KEITH MACKENZIE (RIGHT) is seen with CVRD chair Edwin Grieve at the Cumberland announcement of the Maple Lake project.

Fish and game club duo were inspirational leaders

Keith Mackenzie, Ron Watanabe contributed much to the club and their community







We do not know our time to meet the great ethereal presence that controls the cycles of life; but Keith Mackenzie, president of the Courtenay and District Fish and Game protective Association (CDFGPA) and vice-president Ron Watanabe met that ethereal spirit a few hours apart on Monday, March 25, 2013.

On behalf of all the people whose lives they touched through the club and the greater community, we express our deepest sympathy to both families and friends. They were living models of the motto “Service above Self” and their dedication to sharing and enriching our lives in the outdoors through their towering contributions to the CDFGPA will long be remembered.

The CDFGPA is a very large, complex conservation association that approached a membership of nearly 2,500 in 2012. It achieved this large membership in no small measure due to the leadership style of Keith Mackenzie. When the club moved from the old site on the Puntledge River to its current glorious site on the shore of Comox Lake it was the vision of those future-looking pioneer members of the club that changed an industrially polluted wasteland into the awesome, magnificent, imposing, and splendid place we call the Fish and Game Club.

For the past 12 years this ongoing transition has been under the supportive leadership of president Keith Mackenzie and his board of directors. Keith had a leadership style that encouraged those members of the club that had dreams about their particular interests to make them a reality. This columnist invites you to tour the site to see for yourself the marvelous transition from wasteland to pulsing community of outdoor-oriented facilities.

Under Keith Mackenzie’s presidency the following facilities have reached maturation: boat ramp, campground, fish hatchery, fish pond, archery clubhouse and ranges, shotgun trap and skeet ranges and clubhouse, Cowboy Action centre with its pioneer village, 100-yard outdoor rifle range,  pistol range, black powder facility, the beautiful naturally landscaped grounds, caretakers house, and the ongoing development of the most stunning clubhouse in Canada with a view of the Comox Glacier that is memorable. The clubhouse and grounds are increasingly used for local, provincial, national and international events.

Keith’s role as a leader extended into the broader community by supporting Maple Lake as a community facility.  The club reaches out to the broader community by participating in the following: Elk transplants, Comox Lake research program, Puntledge River Restoration program, Puntledge River Estuary restoration program, Ducks Unlimited projects, Pacific Salmon Foundation programs, Fire Arms Training programs and a Fire Arms Training Facility for Law Enforcement Officers, Vancouver Island Kid Camp, annual Outdoor Show plus many other activities that Keith and Ron shared leadership roles in, making them a success. He shared the proceeds of his hunting and fishing with the club and his many friends. This past summer he made one happy grandson into a competent fisher. In brief he cared and shared.

For several years Ron Watanabe has been vice-president of the club, where he was a vital force in the executive and on many occasions successfully filled in for Keith. In spite of growing health challenges, Ron fulfilled his vice-presidential role with a quiet dignity that contributed much to the success of the club.

He made a special contribution to the Fishing Forever Program and the Family Fishing Program with the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC. Every season when the pond was stocked with fish Ron would arrange for bus loads of handicapped people and seniors to enjoy the simple pleasure of catching a trout. Many of the events required one-on-one support and the membership always responded to his requests.

Ron had a vital role in the broader issues of the Puntledge River Estuary and Puntledge River Project Watershed. He was a quiet leader who filled the many challenges of his role as vice-president with a supportive dignity that helped others reach their goals. As a fisherman he generously shared his catch with others and also shared his knowledge with beginners, be they children or new immigrants to our Valley. He was always there for the club when needed.

• • •

Special Note – I have just learned that vice-president Dale Frame has been unanimously appointed as the president and Fred Bates has been appointed vice-president, as has Kevin VanCleemput. Congratulations to all of you for stepping up to the plate.

Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.


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