It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Neil Anderson Davidson of Vernon on January 16, 2010, at the age of 93. He passed peacefully, surrounded by family and friends. He was born February 23, 1916 in Stettler Alberta and moved to the North Okanagan in the 1920s, where the family operated a large sheep operation near Okanagan Lake for over 40 years. The family was also very involved in the musical community. Neil played cello in the local orchestra. He was predeceased by his wife Isabel in 2001, and his brothers Bruce and Allan. He will be fondly remembered by his sister Norah Foord of Vernon, his children Diane Beaumont, Barbara Davidson, Margaret Newell and Gordon Davidson, 14 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
Mr. Davidson left Vernon to attend Law School at the University of Alberta where he met his wife-to-be Isabel Stanley, while both playing lead roles in a university operetta production. Subsequent to serving in the Air Force during the Second World War, he returned to Vernon to become an associate of Charles W. Morrow, MLA, in 1946. With the acquisition of another partner, the late Honourable Mr. Justice Peter D. Seaton, the firm became Morrow, Davidson and Seaton in 1950, and subsequently Davidson and Company. In 1969 he was awarded the Queen’s Counsel (QC) honour.
Mr. Davidson was Special Counsel to the Morrow Commission during 1969 and 1970, which examined provincial law pertaining to liquor matters and was subsequently appointed to the position of chairman of B.C. Liquor Board during the years of 1974 to 1977. In 1993 Mr. Davidson received the Charles Goyer Memorial award from the BC branch of the Canadian Bar Association, honouring his contribution to the profession of law as well as to his community. In 1990 he was nominated as an honourary member of the Vernon Bar Association. At the international level, Mr. Davidson served as a legal consultant to Guatemala in 1985 and Antigua in 1986, through Canadian Executive Services Overseas (CESO). He retired as the senior partner of Davidson and Company in 1988. As a lawyer he was not afraid to challenge anyone or any institution, often representing the “small guy”. He served informally as a mentor to many younger lawyers in the community.
As a tireless community leader, Mr. Davidson served his community through his role as Mayor of Vernon between 1979 and 1981. He was also the chairman or president of numerous North Okanagan organizations and director of many others including the Silver Star Park Board, Water Conservation Board, Social Planning Council, Chamber of Commerce, Hospital Fundraising Committee, Community Music School, Kalamalka Country Club, and Vernon Golf and Country Club. He was the fundraising chair of the People Place as well as honourary fundraising chair of the United Way. He also served on the advisory board of the Interior Broadcasters Ltd.
Mr. Davidson was passionate about, and instrumental in bringing post secondary education to the North Okanagan. He founded the Concerned Citizens for College Education in the 1960s and sat on the Okanagan College Advisory Committee (Kalamalka Campus) between 1985 and 1991. He also sat as a member of the Senate of the University of BC, Vancouver, between 1988 and 1993.
In 1989 he received Vernon’s Most Valuable Person Award, and two Confederation medals for distinguished service to the country. In 1991 he was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship award in the Rotary Club organization. In 1997, Mr. Davidson received Vernon’s highest, award, that of the Keys to the City. In 2003 he received two Queen Elizabeth Jubilee awards for contribution to the country.
As a sportsman, Neil was a die-hard ski jumper and track athlete as a local teen in the 1930s. In the late 1950’s he was a founding owner and director of Silver Star Ski Area, continuing in this role for over 25 years. He was a legendary powder and heli-skier and has a run named in his honour at Silver Star (Davidson’s Delight) on the “back side”, for which he was a primary visionary. He also competed at the national level in Masters tennis.
As busy as he was, Neil always seemed to have time to tell one his hundreds of jokes to his many friends. As a father he was loving, firm, an unfortunately effective and articulate cross examiner, and taught his children by example. Ever interested in people, respectful, and as generous as he was with his praise, he could be equally challenging towards others if he felt it necessary.
Neil’s family extends heartfelt thanks to Cottage 4 staff at Heron Grove Good Samaritan Home, Dr. Ross Waldron for his skilful and compassionate care, and to Bernice Kjelgren, his loving caregiver. A Celebration of Life will be held at Paddlewheel Park, 7801 OK Landing Road, on Saturday, January 23, at 3.30 pm
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Neil Davidson can be made to Heron Grove, Cottage 4, Good Samaritan Home, #408, 4904 20th Street, Vernon, VIT 9W3. Those who wish to write a tribute, tell a story or send a picture of Neil, or find out more about his life can do so at NeilDavidsonTributes.wordpress.com.