Lyle William Fraser

December 24, 1920 โ€“ October 14, 2017

Died peacefully in his 97th year, surrounded by family. Near his bed lay a copy of his self-published memoir of growing up in Burnaby’s Springer Valley. Set among hardscrabble acreages during the depression, Yesterday’s Dreams affectionately evokes Lyle’s rural youth, its deeply felt characters, his schooling at St. Helen’s. Following high school at St. Pat’s he worked his first job at a macaroni factory on Clarke Drive, then in a shipyard on Burrard Inlet, later at Forst’s on Hastings selling suits. In the late 1940s he got on as a streetcar conductor, navigating skid row in the fog, and Kits Trestle gingerly, before graduating to the newer trolley buses. Previously, he served with the RCAF during WWII as an airframe mechanic at Jericho, and in Ketchikan, Alaska. From a base in Pat Bay, he’d gone briefly AWOL one August weekend in 1943 to marry his beloved Cecelia in Vancouver. Here after the war his carpenter father helped them build a house in Dunbar, partly of bricks from the old Hotel Vancouver. But Lyle was a restless vet, never wholly happy in the city. He raised turkeys in their back yard, and for a while, until chewing gum failed to stop its radiator from leaking, he drove a 1929 Model A. (This on an aborted jaunt to Haney.) Nostalgia for his rural past persisted. His yearning for the pastoral life sprang equally from the myth of his mother’s pioneering parents in the lush Fraser Valley, where she and her sister had befriended as children the train robber Bill Miner. This remained the place he cared for most, and would later visit on weekends with his growing family to clear or cultivate whatever small hobby farm he and Cecelia struggled to buy in Aldergrove, Mission, Ruskin-to escape the city, seldom holding on to any of them long enough to build more than a shed or two. In 1955, he persuaded his wife to sell up their new house and settle on ten acres in Nakusp, where to his pleasure the oldest of his five children learned to milk a cow and Lyle began work in town as a butcher. When yesterday’s dreams proved impracticable in the Kootenays, they soon found themselves back in Vancouver-in the only house they could now afford, renting out its meager basement rooms to students from Africa, Chile, and Hong Kong for ten dollars a month. Lyle entered UBC to acquire a B.Ed. degree (1960), eventually his M.Ed. Cecelia returned to her stenographer’s job at St. Paul’s, helping to pay for the groceries her student- husband stocked on Safeway shelves for ninety cents an hour. Not surprising, his bucolic ideal hadn’t died, just hibernated. Two decades later he took early retirement from administering schools in North Vancouver, and was one of the first to cultivate blueberries in Pitt Meadows. Here he raised purebred Angus cattle and built by himself a vast barn for hay, hens, sheep, swine-even for a thoroughbred filly he claimed at auction and raced happily with his wife over two seasons at the PNE. With Lots to Do (and she did), they broke even. Lyle’s highest praise for his fellow man-often finding himself in the role of this man-was that he would “give you the shirt off his back.” A generosity shared by his childhood hero, Uncle Bert, and by the straitened neighbours of his youth. (These folks were probably familiar early on with his habit of sharing jokes, a weakness he never rehabbed, even for the crummiest puns.) Lyle learned to type at college, but never on a computer. Lamenting the decline of handwriting, he cultivated increasingly his own cursive script, whose method out-MacLeaned MacLean’s in many letters to friends and relatives. Prompt Christmas cards seemed to arrive in November; birthday cards long before you might admit to another year. Ever restless, he joined younger men to voyage down the Yukon and Nahanni Rivers; to motorcycle across Canada with one of his sons; or to revisit his father’s Nova Scotia roots with an old buddy. He hosted and travelled faithfully to reunions of his dwindling 135 Fighter Squadron. He took a gold-panning course. He and Cecelia visited Asia, the Holy Land, South America, Scotland, Australia. Now instead of farm life, and after giving gave away parcels of his land to family, he began to favour island cabins, perhaps in pursuit of the simple life described in his favourite book, Walden’s Pond. He loved the natural world, especially its morning air. His heart attack in 2008 did not slow him down so much as did (after 69 years of model marriage and their unfailing hospitality to others) Cecelia’s unexpected death, in 2012. With the devoted care in Maple Ridge from his daughter and granddaughters, Lyle stayed on in his own house, until entering Willow Manor two years ago. Survived by sisters Frances and Lois (Harry); children Mary-Lou, Bill, David (Christa), Terry (Harry), Keath (Lorraine); nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Deepest thanks, for their unwavering support, to Mary-Lou Wilsdon and Christina Martin; Holly Wilsdon; Bill and David Fraser.

Prayer service Thursday, October 26, 7:00 p.m.
Funeral Mass Friday, October 27, 11:00 a.m. St. Luke’s Catholic Church, 20285 Dewdney Trunk Road, Maple Ridge.

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  1. Gramps… You were the best role model a person growing up could possibly hope for. My Life has been brilliant thanks to your influence, for a love of Nature and gardening, hiking and camping, and certainly your love for our great Northern lands… Your perpetual kindness, wisdom… You have brought so much joy to my Life. To all our family, thank you for being so beautiful, each of you. Love, and Peace, Snuzie-Q.

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