school soccer and community rep soccer.
Daughter Sydney is starting Grade 11 at Columneetza and for the last few years has competed with the high school rodeo club.
Monique says her brother Leonard bought her her first horse when she was age four and she sold her last horse when she was eight months pregnant with Sydney.
Despite not having a horse of her own, Sydney developed a love for riding and rodeo on outings with her friend Chantelle Rolph, grand-daughter of ranchers Bruce and Lonnie Rolph.
When Monique’s brother Leonard learned of Sydney’s interest in riding he arranged for her to practice team roping with him at Doug White’s riding arena.
In 2011 Leonard took ninth place in his division at the world series team roping championships in Las Vegas with Chance Whitworth.
For the past two years, Sydney has raised her own money, doing chores, baby sitting, pet sitting, and chain filing for Little Frog Logging to raise the money for the plane fare to Arizona during spring breaks to compete in team roping events with her uncle Leonard.
This last spring they won team buckles for placing 13th in their division. More than 398 teams compete in the Arizona team roping events.
Together the whole family enjoys the outdoor sports living the Cariboo has to offer including skating, downhill skiing, boating and water sports, snowmobiling and quading. Monique and Sydney also hunt deer together for the freezer on occasion.
Volunteering for Stampede evolved naturally with the family’s involvement in the sport of rodeo.
For the last four years all four family members have been avid volunteers at the Williams Lake Stampede. Ivan and Danielle cook at the concession. Monique started out in the grandstands and now works in the beer gardens. Sydney helps out behind the chutes warming up horses and moving stock.
“We like to support the community and the Stampede, which brings so much awareness and revenue to our community,” Monique says.