February 21, 1938 – January 14, 2021
It is often said that no one on their deathbed wished they had spent more time at work. This is not a sentiment our father understood or would have agreed with.
Ed Visser was born February 21, 1938 in St Joseph’s Hospital, Comox, BC and raised across from the Black Creek General Store.
Like many of his generation he grew up quickly when his father Ben was injured and permanently disabled while falling for Comox Logging Co. From this point onward, work was part of his reality. Ed’s dad had emigrated from Holland in 1930 and his mother, Mary, from England years earlier.
They met in Oyster River where she taught at the one room school and Ben climbed and rigged spar trees. In those days a teacher couldn’t be married so she left her career to raise her family on 25 acres a couple miles down the road. At the age of ten Ed and Allen McCreight built a complete operating logging show with wood spar tree, hay rack loader, A-stick dump and a Sears pull wagon with a trailer for a logging truck.
Late in his life we found the photos his mother had taken of this playground and we all understood more clearly not only how logging timber on the coast was in Ed’s veins but also how firewood made it to the house.
Ed graduated from Tsolum School in 1956, where, according to legend, the teachers and principal were as determined not to have him back as his mother was to make sure he finished. Mary won the battle, but Ed went straight into the bush to drive truck on a Baikie Bros side. He ran log loader for Mangels out of Gold River and Port Eliza and found his way onto the Forest Prince, one of the early self-dumping log barges on the Coast.
In 1969 he purchased his first crane and started Discovery Crane for something to do on the off shift. More than 50 years later the business remains in the family with a third generation nearing the helm.
Ed raised his own family in Willow Point but it is more accurate to say his boys grew up at the yard where the cranes and trucks were parked. All of them were operators before they had driver’s licenses.
Ed was one of the original volunteers at the No 2 Fire Hall in Willow Point in the days when it was more of a club and the kids would play for hours while the firemen socialized.
One of his gifts was that of a storyteller. Anyone who met him was quickly introduced to his ability to recall the comedy of his youth, the woods and the pulp mill where the cranes spent much of their time.
Many of the stories were so often repeated we are all able to recite them as though we were there, but we would endure and wait patiently for the delight of a new tale from some side hill, the old farm, the camp, the mill, or some other place where he had been and come across some of the great characters of this working coast of ours. From time to time, and in the right circumstance when a few of the old timers gathered, those fortunate enough to be in earshot would be entertained for hours as they relogged the Island.
In the later years, while his health allowed, he spent everyday fishing from the boat he kept at Brown’s Bay. He took up hunting again and spent many hours with his grandsons on the backroads here and each fall they would head to the interior with some old friends for more hunting adventures. Effort aside, Ed did not suffer from a lack of freezer space.
He lived long enough to witness the ground he logged as a young man grow trees large enough to be harvested by machines that were almost so alien as to not be recognizable to the industry he loved. He saw the pulp mill and its once solid permanence fall silent, his friends retire or wander away to new lives and work while its carcass was picked over and sold for scrap.
He helped tear down the community’s first hospital, saw the next one where his kids were born rise, be demolished and then replaced with the new one that brought him great grandchildren and ultimately his final days.
With his health in decline for the past few years he was clear with everyone that there should be no heroic measures. It will come as no surprise to anyone that out of silence of the hospital bed as we conferred with the doctors and nurses his gruff voice would insist that we “pull the plug”.
Ed always viewed the hospitals and the people in the system who took care of him here and in Victoria as mysterious and something to be marvelled at. Dr. Phipps was his hunting partner and physician for years and Dr. Meckin took up his care when Phipps retired. It is his gentle but straight forward approach that Ed appreciated the most and it was with some kind words of reassurance that he was able to let go.
He passed peacefully on January 14, 2021 to be with all the old timers who had gone before. There can be no doubt that he settled right into the seat of an old loader to begin jostling the peaker on a big load, hands furiously moving between the friction levers, feet feathering the brakes. Maybe he slid behind the wheel of an old Pacific fat truck to begin breaking in some young punk on how to double clutch between the main and the auxiliary as they pull some adverse.
He is certainly yelling from the cab of the crane at some young ironworker or millwright to get the rigging straight on the next lift and to hustle because “we don’t have all day”. Ed is comfortably back in his brown pants, suspenders, trademark worn, greasy jacket and ever-present baseball cap. Teeth in his shirt pocket waiting for lunch.
Ed was predeceased by his parents Ben and Mary Visser and his sister Shelia. He is survived by his partner of 25 years Phyllis Arnason, three boys Rod (Jennifer), Ken and Bruce (Brenda), their mother Lyn, and Phyllis’ two children, Kevin and Cheryl. He was just shy of a dozen grandchildren and very proud of his continuously increasing herd of great grandchildren.
We all hope to live our life with some sense of contentment in knowing who we are. For Ed it was being raised in Black Creek, the son of a logger, growing up to drive a logging truck, run loaders and cranes and raising kids in Campbell River. His sons and grandchildren followed in his footsteps for a time before forging individual paths and becoming leaders in their own right. He put in a good shift as they say, then left a thankful man and headed right back to work.
In lieu of flowers the family has asked that donations be made to Halbe Hall in Black Creek. It is the old one room schoolhouse from Oyster River that a bunch of farmers drug down the highway to its current home nearly a century ago.
Halbe Hall, c/o Alan Jonsson, President, 2341 King Rd, Campbell River, BC, V9H 1C6
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