A newly dedicated bench in Youbou’s Price Park marks the spot where George DeLure and Bill Gibson spent hours together throughout much of their remarkable 20-year friendship, during which time they contributed much to the Cowichan Lake community.
DeLure died in December 2018, but Gibson has the honour of sitting on the bench named for himself and a friend he says was more of a “brother.”
“Normally, if you see a name on a bench, it refers to you in the past tense,” Gibson noted as he stood at the bench along with DeLure’s daughters, Laurie-Ann DeLure-Savage and Maxine Frazer, and Area I director Klaus Kuhn. “I’m happy to say I’m still here to speak on behalf of myself and my friend George.”
DeLure and Gibson enjoyed a 20-year friendship, Gibson said, that began in 1998 after both men retired from the forest industry. They spent much of that time on projects dedicated toward conservation in the Cowichan Lake area.
“He just loved this area,” Gibson said. “He realized Cowichan Lake was a gift of nature, and we did everything we could to maintain this place, doing stewardship activity to keep this place as pristine as we could.”
DeLure and Gibson were involved with the Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society from 2002 to 2007. During that time they made contact with the BC Lake Stewardship Society and started a program of regular monitoring of Cowichan Lake’s water clarity, temperature and dissolved oxygen content. They remained involved in that program until 2016, when the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society took over.
DeLure and Gibson helped create the CLRSS in 2009 along with the late Gerald Thom, who joined the lake monitoring program around 2007, with Kuhn’s assistance.
“Both George and myself realized that Gerald had the passion and drive to be the president of the newly formed stewardship society in 2011,” Gibson recalled. “With Gerald as the new president, George and I gladly morphed our stewardship activities under the newly formed stewardship society.”
It was under the CLRSS, with the assistance of Thom, Gord Davidson and Rob Somers, that DeLure and Gibson embarked on a six-year project beginning in 2011 to identify and mark more than 50 important fish-bearing streams around Cowichan Lake.
Both DeLure and Gibson were also involved in Lake Cowichan’s Kaatza Museum. Gibson has written several books about the history of logging in the area, while DeLure guided the restoration of a Cummins diesel engine used by early loggers that has been on permanent display outside the museum since 2012.
Both men were members of the Area I Advisory Planning Commission, which is how Kuhn got to know DeLure.
“What I found most remarkable about George was his way of reasoning and his judgment,” Kuhn said. “He was a very successful businessman. For years he was a member of the Area I Advisory Planning Commission, where we all benefitted from his wisdom and his balanced view. He was also a very generous individual, having assisted many individuals and families in need with money.”
The true extent of DeLure’s involvement and generosity may never be known, as he preferred to keep a lot of his good deeds secret.
“He helped a lot of people in need and he didn’t want it to be known that he was the one doing it,” Gibson commented.
DeLure-Savage agreed with that statement.
“He wanted to do things for the community, but he didn’t want recognition for it,” she said. “It was something he always believed in because of the way he grew up. His family struggled a lot when he was young.”
Gibson still seeks direction from DeLure’s moral compass.
“To me, George had a very strong moral code,” Gibson said. “I used to ask myself, ‘What would George do?’ in a situation; he would always do the right thing.”
DeLure-Savage remembered a saying her father was fond of: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
DeLure and Gibson hiked the West Coast Trail together when they turned 70 in 2008, then hiked the Nootka Trail in 2011 after DeLure won his first battle with cancer. As part of their training, they repeatedly hiked the Mount Good trail above Cowichan Lake together, in the process cleaning it of Scotch broom and making it usable again.
The location for the bench in Price Park is very special, Gibson noted. In the fall of 2018, about two months before DeLure died, he drove up from Duncan, stopped at Tim Hortons in Lake Cowichan for donuts and coffee, and joined George at Price Park, where they sat on the beach not far from where the bench now sits.
“That ended up being almost the last time we spent together,” Gibson recalled.