Long-time resident of the Cariboo, John Herbert (Bert) Richards, passed away at Cariboo Lodge in Williams Lake on October 5.
Bert was born in Arlington, Washington, October 16, 1909. In 1921 his family made a move to the Peace River country in Northern B.C. but stayed only briefly as there were no schools in the area.
They settled in North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley where Bert, at the young age of 11 had his first taste of building when he helped his father dig a basement and put in a foundation for their home.
As a young man Bert worked at various jobs, helping build the Eaton’s building in Calgary, for a short time as a pile driver fireman in Vancouver and also in public works.
At that time everyone was talking of the opportunities of the Cariboo so Bert decided to have a look.
He rode his bicycle from Lynn Valley to Pemberton and then shipped the bike back to Vancouver and took the train to 100 Mile House. After arriving at 100 Mile he found land at Forest Grove to homestead.
He put up a cabin for himself and wrote to his parents and sisters who came up and homesteaded a piece of land next to his.
Shortly after this Bert met Cynthia Dare and in 1935 they were married.
They continued to live here for the next 12 years during which time their first three children, Dennis, Rene and Judy were born.
Bert farmed and augmented their income working in sawmills, hunting and hewing railway ties with a 16-pound broad axe.
In 1947 the family moved to Osoyoos, living in what was probably one of the earliest versions of our modern day campers. Bert had built a movable home on the back of a five-ton Reo truck.
In Osoyoos Bert built two homes, a smaller one, which his mother later lived in and a larger one for the family, which now included their fourth child, a son Robert.
In 1959 the sawmill he was managing burnt in a fire and the family moved to Princeton where he again, with help from his son Dennis, built another home.
For the next three years Bert worked in mills at Tulameen, Merritt, and Clearwater. In 1962 he purchased the Monte Lake Resort, but after two years decided to return to the logging industry working in Penticton, Kamloops and 100 Mile House as a sawyer and scaler.
At this time the Forest Service began scaling logs by weight and Bert was one of the first weigh scalers in the Cariboo.
For the next five years as well as scaling, Bert, along with Cynthia, ran a boarding house in the old nurses residence which was located in downtown Williams Lake, where the Royal Bank stands today.
At the age of 58, Bert purchased an acre of land on the Chilcotin highway side of the valley, and proceeded to clear it by hand and single handedly built another family home.
Although Bert retired from the Forest Service in 1974, he was not one to slow down. He and Cynthia were extremely active as campers and Snowbirds for a number of years.
They founded the Good Sam Club in Williams Lake and also worked as ambassadors, founding Good Sam Clubs in numerous other communities around B.C.
Another of his hobbies was his garden, where he grew enough produce to supply a Third World country. Not just quantity, Bert won numerous ribbons at Williams Lake Fall Fair for his exceptional vegetables and flowers. In the later years, Cynthia and Bert were active in seniors’ events, from competing in Senior Games to cribbage tournaments at the Seniors’ Centre.
He always kept his harmonica in his pocket and any time family or friends gathered Bert kept everyone entertained with old favourite tunes.
Bert was an extremely honest and caring man.
He always had a smile and a funny story or joke for everyone he met, and was always ready to lend a helping hand whatever the situation. He will be sadly missed by all who were lucky enough to know him.
He is survived by his wife of 67 years Cynthia, two sons; Dennis (Phyllis) of Alabama; Bob (Carol) of Kamloops; two daughters Rene (Paul) Gutyan of Williams Lake and Judy (Ross) Wheeler of Nimpo Lake. Seven grandchildren: Doug and John Richards, Cindy Verway, Judi Prevost, Tony and Steven Toth and Carolyn Lippert. Nine great-grandchildren Brittany and Sheldon Prevost; Mark, Aaron and Chloe Bestward; Jaxon, Jesse, and Christopher Toth; and Layne Richards.
Funeral services were held October 10 at Cariboo Bethel church. Bert was buried in Forest Grove cemetery near his mother and father.