Hope Crime Prevention Society volunteer, Agnes Louise Furness, who also goes by Louise Marlatt is a force to be reckoned with, and at 90 years old, she remains an unshakable presence in keeping the Othello Tunnels safe and secure from criminals.
The Dogwood Valley resident was born on November 27, 1924 in Chilliwack and was raised in Hope. The lifelong waitress and cook by profession, raised a family of nine with her husband Roy, who passed away some time ago.
The volunteer of 15 years, started with Hope Crime Prevention at 75 and never looked back.
“We’ve done a lot of good work over the years in crime prevention, while keeping people from doing things they shouldn’t be doing,” she told The Hope Standard. “We usually go out in pairs for patrol — there is night work and speed watch.”
Othello Tunnels remains a prized location for the District of Hope, where tourists from around the world congregate for a glimpse of the location that made Sylvester Stallone famous in his role as John Rambo in First Blood.
The location, officially known as Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park is an exemplary accomplishment of the Kettle Valley Railway. Built somewhere in the vicinity of 1911 to 1916, the five tunnels wind through granite and treacherous canyon, providing some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
Along with the phenomenal view, the Tunnels once provided a great crime opportunity, until volunteers like Louise, hopped on board and took a stance to prevent crime at the beautiful location.
Vehicles were often in danger from thieves, as tourists vacated them to tour the site, but this behaviour quickly came to halt with Louise on the job.
“I was just sitting around and talking to people from all over the world and keeping an eye on the cars,” she said. “If there was someone breaking in, we called RCMP on the radio and that put a stop to it.”
The fearless and highly respected volunteer would perform Lock Out Auto Crime by leaving crime prevention notices on cars to remind owners to conceal valuables from plain view.
“The criminals never knew if we were going to be there,” she said of preventing crime at the location, citing confusion, as the number one cause in crime prevention at the Tunnels.
Louise has volunteered countless hours of the years, and works in the Hope Crime Prevention office on Wednesdays, but her main passion is being in the field, where she can keep an eye on things.
“You never know what you’re going to find in cars — you look in there and watch for for things that criminals would be interested in,” she said. “One day we saw a convertible with the top down and there was a vehicle with a roll of coins in it, and someone left both car doors open once.”
Fighting crime at the Tunnels has given Louise a sense of purpose, as she has been both guide and ambassador to the thousands of tourists that fly in from around the world to witness the majestic site.
“You never know who you’re going to meet — I’ve met people who flew in from Australia just to see the Tunnels.”
According to the crime fighting Matriarch, the Tunnels used to be rife with criminal activity and up to 12 cars were broken into on any given day.
“It was a lot of organized crime from down the valley,” she said.
Undaunted, the advocate of women in crime fighting and prevention was recruited to the task at a food fair arena 15 years ago, and found a new calling in life. No stranger to a challenge, Louise rolled up her sleeves, dug in and dedicated her time to preserving the integrity of the Tunnels with other volunteers.
“You’ve got to keep your eyes open to everything, and I enjoyed it,” she said. It gets you in with the RCMP and is great if you have extra time on your hands. There are times when you can be a help and you don’t even realize the impact of that.”
The 90 year old enjoys reading in her down time, yellow roses, and spending time with her cat Lucky and her eight chickens. She advises to keep moving, and keep engaged, whether it be through social clubs like the Golden Agers or getting to a fitness class.
“I like to go in and help out — I go into the office and answer the phones and I can help you if I’m there,” she said. “I will do this as long as I’m able to.”
Hope Crime Prevention Society is currently seeking new members, as new initiatives in the District of Hope are underway to keep the community safe and secure.