Given his love of Mexico and his penchant for doing the unconventional, a “Day of the Dead” celebration to mark Paul St. Pierre’s life was entirely appropriate.
The longtime Fort Langley resident died at age 90 in July, but his passing was marked with a festive party at Fort Langley Community Hall, a mariachi band and procession to his grave marker in Fort Langley Cemetery on Sunday.
On his tombstone, it said “This was not my idea.”
Mr. St. Pierre was born in Chicago, grew up in Nova Scotia and, after serving in the Second World War, became a Vancouver Sun reporter, columnist and editor. He also served four years as a Liberal MP under Pierre Trudeau, from 1968 to 1972.
He later wrote a syndicated column that appeared in The Times and other community newspapers for many years.
He was well-known for his series of books, mainly about the Cariboo and Chilcotin and the fabulous characters residing there. His best-known book was “Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse.”
In the 1960s, he wrote the popular CBC television series Cariboo Country. It marked the first appearance of Chief Dan George in a television series, which led to his later work in movies and an Academy Award nomination.
Paul St. Pierre Jr. was the emcee at the event and recounted many stories of his father’s life, painting a vivid picture of his character.
“His heroes were people who called hypocrisy for what it was. He loved freedom above all else.
“He was always a lone wolf and never a joiner, and that’s why it was surprising that he ran and won an MP’s seat. It was also surprising that he won as a Liberal because he wasn’t a Liberal, he was a libertarian.”
Former Vancouver Sun colleague Ron Rose gave a hilarious account of a hunting trip, recounting how he was to supply the liquor and St. Pierre the food.
When he arrived at his Big Creek cabin, a case of canned salmon was the total sum of the provisions.
He also told how St. Pierre would take the top off a liquor bottle while driving and throw it out the window, ensuring that the bottle was quickly drained.
Fort Langley resident Bays Blackhall read a hilarious introduction that he wrote for a cookbook published for Friends of the Fort, which took note of the hard work of pioneers and the slacking of latter generations.
It was also noted by speakers that he “was an activist to the end,” speaking out about the impact the Coulter Berry building would have on his beloved Fort Langley.
Publisher Scott McIntyre wrote that he was “an iconoclast, man of the people and a first class sh*t-disturber. He was the authentic voice of real B.C.ers, and a magician of the language.
The event attracted a full house of family, friends and admirers at Fort Langley Community Hall, and they enjoyed wine, Mexican food and a slide show about his life. Episodes of “Cariboo Country” played on a TV set downstairs.
St. Pierre also had a strong affinity for Mexico, spending up to six months a year in Teacapan in Sinaloa state. He helped establish an eye clinic in the Mexican town and was widely known there as “Loma Loba,” or “The Wolfman,” for his magnificent head of hair and mutton chop sideburns.