Member of pioneer family passes: Richard Trethewey

A member of one of Abbotsford’s most prominent pioneer families, Richard Trethewey, passed away on March 19, at the age of 89.

Renowned businessman and conservationist

Renowned businessman and conservationist

A member of one of Abbotsford’s most prominent pioneer families, Richard Trethewey, passed away on March 19, at the age of 89.

The Trethewey family moved to Abbotsford from Haney in 1927, four years after Richard’s birth. His father Joseph Edgar took over management of his father’s mill, the Abbotsford Lumber Company, on Mill Lake.

Richard was the oldest of five children born to mother Margaret. He was well known during the 1960s and 1970s for operating local business Celwood Industries with two of his brothers, Alan and Bill. He was instrumental in building a Canada-wide distribution network for windows manufactured by Celwood, followed by folding doors and high-end kitchen cabinets. The company became a significant business and employer, with a 90,000-square-foot manufacturing plant on the Abbotsford-Mission Highway.

Later in life, Richard was prominent for his nationwide conservation efforts for wetlands and waterfowl, working for Ducks Unlimited (DU). His brother J.O. said his earliest memories of Richard, who was nine years his senior, are of Richard’s boyhood collection of wild birds eggs.

Richard first brought the dinner/auction fundraising functions to western Canada, that had previously been organized by DU only in U.S. cities. He organized auction committees in Abbotsford and across Western Canada, and helped DU build a fundraising program that now raises millions of dollars annually.

He created a unique fundraising idea which resulted in a six-figure revenue for DU:  a leather-bound art folio containing 44 limited edition prints, with a custom container box. He travelled the world to seek the generosity of many high-profile artists to donate the artworks, and arranged for Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, to provide the foreword.

“He always thought big,” said J.O.

For Richard’s retirement from DU activities at the age of 80, he organized a dinner/auction that netted $120,000.

He was also active with Delta Waterfowl and B.C. Wildlife Federation.

Richard served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War and in peacetime, achieving the rank of flight lieutenant.

He was also a partner with brother Alan in Trethewey Logging Company, Port Douglas of Harrison Lake, which ultimately became the third largest forestry company in British Columbia.

When he retired from the family business interests, he returned to Haney, acquiring ownership of Coniagas Ranch, the original family farm.

He actively farmed 240 acres, specializing in strawberries, raspberies and blueberries, becoming a major producer.

With wife Leslie, he raised three children: Geoffrey, Gail and Sharon.

J.O. said his brother maintained good health through most of his life, but finally succumbed to cancer.

His family will host a celebration of life at Meadow Gardens Golf Club, 19675 Meadow Gardens Way, Pitt Meadows on April 5 from 2 to 4 p.m.