Dave Kandal, a former mayor of Matsqui and one of the founding fathers of modern Abbotsford, has died at the age of 90.
As Matsqui mayor in the early 1990s, Kandal played an instrumental role in the amalgamation of Matsqui and Abbotsford in 1994 and in leading the push for the city’s eventual purchase of Abbotsford International Airport. He died last week.
Kandal’s political career spanned three decades. He was involved in a range of community groups, and earned Abbotsford’s highest honours, including the Order of Abbotsford and membership in the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame. A school and a park are also named in recognition of his service.
His passing, his son Mark said, is “bittersweet.” Kandal’s wife Ruby died four years ago, and in an obituary, their family said they took “comfort and joy through their sorrow in the belief that those two lovebirds are together again.”
Kandal leaves behind a long legacy.
He served seven years as a school trustee, eight as a councillor, then another seven as mayor of Matsqui. His political career ended with potentially his greatest triumph, when he and District of Abbotsford counterpart George Ferguson spearheaded the amalgamation of Matsqui and Abbotsford.
Ferguson, who died in 2017, beat Kandal in the subsequent election, a contest still remembered for its civility between two men that frequently argued, but who also considered each other friends.
That, Mark said, was a hallmark of his father.
“My dad did relish an argument,” he said. “He thought it was good for everyone to have a point of view and express it. But I don’t think my dad held grudges.”
Mayor Henry Braun said Kandal had been a mentor and he called him a “statesman,” a “true gentleman” and “great champion” for his community who, along with Ferguson and Jack Robertson, was a key figure in shaping Abbotsford in the latter part of the 20th century.
“The way he conducted himself, people looked up to him,” Braun said. “He didn’t say one thing in public and another thing in private.”
Kandal was born in Saskatchewan in 1930. His father was a Lutheran reverend and his mother a church organist, and when they were assigned to a church in Matsqui, Kandal came along. His family said he considered the region “paradise.”
After high school, Kandal earned a teaching degree at a Washington university where he had been offered a partial basketball scholarship. He returned to Abbotsford to do his practicum.
Soon after, though, his brother-in-law spurred him to join the air force. In Alberta, then Manitoba, he learned to fly military jets. He also found love, meeting Ruby at a dance at an air force base. Just three months after their first meeting, they were married.
After marriage and the completion of Kandal’s air force training, the couple moved to Abbotsford.
Although Kandal taught for several years, he decided to eventually head back to the skies. Over a 33-year career Kandal would pilot some of the biggest aircraft around, including 747s. But it was a passion that almost killed him before he turned 30.
In 1958, Kandal was 28 and part of an auxiliary air squadron. He was flying a Lockheed T-33 fighter jet in formation over the Georgia Straight when his aircraft clipped wings with another jet. Although the other pilot made it back to base, Kandal was forced to eject from his aircraft. He survived the impact with the water without serious injuries and was scooped out of the ocean by a fishing vessel.
Kandal was first elected as a school trustee in 1971.
“He felt it was an obligation to serve, and my dad chose to serve the community,” his son said. “Children’s education was always top of mind for him, the idea that: find something, find some organization or community … This idea of service was huge for him.”
But when he came home, Kandal was a devoted and hands-on father to his five children.
“He was always busy doing other things, but he had so much energy and he would be totally involved with the family,” Mark said. “It was remarkable really: as busy as he was, he would come home and just drop everything.”
While Kandal wouldn’t bring his work home to his family, he would bring his family to his work. As he flew jets across the western hemisphere, he would often be able to bring his family along – sometimes the whole crew, sometimes just one or two of his children.
“When we did that, you got to spend a lot of one-on-one time with your dad,” said Mark, who would later become a pilot himself. “You got to see him out of the family setting. I got to see him at work and see how he operates, see how he deals with people. That’s pretty important if you’re a kid and, say, a young teenager.”
As a pilot of jets, and a leader of men and women, Kandal loved to lead, but also to give others the ability to take charge.
“He loved to involve other people.” Mark said. “He didn’t like the spotlight on himself, he liked it being on the group effort, on the team.”
At home too, his parents were a team and equal partners, Mark said.
“It was a very special relationship,” he said.
It’s a marriage that started with a chance meeting at a dance, and resonates to 2020.
Several years ago, Ruby and Dave declared they didn’t want individual services, but only a joint family memorial once they had each passed. That private memorial will be held at a later date so that the pair can be remembered as they lived. Together.
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