Larry Brewster

January 2, 1944 – May 9, 2022
Larry Brewster died peacefully in his sleep on May 9 2022 at the Creekside Care home in Vernon. Larry was born Jan 2, 1944, in Winnipeg and immediately dropped into a garbage can in a back alley. Luckily for all of us that loved Larry, he was found just in time by a passerby dirty and cold, but alive. Not a great start in life but Larry was a survivor.
Larry was adopted out to his parents and life was good for many years that included being in Castlegar during the great flood of 1948 where at 4 years old he watched his house float away down the river.
As a young teen Larry moved to Vancouver with his adopted parents and ended up living with his father only. He was once again abandoned, this time in an east end hotel room. Not to be deterred, he soldiered on to do what it took to survive. A family of one of his close buddies took him in.
He delivered newspapers, worked in gas stations, and many other odd jobs. After working full time for Econo Gas during the day, he also worked evenings at a Shell station, to save money for a down payment to buy a house.
Larry worked his way up to being the agent and operator of 3 Shell stations in the Vancouver area. In 1968 Larry started with his first Shell station. It was claimed to be the first self-serve gas station to open in Canada. Esso had the second in 1970 in Toronto. Shell could not find anyone to take the business on because it was a new and untested concept. But a young eager 24-year-old Larry jumped on it. Everyone told him it would never be successful. No one will buy gas from you if they must pump their own.
Larry was not deterred and look how we all buy gas now.
That Shell became one of the highest gas pumpers in Canada and changed the way we buy gas. Larry married and was blessed with two boys, Aaron and Andrew, who he loved to take into the outdoors and enjoyed canoe trips and hiking, some as far as the Yukon. The recession of 1982 was a difficult time to be self-employed and Larry gave up the Shell’s and move to the Sunshine coast, to take a life break and work for Pender Harbor diesel twisting wrenches in the shop.
After a few years doing that, he decided he always loved the Okanagan and made the decision to move there. It was 1987 and Larry came through my front door of the Mohawk gas station I was running and handed me a resume that I thought for sure was exaggerated. No one could have that much experience. But his smiling face and happy positive attitude led me to hire him regardless of what I thought was an embellished resume, which it turned out not to be.
That turned into 25 years of fun. One thing we who worked alongside of Larry all agree upon, was that there never a dull day if you had the privilege of working with this cheerful, outgoing happy man. After 4 years with Mohawk, I was lucky enough to have Larry come with me as my assistant manager to run the Esso in Vernon. The first 5 years with pumps, store and the service bays.
Larry loved working in the service bays with the two mechanics Reg and Jack. The store was rebuilt in 1996 with a self-serve Tim Hortons and this is where Larry really shined. Larry loved the Tim’s part of the business as anyone who came in the store could tell. He worked until retirement in 2016.
For 25 years Larry opened the store at 5 am, not only never missing even one day of work in those 25 years, but never opening the doors late, not even once. People like Larry, with that work ethic, are extremely rare today. Larry would arrive between 3:30 and 4 am and if you were on Larry’s A- list, a knock on the window before the 5 am opening time got you a bright infectious smile and, in the door, to get your Timmie’s. If you wanted to stay for a while and bs that was even better. Larry was the face of the Vernon Esso. If he could make you happy, then he was happy.
A large part of the success of the Vernon Esso during those 25 years is owed to Larry with his management and marketing experience, work ethic, and leadership he provided to all the great people he trained and worked alongside. And of course, that smile. He was an important happy start to many people’s day. In many cases more so than the coffee.
He enjoyed working Tues to Sunday so he could have Mondays and Tuesdays off to enjoy his favorite pass times after the weekend warriors had left. Larry loved kayaking on Kal Lake, fishing the Dee Lake chain, hiking, or biking anywhere and cross-country skiing at Silver Star.
Many trail grooming snow cat operators would have to dodge Larry skiing out in the dark on the trails at 6am. Larry liked to get an early start. At 65, Larry’s doctor told him he had the fitness and health of a 30 year old.
Sadly, dementia stripped Larry of the years of retirement he deserved after overcoming so many difficult obstacles in his early years of life.
Larry is survived by his two sons, one grandchild, many workmates and 100’s of morning coffee customers all of which he considered friends. Many thanks to Doctor Chris Cunningham and all the staff at Creekside for caring for this great guy.
To the hundreds of people that had their day brightened by Larry’s permanent smile, if you are having a bad day, think of that smile. When you tip your morning Tim’s coffee back, think of that smile. If you are out fishing, kayaking or cross-country skiing and it’s not a great day, think of that smile. That will make Larry happy and keep him smiling as he watches down on us from a lake or a mountain or a ski trail somewhere above.

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