I’ve always enjoyed bringing visitors to the Island to Chemainus.
It’s a unique community with beautiful murals, the iconic Chemainus Theatre and colourful and friendly mom-and-pop shops all over the downtown core that are a pleasure to visit.
One of my favourite places in Chemainus is Baby Bear’s Ice Cream Shoppe on Willow Street and its hidden garden where I would take visitors to see statues of the three bears from the fairy tales eating ice cream cones.
Almost every time I’ve brought people there, I would be asked to takes pictures of them eating their own ice cream cones with the bears.
That’s why I was more than a little annoyed to watch the surveillance video late last month of the bozo who violently and forcibly kicked the baby bear from its foundation between the two larger ones in the middle of the night then took it away.
The theft didn’t seem at all planned; it looked like the guy just saw it there as he was walking by and decided to take it for some reason.
I could feel the pain and frustration of the ice cream shop owners Kathy Berscheid-Yeager and husband Ward Yeager in their interview with my colleague Don Bodger just after the bear was stolen.
They said they couldn’t replace the bear because of the expense, and the fact that the artist that created them had retired.
Apparently, Ward Yeager had designed the three bears display himself, and picked up each bear from the Oregon-based artist personally as they were created.
“We are tired and done,” Berscheid-Yeager sadly said in the interview.
I recall that same sense of irritation and disheartenment last March when I visited Liz Fincham and Jeff Knadle, the owners of Magpies Antiques and Gifts which is also on Willow Street, after their store had been broken into and more than $30,000 worth of jewelry was stolen.
“We’re feeling rather gutted and, right now, we just feel like closing the store,” Fincham told me the morning after the break-in as she swept broken glass from the floor.
I don’t know whether Fincham and Knadle recovered any of the items stolen from their store, but at least the tale of the stolen bear seems to have ended well.
After so many break-ins and other criminal activity in their beautiful little town recently, the community in Chemainus seemed to have had enough after the senseless theft of the bear, and finding the carving and its thief became a high priority for many there.
With his face so visible in the widely circulated surveillance video of him stealing the bear, and with angry citizens on the hunt, the culprit was obviously feeling the heat and thought he could just abandon the bear next to a road with a note saying he was sorry and that would be the end of it.
But it appears the police already had a good idea of who he was and, as he was also suspected in a number of other crimes, the RCMP chased him down in a pursuit in Chemainus and arrested him.
His arrest doesn’t solve all the problems of property crimes in Chemainus, but it’s good to see at least one of these sad incidents end so well.
I’m looking forward to visiting Baby Bear’s Ice Cream Shoppe again when the weather turns nice and having an ice cream cone with the three bears.