Willard MILES

Growing up in Mission, BC during the 1920s, Fraser never knew anything but poverty. There was no social stigma to being poor – most of his neighbours were not much better off – and his youth was filled with beachcombing, cougar hunting, and whatever adventures could be found in the rugged milieu along the river. In his late teens Fraser began to look for a way to finance a career in the growing field of radio electronics. Not long after Lady Luck landed him the job of maritime radio operator on the Ruth B, “Sparky” noticed that the alleged fishpacker was packing anything but fish. These were the Prohibition years; there was less money in freezing herring than there was in smuggling booze to the thirsty multitudes south of the border. Slow Boat on Rum Row, Fraser’s autobiographical memoir of his youth in Mission and his years on the rum boats, was published in 1992 (Harbour Publishing). Fraser made enough money from rum running to enroll in college in the U.S., and ultimately attended the University of Michigan, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering. With the outbreak of WWII, Fraser enlisted in the RCAF and again resumed his familiar duties as a radio operator. His squadron was posted to The Gambia, where it flew anti-submarine patrols off the coast of West Africa. His most harrowing wartime experience did not involve combat, but instead a rather too-close encounter with a hungry African crocodile that turned a relaxing swim into an aquatic duel of Olympic proportions. Following the war, Fraser successfully resumed his engineering career. For many years, Fraser was the General Manager of International Power & Engineering Corp. (IPEC), and he served as Assistant General Manager (Engineering) of the BC Hydro and Power Authority, working on projects such as the W.A.C. Bennett Dam on the Peace River. Fraser’s early attraction to the outdoors stuck, and he remained an avid hiker, skier, and sailor well into his eighties. A former winner of the Sun newspaper’s annual salmon derby, Fraser named the first-prize boat the “Holy Roller”, and retired his winning rod to a place of honor behind his desk. He loved the coastal life, and treasured time at his cabin in Secret Cove, where he introduced three generations of family to the joys of the outdoors. A consummate audiophile and camera buff, Fraser will no doubt be fondly remembered by the sales staff of A&B Sound and Kerrisdale Camera, where he amassed a prodigious collection of records and photographic gadgetry. Throughout his life, Fraser cut, hauled, and split his own firewood by hand, and the crackling of an evening blaze to accompany his favorite Opera selections was a nightly ritual. Fraser was never an intellectual slacker. He nurtured a keen interest in learning throughout his life, taking on studies of Spanish, various periods in history, economics, botany, and even global climate change. The workshop was also a place of satisfaction for Fraser, where there always seemed to be a boat under perpetual construction. If Fraser had lived 4,000 years ago, the pyramids would have been built with marine plywood and plenty of brass screws. His use of ropes, pulleys, levers, and inventiveness was probably inspiration for Rube Goldberg. Fraser was very fond of getting away to warmer climates when it was cold at home. He always had a plan for a new trip south, on the water, in the back of his mind. His ideal was a ‘bare-foot’ cruise with lots of warm ocean, bright sunshine, big sails and room to move. Fraser cherished his independence and enjoyed quiet solitude. Many thanks to the citizens of Hope, BC – especially the crew at Rolly’s Restaurant and Louise Anderson in particular, the staff of Fraser Health and Glenwood Care Centre – for helping to allow Fraser to receive these gifts into his nineties. Fraser is survived by his first wife, Jean, former wife Margaret, four sons, Bill (Margaret), Bob, Jack (former wife Jean), Jim (Glenna), stepson Adrien (Marie), grandchildren Jennifer (Dan), Brian (Becky), Carli, Wesley, Kandice (Leo), Brook (Sayo), Emilie, and Martin. Great-grandchildren Colin and Jared, Bailee and Levi, Elizabeth, Ben, and Bella.

Comments are closed