By Jennifer CroninFree Press Staff
Rick was born in 1934 in Victoria B.C. His father, an Anglican Minister relocated the family when he accepted a position in Fernie.
It was in 1952 that Rick met his wife to be, Patricia Quail at the Fernie swimming pool. He remained in Fernie for one year before leaving for Royal Military College in Ontario where he studied engineering and arts, at the end of which he returned to Fernie.
Rick and Patricia then relocated to Vancouver where Patricia trained as a nurse at Vancouver General Hospital and Rick interviewed for a position as a guard at the Oakalla Prison Farm.
In the course of the interview, the warden asked what Rick wanted to do with his life, to which he responded, “go to university.” The warden advised Rick to let him know when he wanted to start and they would arrange his schedule accordingly.
Two years later, Rick was ready to go back to school, and was put on steady graveyard shifts, which he continued to do for two years, while attending full-time university.
Rick and Patricia were married in Fernie, in a ceremony performed by his father, in 1956.
Upon completion of his degree (less one course), Rick elected to move into the area of probation, and when asked where he might like to work, he requested and received a post in the Kootenays, living in Kimberley and working out of the Cranbrook office. Rick then transferred to the Ministry of Social Services and relocated to Fernie where he would be the only social worker at the time, servicing a caseload of 440 clients.
During this time, he was part of the Michel-Natal relocation committee, being sure each of his clients had a plan in place to ensure a seamless transition. He would remain in this position for 28 years, retiring in 1991.
“’It was a family tradition that the eldest son either go into the military or the priesthood. I did neither,” Rick shared.
When asked his impression of Fernie, when he arrived, Rick shares that it was “a small peaceful community.”
Rick and Patricia were blessed with three daughters: Laurie, Colleen and Judy.
From 1974 to 1993 Rick served several terms as an Alderman for the City of Fernie, during which time he represented the City on the East Kootenay Union Board of Health and also the Fernie Hospital Board. In the 1960s and 70s he was also a member of the Board of Fernie Snow Valley for 15 years, serving one term each of Vice President and President. He was also on the original board of the Tom Uphill home.
As a member of the Anglican Church for over 40 years, Rick is a licensed lay minister, and has served as the church warden and parish treasurer.
Rick and Patricia lost their daughter Laurie in 2006, and Patricia lost her battle with declining health in 2008.
At the age of 80, there is no sign of Rick slowing down. He continues his involvement with the Fernie Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion where he has been an active member for 43 years. Most recently his energy and time has been spent working with the Fernie Heritage Cemetery Restoration Society; a committee dedicated to cleaning up the old cemetery, clearing brush, cleaning and photographing headstones as well as remapping the cemetery.
Of Fernie, Rick feels that the town is a lot livelier now, and in some ways, it is a lot deader. In the downtown core, the stores used to all be occupied, and now there are a lot of empty shops which may be attributable to the high cost of rent.
He echoes sentiments we have heard before in saying “Young people can’t afford to live here anymore.”
These days, when not volunteering, you may find Rick having coffee at A&W, socializing at the Seniors Drop In Centre, reading, or at his computer.
As a gentleman, who quietly and tirelessly continues to serve our community, Rick Yerburgh is a humble “face of the Valley.”