Vavenby lost a man of many talents when long time resident Ernest “Ernie” Otto Graffunder passed away at Forestview in Clearwater, on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.
He was born on Oct. 18, 1926, in Jasper, Alberta, to Margaret Anna Theresa Stutz of Linz, Austria, and to Karl Herman Graffunder of Berlin, Germany. Margaret Stutz went to school with Adolf Hitler!
Ernie was the sixth child to be born into the family with four more to follow. It was a large, loving family of six girls and four boys. One of the boys, Hans, was killed in World War Two. He was buried in Belgium.
When Karl arrived in Canada in 1916 he went to work for the Hudson Bay Company. Then he worked for the Canadian National Railway. Ernie said, “My dad was a business man and not meant to be a labourer.” His dad was an accountant.
The family lived in Lucerne at the station house where Karl was section foreman for the railway.
Then, when Ernie was still a baby, they travelled by train in the boxcar with all their belongings and their milk cow to the station house in Vavenby.
Ernie, his brothers and sisters, and a few others attended the school there. Ernie stayed in school in Vavenby to Grade 8.
The family moved to the Peavine Ranch, down by the North Thompson River, after Karl passed away. Karl had built it there. It was originally a construction site. It is now owned by Bernie Graffunder, who still calls it the Peavine Ranch.
Ernie had left school early to help support the family. As a teenager and into his early 20’s he cut poles for the Clearwater Forest Service. He gave his pay cheques to his mother. He also helped on the family farm doing gardening, haying, raising pigs, cows, etc.
Ernie met his wife Helen Hansen at the Clearwater Timber Products (CTP) cookhouse. She had moved to the area with her parents from Princeton, B.C. Helen was a waitress at the cookhouse and Ernie would sometimes stop in for a meal.
They married in 1953 when Ernie was 27 years old. He had a family home built on property that he bought on Peavine Road and he developed his own ranch on this land. He also built a mobile home park on this road and there was the family farm that he continued to work on. Helen and Ernie had four children, three boys and one girl.
Ernie was involved in many occupations and jobs and was always busy. He had his own woodlot, mining claims, traplines, a tour bus company, beekeeping and making his own honey, an accomplished hunter, and was an excellent mechanic and welder which he needed for keeping his D8 Cats in working order.
For Clearwater Forest Service he was an air observer, had a pack train of horses, was the coordinator for forest fires, etc.
For CTP he was a timber cruiser, lumber buyer, and logger. Eventually he was the bush foreman, which became his full-time job for many years.
When asked what his favourite jobs were he listed packing with his pack train of horses, cruising timber, timber buyer, logging, air observer, and his love of gardening.
Ernie believed education was very important and would have continued if he could have. He taught himself to read and write well. Daughter Sandra said, “As a child Dad was always the one to help me do my homework – my reading, writing, math, reciting poetry, etc. We didn’t have a TV until later years.‚”
Ernie believed that it was important to learn something new every day. He was a school board trustee for nearly 30 years.
In his free time Ernie like to camp and fish. He loved northern B.C. and the Yukon. He stocked McCorvie Lake with trout. He also loved to spend time with his family. When he couldn’t get around very well Ernie wrote a book of his memoirs.
Ernie’s memorial service, held on Nov. 7, 2015, at the Vavenby Community Hall, was unique.
His cremated remains were brought to the hall on a four-horse pack train. Cups of tea and cookies were handed out to the large number of friends and relatives present. Ernie loved having a cup of tea and cookies.
Roxie Smid gave a beautiful toast. Paul Dohms officiated at the service and read the poem You Must Not Quit. Valerie and John Gerber sang In the Garden and Danny Boy. Roxie Smid read the heart-felt eulogy that Sandra had written. As Sandra wrote, “It will be hard to forget this man that gave us so much to remember.‚”
Ernie’s younger sister, Margaret Lestander, laughingly commented, “He was a real brat. And he could be quite wild at times.‚”