The woods stood a little quieter and the waters were stiller than usual on Jan. 7 as nature paid its respects to one of its finest friends and champions.
Ralph Shaw – hunter, fisher and author – passed away unexpectedly on that day, leaving behind a loving family and a legacy of conservation work that is unlikely to be surpassed any time in the near future.
Born in High’s Stopping House, Ardmore (halfway between Cold Lake and Bonnyville, Alta. on June 20, 1926) to a pioneer family who trapped and fished for a living, Mr. Shaw came by his outdoor skills naturally. He fished, trapped and hunted with his brothers.
His fishing career started when he was about six years old. When he was about 13 his family moved to trout country, where his career as a master fly fisherman began.
Mr. Shaw’s father had a sound conservation ethic, which encouraged his own interest in fish and wildlife conservation practices. While a teacher and principal in Kamloops, Mr. Shaw established the McQueen Lake Environmental Centre, leading to him receiving the Order of Canada in 1984.
He worked for Simon Fraser University Summer Institute at McQueen Lake, specializing in wilderness survival and outdoor skills. During the 1960s and 1970s he spoke throughout North America on conservation and outdoor education.
Mr. Shaw was a contributing member of several conservation groups and a founder of several more. He was involved in the B.C. Wildlife Federation, receiving the Ted Barsby Award as Conservationist of the Year in 1984 and the Presidents Awards for his work on saltwater fisheries in 1990. In 1998 he was appointed to the BC Sport Fishing Hall of Fame.
A past chairman of the Sport Fishery Advisory Board, Mr. Shaw was a member of the Pacific Salmon Commission for two years. He was a staunch advocate for the recreational fishery at the conference board of the International Pacific Halibut Commission.
One of the many awards to come his way was in 2007 when the B.C. Lieutenant-Governor invited him to a reception in Victoria to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Nature Trust of BC – a group which he was instrumental in creating.
His retirement years provided him time to concentrate on his writing, and his weekly column in The Comox Valley Record (as well as The Island Fisherman and The Island Angler magazines) garnered several awards. He contributed chapters to several books, none more successful than The Pleasure of His Company – The Fishing Diaries of Jack Shaw in 2008 that was a tribute to his good friend (and no relation) Jack Shaw. Proceeds from the sales of the book went to the McQueen Lake centre and the Freshwater Fisheries Association of BC to teach children how to fish.
Sharing nature’s bounty was also important to Mr. Shaw. “The role of the successful fisherman and hunter is to share the produce. That’s a very critical aspect,” he said in 2008. “It’s not just sharing the catch. It’s sharing the knowledge and techniques. Getting young people and other people involved.”
Sharing was very much what Mr. Shaw was all about.
A service for Ralph Shaw will be held Saturday, Jan. 16 at 2 p.m. at the Courtenay and District Fish & Game Protective Association clubhouse. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made (by mail, phone or email) to:
The Nature Trust of BC,
260-1000 Roosevelt Crescent,
North Vancouver, B.C.,
604-924-9771 or toll free 1-866-288-7878