OUR HOMETOWN: Family key for Kalelest

Friends and family were able to recently join Ike (Isidore) Kalelest in celebrating his 80th birthday. (Rebecca Dyok photo)Friends and family were able to recently join Ike (Isidore) Kalelest in celebrating his 80th birthday. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Chris Kind and Ike (Isidore) Kalelest became lifelong friends through working together at the Gang Ranch. (Rebecca Dyok photo)Chris Kind and Ike (Isidore) Kalelest became lifelong friends through working together at the Gang Ranch. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

It was all smiles for Ike (Isidore) Kalelest who celebrated his 80th birthday amongst family and friends who hope he will be inducted in the B.C. Cowboy Hall Of Fame as was his grandfather.

On Sunday, Oct. 11 – after months of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic — it was a sense of normalcy for Kalelest when those he loves filled his home near Williams Lake.

“I’m quite concerned,” Kalelest said of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I hardly go out anywhere.”

Kalelest grew up in Canoe Creek southwest of Williams Lake and through his ranch work met many fellow working cowboys he’d become lifelong friends with.

One of those is Chris Kind who made the trip from Clinton to spread some birthday cheer to Kalelest and reminisce about their days at the historic Gang Ranch west of Dog Creek/Canoe Creek where both of them worked in the early 1960s.

“They used to put their hay up loose, and then the baler arrived and Isidore was the driver of that,” Kind said.

“He was the head man,” he added with a laugh.

Prior to working at the Gang Ranch in 1957, Kalelest had worked 15 years doing odd jobs at the BC Cattle Company after having left St. Joseph’s Mission.

“It wrecked my life there,” Kalelest said of residential school.

“It wasn’t very good.”

READ MORE: Love of hockey and family keeps Ike Kalelest busy

After spending a number of years at the Gang Ranch, Kalelest would work for several other ranches including the Chilco Ranch at Hanceville, and one in Vanderhoof.

The last ranch he would work at was Empire Valley located east of the Gang Ranch before moving to Williams Lake in 1978 so his children could go to school.

Despite both of his marriages being unsuccessful, Kalelest would ‘adopt’ other local children by taking them in from the streets and providing a loving home.

“It was because he had a big heart,” said his daughter Sheila Booth. “He didn’t want to see them suffer.”

As a young man, Kalelest said he had spent three to four years on the streets of Williams Lake, Quesnel, Prince George and Kamloops struggling with alcohol addiction.

“I had good sponsors,” he said.

“Without the counsellors I would have never survived. It was a rough life living on the streets.”

Before being forced into early retirement at the age of 63 due to back problems which would require surgery, Kalelest took up logging work within the Williams Lake area.

Vertebrae in his neck and back had been crushed when a grapple fell on his head while he was logging out in the bush west of Williams Lake. Fortunately, Booth said her dad knew not to move when he hit the ground. He waited for an hour for his coworker, whom Booth credits for saving her dad’s life, to arrive.

After retiring Kalelest would volunteer and goal judge at every home game of the Williams Lake Stampeders.

Today Kalelest enjoys watching sports and cherishing the moments he is able to spend with his many friends and family including nine great-grand children.

Kalelest’s grandfather Antoine Allen was inducted in B.C’s Cowboy Hall of Fame ‘Working Cowboy’ in 2005.

His family hopes to have him inducted under the same category in the near future.

“I’d love to see that,” Kalelest said.

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