Friends and family from all around B.C. said a loving farewell to Raphael Alphonse during a ceremony held at the Catholic Log Church in Anaham on Monday, Nov. 17.
Father Derrick Cameron officiated. Ervin Charleyboy read the eulogy and Joan Gentles recited the Cowboy Prayer. Both the eulogy and prayer were delivered in English and Chilcotin.
Raphael was born on Dec. 17, 1928 at Anaham Meadows to Mabel Lee and Charlie Alphonse. He passed away Nov. 12, 2014 in Williams Lake.
Much of Raphael’s upbringing was at Anaham, Anaham Meadow, and Rocky Point.
During his younger years, Raphael had many teachers and mentors such as his grandpa Old Alphonse, his uncle Jimmy Marianne, Henry Petal, and Freddy Gilpin.
Family and friends were fortunate to hear the sad and funny stories that were passed down to him.
On road trips that he enjoyed so much, he would point out landmarks, place names, historical and sacred sites. He shared stories, legends, and beliefs associated with the sites.
At a young age, Raphael went to school at the Mission and often spoke about the trauma he encountered and witnessed. Although his dad advised him about the Mission, he decided to go because his friend Jack Boyd was going there.
He made life-long friends from the Shuswap nation, and learned many words in Shuswap.
After he completed Grade 3, he decided not to go back.
Years later he went to Dawson Creek with his best friend Pascal Bates to take farrier training. He did not fare well in the written part of the training, but he made up for it in the hands-on aspect of the training.
In spite of the level of his education, Raphael acquired his farrier certificate. On weekends, Raphael enjoyed farrier work in the Chilcotin and Williams Lake area. His clientele grew, and soon he had to limit his work to the Chilcotin.
Once he left school, Raphael started work at Chilco Ranch, Chezacut, Gang Ranch, and Onward Ranch.
He took great pride in working with and learning from top cowhands, namely Eddy Bambrick. In the mid-1960s he worked for the Alexis Creek Forestry suppression crew. Raphael also harvested and bundled Christmas trees in the Chilcotin, and Cariboo district.
He worked for a short time at Fish Lake. The last employment he had was custodian and maintenance for Anaham School. He retired in 1988.
In 1953 Raphael married the chief’s daughter, Susie Bob. He was annoyed he had to marry twice because they married on a holy day.
After their wedding, he worked and bought a brand new hand sewing machine for his wife. As a wedding present the chief gave them a few head of cows to start off their cattle ranching.
To supplement their income, they trapped in their traditional territory.
Together, Raphael and Susie had seven children: Florence, Bella, Faye, Karen, Melvin, and twins Carla and Carl. They also raised their granddaughter Sharmon.
He brought us up to be who we are, and we will honour him with highest regard.
Today, we do our best to “be on the ball” and “to be three jumps ahead” as he taught us.
Back in the day, the hereditary chief and councillors appointed policemen in the community. They were called “nilhghgil.”
Johnny Stump and Raphael were the last appointed nilhghil of Anaham Reserve.
Raphael wondered when the band would retire him as a policeman, but it eventually died out and it never happened.
Through the years Raphael kept a diary starting from 1960. He rarely missed a day.
We still have those diaries. Shortly after the electricity came into Anaham, Raphael brought home a gramophone and his collection of records began.
He loved music, and he loved to dance. As children, during leisure times, he would let us stand on his feet and he would two-step or do the polka with us.
He believed when you go to a dance you “danced into the dance hall” and when you are leaving, “you would dance out.”
They were invited to Lee’s Corner to attend square dances. One of his friends was wearing work boots and stepped on someone’s toes.
As Raphael puts it, we were never invited there again.
During his younger years, Raphael’s only means of transportation was on a saddle horse.
Later on, he bought himself a 1967 Honda motorbike. It was a treat for everyone, when they would get rides.
Soon he started rounding up horses with it too.
In 1968, accompanied by Elmer Alphonse, Raphael went to Vancouver. He came back with his first truck, a 1968 GMC pickup. They were escorted out of Vancouver by taxi. Shortly after, he got his driver’s license.
As a young man, Raphael got into playing hockey, often competing against Alexis Creek and Big Creek teams.
They had to make their own hockey equipment. In the 1970s he coached and volunteered with the Athabaskans and brought them to hockey tournaments.
He loved the sport of rodeo, especially calf roping and team roping.
Many cowboys will remember he was pickup man. Travelling and competing in rodeo was his greatest passion and he made many friends all over.
Raphael also raised a few rodeo bucking horses.
Working with horses was his passion in life. Not that long ago, Raphael broke his last horse. A few years ago he made a suicide race track just above Anaham.
A family member thought he had gone crazy and worried he was going to kill himself going down that hill. We felt that at least he would die doing what he loved to do.
Later on he got into turkey shooting and his gun collection began.
A group of youth watched him target shoot and fondly named him “Good Shot Raphael.”
At funerals and social events Raphael also enjoyed directing and coaching lahal games.
Hunting was another favourite pastime for Raphael and he enjoyed revisiting old hunting and fishing grounds. When families lost a loved one he provided moose or deer meat.
Raphael loved to entertain and enjoyed sharing with others. He taught us to feed people when they came to visit.
His home was always open and he enjoyed visiting and welcoming others into his home.
Raphael was a child at heart. Many will remember the games he played with them, racing horses, playing cards, wrestling, boxing, and playing lahal.
He was so proud of family members when they competed and excelled at track meets, dance competitions, hockey and rodeo.
Many people will remember when he “baptized” them with a new nickname. It was rather cute when a new generation of kids came to visit to get a name.
The last few years, Raphael was not able to ride horses like he used to. He believed that riding horses kept you healthy and fit.
His health was slowly declining and he started having problems with his knee and hip. It was devastating for him when he was not able to ride.
Not that long ago, he was diagnosed as having early stages of dementia. He would get memory losses, which was frustrating for him.
As a result, he tended to isolate himself. We thank family and friends for being patient and standing by him, regardless of all that.
Most recently, Raphael attended just about every funeral and it was hard for him, but he went there to support grieving families.
Thank you to family members for making his last days as comfortable as possible by taking him places and to social events. A few weeks ago, family took him to Dog Creek to attend a funeral.
Raphael was a very proud person and the last little while he had a hard time getting around.
He felt that he did not want to burden anyone with his health going down.
We reassured him that we were simply paying him back for all he had done for us.
Thank you, Carla and Carl for being there for him. We thank everyone who looked after him and loved him until the end.
Our family is so overwhelmed with the outstanding support from everyone by supporting us in our time of need, through visits, phone calls, prayers, love and support. May the good Lord bless each and every one of you.
Raphael is survived by his sister Celina Petal, children Florence (Raymond), Bella, Faye (Anthony), Karen (Harley), Melvin (Rosaline), Carla (Michael), Carl and Sharmon; grandchildren Vern, Sharmon, Terri, Deidri, Jodie, Trevor, Ariane, Mallory, Justin, Winston, Julien, Raven, Chelsea, Mathew and Cecile; and great-grandchildren Rayell, Damien, Jordin, Rheydon, Antoine, Ava and Everleigh.
Raphael is predeceased by his wife Susie, parents Mabel Lee and Charlie Alphonse; siblings, Patrick, Raymond, Clara, Norman, Peter and Theresa; grandchildren Brent and Jessica; and great-grandchildren Aidan and Zoey.
Submitted by the family of Raphael Alphonse.