Longterm employees honored by Canfor-Vavenby

Steve Coburn, Percy Shymkiw, plus the late Garry Ruston recognized for more than four decades of service

The late Garry Ruston worked 43 1/2 years as a millwright at local sawmills. The chief of Blackpool Fire Department and Clearwater and District Highway Rescue passed away on Jan. 11.

The late Garry Ruston worked 43 1/2 years as a millwright at local sawmills. The chief of Blackpool Fire Department and Clearwater and District Highway Rescue passed away on Jan. 11.

Canfor-Vavenby is honoring two of its employees, Steven Coburn and Percy Shymkiw, who have worked at the mill for 45 years.

Coburn worked his last day on Jan. 16 before commencing his retirement. Shymkiw has indicated he will continue working until July of 2015.

The company also congratulates Coburn for 45 years and Shymkiw for 43 years with clean safety records of no recordable incidents.

Both employees have seen many changes over their careers in the way lumber is processed. It is a lot faster now, with many automations.

PercyShymkiwShymkiw began with Clearwater Timber Products in October, 1968. He worked 29 days in Vavenby before it shut down and then he began in Clearwater.

Coburn’s first day was Jan 14, 1969. They worked at the DIM mill, which is where they sawed all the burned wood from a wildfire, before moving over to Camp 2. At the DIMSteve Coburn mill, wood scraps were thrown into a big open pits that you had to be careful you didn’t fall into. Loaders came to clean the pits out and take the material to a burn pile.

At Camp 2, they both remember pulling lumber off the green chain and piling it, usually three boards thick. Coburn worked on the cut off saw and scragg saw and Shymkiw worked on the vertical resaw during their time at Clearwater Timber Products.

Shymkiw recalls the starting wage in 1968 to be $ 2.62 per hour. Coburn recalls there was a high turnover of employees there.

Shymkiw was on the Safety Committee for five years. Safety was different then – they recall “Do not start” signs put by the controls of a machine if it was down for repair, not lock-outs like today. Precautions included installing guarding and watching out for snow falling off roofs, etc. Percy says there weren’t any fatalities but two employees each did lose a finger.

In 1987 Camp 2 was shut down and the employees moved to Vavenby. Since 1988 Percy has been running the edger in the sawmill and Steve has operated the canter since 1989.

During the indefinite shutdown of the mill that started in 2009, both Percy and Steve worked as watchmen until the mill restarted in 2011.

During their 45 years they have both raised families in Clearwater, and are now enjoying their time with their grandchildren. Shymkiw likes to restore old cars and is a member of the Vintage Car Club of Canada and the Model A Club of America. He attends swap meets where you can buy/sell car parts in different parts of B.C. when he is not busy working.

Coburn hopes to do some travelling in his retirement, spend some time fishing and do some renovations on his house.

Long service employee passes away

Canfor would also like to honor another long service employee, Garry Ruston, who sadly passed away on Jan. 11, 2014.

Ruston was a certified millwright and has worked at the operation for the past 43½ years.

He led and trained the mill fire brigade for many years and served on the apprenticeship selection committee.

The longterm millwright’s extensive knowledge of the mill, his skill at troubleshooting and his willingness to pass along his knowledge to less experienced millwrights and apprentices was greatly appreciated.


Ruston will be greatly missed by all his coworkers at the mill and their condolences go out to his wife, Sharon and his family.