Ernie Poignant (front, with wife Rose and son Gary) is surrounded by family and friends at his 100th birthday celebration held Sunday at Grace Church in Abbotsford. (Submitted photo)

Abbotsford historian and cartoonist Ernie Poignant turns 100

Born Feb. 4, 1919 in farmhouse in Ridgedale area of Matsqui

Well-known local cartoonist and historian Ernie Poignant celebrated his 100th birthday on Feb. 4.

A celebration attended by more than 75 family members and friends was held at Grace Evangelical Bible Church.

Relatives from as far away as Newfoundland and Oregon travelled to Abbotsford for the three-hour open house, which took place on Sunday – Poignant’s last day as a 99-year-old.

Poignant sketched a cartoon on a homemade greeting card in the Grace Church auditorium and thanked everyone for braving the winter storm to attend his party. The sharp-minded senior, seated next to his wife, Rose, then said, “I’m so glad I’ve still got my drawing. It saved me from climbing the walls at the hospital.”

(Due to a severe bout of the flu, Poignant spent 38 days at Abbotsford Regional Hospital in December and January.)

Among the notables attending Poignant’s party were Cyril Holbrow, a decorated World War Two veteran and former school classmate, and Graham Harrop, editorial cartoonist for the Vancouver Sun.

Also at the event was Poignant’s longtime pal, 100-year-old Gordie Ladd, the grandfather of two-time Stanley Cup champion Andrew Ladd of Maple Ridge.

A six-minute slide and video show was played, highlighting his remarkable life from his birth in his parents’ farmhouse in the Scandinavian community of Ridgedale in north Matsqui (which later amalgamated with Abbotsford) on Feb.4, 1919.

Poignant, who first began cartooning as a young boy after his Swedish-born grandmother drew a stickman, turned his hobby into a lifelong passion.

His first cartoon was published in Canadian Poultry magazine in 1940. He also had cartoons appear in military publications while he served at various Canadian bases – including the Abbotsford Airport – during the Second World War.

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Poignant moved to Quesnel in the early 1950s, where he worked as a compositor – and editorial cartoonist – for the weekly Observer. There, he met Rose and both children – Val and Gary – were born in Quesnel.

The family moved to Maple Ridge in 1958, when Poignant assumed a similar role with the Maple Ridge Gazette as compositor and editorial cartoonist until he retired in 1984.

“But then I became busier than ever,” Poignant said.

He expanded his series of chalk talk drawings that he had started in the 1960s, and entertained kids at BC Children’s Hospital, Canuck Place and Ronald McDonald House.

Poignant also travelled to Whistler from 1975 to 86 for their Children’s Arts Festival, where he instructed children how to draw cartoons.

After moving back to Abbotsford in 2003, Poignant used his first-hand knowledge and artistic skills to become a celebrated local historian.

From his work as a veteran with the Second World War Memory Project to volunteering on the 150th anniversary of the creation of the territory of British Columbia, Poignant has entertained and educated students at schools around Abbotsford.

His tireless efforts to promote the Abbotsford Arts Council through countless sketches at several venues prompted board members to award him a lifetime achievement award in 2011.

Poignant was also involved in numerous fundraising projects. In 2014, he personally raised more than $8,300 for Abbotsford’s Canuck Place Children’s Hospice through the sale of his second cartoon book – Poignant Moments.

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Ernie Poignant is show here as a boy working on his family’s corn field in Matsqui.

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