Ron DeLair (top left, #11) with the 1950 Philip Sheffield High School boys volleyball team. DeLair passed away at the age of 87 on Aug. 12. (The Reach photo)

Abbotsford pioneer Ron DeLair dead at 87

Longtime volunteer and community figure passes away on Aug. 12

Highway drivers can’t miss the Cactus Club Cafe, located just off of Sumas Way in east Abbotsford.

But decades before that area was known as Bakerview Farm and was also the childhood home of a Abbotsford pioneer family – the DeLair’s.

Ron DeLair, one of the patriarch members of the DeLair family, died peacefully in his sleep on Aug. 12 at the age of 87, and his story began back in 1932 when he was born in Abbotsford near that farm on what now is DeLair Road.

Ron was the son of Tom and Daisy DeLair and grew up as one of nine children during the Great Depression on the family’s Sumas area dairy farm. He went on to attend Upper Sumas Elementary and graduated from Philip Sheffield High School in 1950.

Back in 2018 DeLair attended a reunion event celebrating the school called 88 Years at the Same Address. That school is now known as Abbotsford Virtual School, which offers flexible and individualized learning options for all ages.

RELATED: Abbotsford high school celebrates ‘88 Years at the Same Address”

He married Dorothy “Ann” Paul in 1959 and the couple went on to have two children, Lindsay and Drew.

Despite the many years he spent working at the family farm, it wasn’t Ron’s passion as he was more interested in sports, hunting and cars. Ron transitioned into a career working as an auto parts manager and sales rep until he retired in 1992.

The true impact that DeLair left on the community could be felt in the many hours he spent volunteering with Abbotsford groups. He served on the executive board with the Abbotsford Kinsmen Club, the Rod and Gun Club, the Abbotsford Softball Association, the Abbotsford Curling Club and the MSA Minor Hockey Association. He also supported many local charities and coached minor sports teams.

He was also heavily involved in volunteering with local law enforcement. He served five years as a special constable with Matsqui Police Services and 25 years as an RCMP as an auxiliary constable. He also worked as a security volunteer at the Abbotsford 2004 BC Summer Games and 1995 Western Canada Summer Games in Abbotsford.

He went on to serve on the MSA Museum executive and the Sumas Prairie and Area Historical Society. He was involved in the writing of the books ‘One Foot on the Border’ and ‘Alphabetically Abbotsford’ and established Sumas Pioneer Park.

The DeLair family is also connected in Abbotsford through DeLair Road and DeLair Park, which hosts baseball and soccer facilities.

He is survived by his wife Ann, daughter Lindsay and son-in-law Jerry, son, Drew and daughter-in-law, Eileen and grandchildren Thompson, Jewell, Dani and Annabel, along with his dog Daisy. Drew and his family still reside in Abbotsford.

Lindsay said she wants her father to be remembered as a selfless man, who was always willing to help make the community better.

“He had an incredible sense of duty and responsibility and was always ready to help and do things for other people,” she said. “He had a terrific sense of humour and an incredible thirst for knowledge. When he was growing up he wasn’t able to afford to go to university, but I think that encouraged him to never stop learning or reading about new things.”

Despite his career and many volunteer roles throughout the community, she said he was always there as a father.

“Just thinking of all the things he did when I was growing up and all the things he was involved in, I never remember saying ‘where’s dad?’”, she said. “He always had time for his family, that came first.”

She said he was proud and amazed at how much Abbotsford had changed in his lifetime.

“Never in his wildest dreams did he think it would be this developed,” she said, adding that he was also involved with Ducks Unlimited and was passionate about finding ways to allow nature to thrive in an urban area.

She added that due to COVID-19 restrictions that the planned service will have to be smaller, but they hope to release an online celebration of life slideshow following the funeral.

RELATED: COLUMN: Listening to and learning history

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