Belford Milton Valair, one of the sons of five brothers of an early 1900’s Vernon family, died in Vernon, BC on October 2, 2006 at 87 years of age. He was predeceased by his wife of 45 years, Rose, in 1992. He is survived by his younger brother, Linwood, of Vernon. His other brothers, Franklyn, Randolph and Lionel predeceased him. He leaves behind many nieces, nephews and extended family.
Born in 1919, Belford’s early memories and what he often spoke of, was a childhood spent horseback riding in the hills surrounding the little village of Vernon.
He was raised in a house very near where the Recreation Centre is presently. The creek that now makes a straight path through the Recreation Centre, twisted and curved its way through the Valair property. With a little of the ingenuity for which he was noted, the creek became more than just a means of cooling off. Making due with what was at hand, he and his brothers made an early version of the now popular waterslide. They poured water on a clay bank and slid down it into the creek.
In the winter, recreation was playing hockey on Swan Lake. There was nothing complicated about it, according to Belford. Rules were kept to a minimum. “We’d play until it felt like our lungs were on fire”, he would say, “Then we’d walk home on the railroad tracks”.
Growing up was a lot of fun for Belford, his worries were few, but it was a lot of work, too. His father was a coal and wood dealer; chopping and hauling kept the entire family busy. His father also ran the city pound for all the horses and cattle that people could never seem to keep track of. Until he was nine years old he thought his name was ‘get wood’, not Belford.
His first job outside the family business was on a stock farm, and it’s one he didn’t forget. It was his job to sew the grain sacks as they were filled. For each ten-hour day he worked he received $1.50. Accommodation was ‘first class’ – in any barn that was nearby.
Before World War II, Belford had taken up the plumbing and roofing trade. His first work was at Camp Vernon. During World War II, he served in the 10th Field Squadron in England and the Mediterranean. It is said that nobody appreciates life more than one who has come close to losing it, and Belford was living proof. It was only late in life that we found out that he spent six months in hospital after being injured in Italy.
He was in Europe for 5 years. When he returned from the war, he and his brother Randolph, went to work in the plumbing, heating and roofing at Bennett’s store. One of the stories he told was an incident that got Premier W.A.C. Bennett into political hot water. He and his brother successfully bid on several school board contracts without Premier Bennett’s knowledge, since he kept politics and business separate. But when the contracts were mentioned in the house, the
Premier asked them to stop bidding. Several years later,
Belford and two other brothers, Randolph and Franklyn went independent and bought Bertelsen Plumbing and Heating. He worked on Orchard Park Shopping Mall in Kelowna, Vernon Jubilee Hospital, residential homes in Vernon, Pulp Mills in Kamloops, and schools throughout the Okanagan.
You could say Belford had a feisty personality. He always
studied human foibles and had a humorous way about him. ‘Hard work and being fair’ were Belford’s philosophies. Forgetting and forgiving is a lesson he learned early in life. As a child, if two of his brothers got in a row, his father would clear the kitchen of furniture and his mother would shut herself in the pantry and they would go at it until it was over. Then they would move the furniture back and his mother would put dinner on the table. Whatever they had been fighting about wouldn’t be mentioned again.
Belford was involved in local politics and served on Coldstream council from 1976 until the early 1980’s. He had always been interested in city affairs and enjoyed being an Alderman. He was on the Public Works Committee, the Parks & Recreation Committee, the Planning & Development Committee, the Library and the Fringe Committee. He gave it up to care for his ailing wife.
Belford always had an interesting story of early years in Vernon. He was born here and never lived anywhere else. Belford’s memories spanned a time in the city’s life and composition that none of us can really imagine, and he traced the ‘growing up and getting bigger’ changes. He was definitely a part of it, over a period of 87 years.
We have happy memories of “Uncle Bel”. We spent many summer days at his home on Kal Lake – swimming, boating and water skiing. Belford also skied with us at Silver Star. He and Randolph moved and rebuilt our cabin on the mountain in 1986.
Goodbye Belford. We will always remember you. May the grass be green and the trail be gentle. Have a safe journey.
~ Stuart, Margaret and Janet.
No funeral will be held as per Belford’s request.
Cremation arrangements were made with
BETHEL FUNERAL CHAPEL LTD.
5605-27th Street, Vernon, B.C. V1T 8Z5 (250) 542-1187