Former Lake Cowichan Mayor, Earle Darling passed away March 22, 2014 in Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital at the age of 94. Darling will be remembered for the many positive contributions he made during his 11 years in public service in the Cowichan Valley as well as his good work as a member of the local Lions Club, United Church and other community groups.
He was born in Morganston, Ontario in 1920 and moved to Victoria in 1952 with his wife Marjorie and young family. There he owned and managed Victoria Tire for 17 years. He saw the need for a similar operation in Lake Cowichan to help service the town and thriving forest industry, so built Cowichan Tire (now Darling Tire) in 1962 at its present location on South Shore Road.
“He was an absentee owner, until we moved here in 1975,” said son Dave Darling, who now owns and manages Darling Tire with his wife Rose.
Earle joined the Lake Cowichan Lions Club in March, 1976 and became president of that chapter in 1983. If there was an issue or problem that Darling felt was important, he went full steam ahead to find a way to address it. In 1984 he helped incorporate the Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society and also became active in the area of drug and alcohol abuse prevention, becoming chair of the Lion’s District 91 Committee on that subject. He received citations and awards in the mid-80’s from both the Lions Club and School District 66 (the former Lake Cowichan School District) for his volunteer work in that field.
In 1987 he was elected Alderman of the (then) Village of Lake Cowichan and the same year worked to help twin the village with the similarly sized community of Ohtaki, Japan. Simultaneously, he spearheaded a drive to have Lion’s clubs throughout British Columbia help back the “PORT” (Pacific Organ Retrieval for Transplantation) Program, all the while raising funds to build a badly needed extension to the Kaatza Health Centre.
Darling’s many charitable activities and volunteer work did not go unnoticed. A family scrapbook of his career brims with commendations, awards and letters of thanks from numerous community groups, organizations and political dignitaries, from former Vancouver Mayor, Gordon Campbell to former B.C. Premier, Bill Vander Zalm.
“If Dad saw something that needed doing, he just did it,” recalls, son Dave. “He used to call himself “the man who gets things done” and did he ever!”
By 1988, Darling was deputy mayor under then Lake Cowichan Mayor, Don Gordon. There were reciprocal visits with twinned village, Ohtaki; kudos for saving local taxpayers almost $50,000 by fundraising the money for the Kaatza Health Unit Extension, recognition when his Lion’s Club drug and alcohol abuse program went international and tireless efforts to help the local United Church pay off their debts and attain a full-time minister. All this, while spending a three year stint as Chair of the C.V.R.D. and member and chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital Board.
In 1989 he was proclaimed “Citizen of the Year” and in 1990, elected Mayor, a post he held for two terms. In the early 90’s he fundraised to build the Kaatza Day Care, helped find a replacement organ for the Quadra Island United Church, donated numerous pianos to other churches, helped find funds for the village’s new water reservoir and celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Village of Lake Cowichan.
He was still the proud mayor when Lake Cowichan made the transition from village to town status. One of his last official duties before stepping down in 1996 was to sign the lease between Crown Lands and the Town creating the Cowichan Lake Education Centre. On his retirement, he was presented with the town flag and succeeded in his post as mayor, by Jean Brown. Darling and wife Marjorie then moved to Victoria to enjoy their retirement. Marjorie died of cancer in 2002.
Father of four sons, nine grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren, family was always of paramount importance to Darling.
“He was absolutely the doting grandparent and so proud of all his grandkids,” remembers daughter-in-law, Rose Darling.
Although officially retired in Victoria, Darling was far from inactive, spending over 10 years doing hospice and respite care. He visited many patients in their hospital rooms and at extended care facilities.
“He called the extended care places “God’s waiting rooms” said son Dave. “I guess he got called up on March 22.”
A celebration of the life of Earle Darling will be held at St. Aidan’s United Church in Saanich on Saturday, May 31st at 2 p.m.