OWL firstname.lastname@example.org_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-03-11 published
Kenneth Wilfred CONIBEAR
By Marilyn CONIBEAR Tuesday, March 11, 2003 - Page A16
Canadian pioneer, scholar, writer, teacher, builder. Born August 29, 1907, in Orville, Ontario Died October 4, 2002, in Vancouver, of natural causes, aged 95.
During Ken's "retirement" years, he built, stone by stone, the "Great Wall" of Vancouver on the waterfront behind his home near Jericho Beach. This wall, an unofficial Vancouver landmark, intrigued visitors from around the world who brought or sent stones to be embedded in individual concrete plaques within the wall. From that wall, he invited thousands of visitors to come into his home to share stories and rest a while.
Ken was a man distinguished by intellectual discipline, a love of the language, a respect for all people and the outdoors, as well as personal qualities of patience, kindness, and gentle humour.
His formative years were spent near Fort Resolution on the shores of Great Slave Lake and at Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. He later intrigued his family with tales from as early as 1912, when he remembered vividly taking the train with his mother and four older siblings from Parry Sound, Ontario, to Edmonton, and then taking the last stagecoach from Edmonton to Athabasca Landing. From there they travelled by freight barge along the river and lake systems until they reached their new home, a log cabin at Nagel Snye on Great Slave Lake.
After spending a few years in Fort Resolution, they moved to Fort Smith where his father continued his work as a marine engineer for the Catholic mission on Great Slave Lake and his mother became a respected and successful storekeeper and fur trader.
Ken had little formal education until he went to Edmonton for Grades 11 and 12. He then entered the University of Alberta, and in 1931 won the Alberta Rhodes Scholarship. After completing his English studies at Oxford, he became a writer of Canadian fiction, and had his first of five novels published in 1936 (Northland Footprints)and the last in 2000.
In 1937, Ken was hired by his publisher, Lovat DICKSON/DIXON, to manage Grey OWL's last lecture tour in England. Following the tour, Grey OWL was the best man at Ken's wedding. On the way to the wedding, Lovat DICKSON/DIXON drove the car while Grey OWL and Ken sat in the back seat. Grey OWL threw his arm around Ken's shoulder and said, "Just treat the little lady right, Ken, just treat the little lady right!"
At that point Ken had no idea that Grey OWL was not only not an Indian, but that Grey OWL had five wives and therefore was not exactly qualified to give Ken advice on how to treat his new wife.
Ken returned to the north he loved so much to continue writing about the north and its people and animals, and try to establish a freight business on Great Slave Lake.
He spent several years in the Canadian Navy during the Second World War, had a brief career as executive secretary of the British Columbia Hospitals Association. He was then hired, in 1965, by the newly created Simon Fraser University, at an age, he said, when most people want to retire but when he got the job that he dearly loved.
When he retired from Simon Fraser University (twice) at the ages of 65 and 70, he persuaded the university not to give him a silver tray as a retirement gift, but instead a hand-powered cement mixer. Ken continued his relationship with Simon Fraser University by helping to establish the Simon Fraser University seniors' program and the seniors' Opsimath club until he reached the age of 90 years.
Ken was predeceased by his wife of 50 years, Barbara (née LINKE,) and his son, Peter. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn (ERNEST,) his son John, grandchildren Donald, Tina and Kathy, and six great-grandchildren.
Marilyn CONIBEAR is Kenneth's wife.
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