Kenneth Huscroft at age 86 during his last solo flight

A tribute to Ken Huscroft, son of Creston Valley pioneers

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Ken Huscroft, the son of John Henry and Amy, and a driving force behind the J.H. Huscroft Ltd. sawmill, died Feb. 8 at the age of 88. His son, Kevin, the fifth of 10 children, presented the following biography at Huscroft’s Feb. 12 funeral:

Irwin Kenneth Huscroft was born on March 6, 1924, at Huscroft, B.C. (south of Creston), to Creston Valley pioneers John Henry Huscroft and his wife, Amy. Kenneth was one of John Huscroft’s nine children, with older siblings Irene, Elmer, Burt, Leonard and Warren, and younger siblings Dawn, Donald (who is known as Mickey) and Shirley. Kenneth grew up in Huscroft, together with his many siblings and cousins that lived nearby, playing with farm animals, roaming in the woods, and swimming or skating and playing hockey at the local pond. From his father and older brothers, he learned to love fishing and hunting and working in the family businesses of farming, logging and sawmilling.

Kenneth also learned the pain of loss early in his life. His older brother, Warren, was kicked by a horse while walking home from school and died in 1938. Then in 1942, his older brother, Burt, was killed in a logging accident while working in the family business.

When [the Second World War] came, Kenneth volunteered but was initially too young to serve. He returned to school to complete high school math so that he could enlist in the Air Force to become a pilot, which he did in 1943. It was when he returned to school that Kenneth met his first wife, Kate Riddell. Kenneth and Kate were married in Lethbridge, Alta., in 1944. Kenneth earned his wings in Gimli, Man., where he finished first in his class, and was promoted to flying officer in 1944. He had also trained to land in cross winds at Fort Macleod, Alberta, thus coming to know much of the prairies. As the war in Europe was coming to an end, Kenneth was not sent overseas, and he was then discharged in 1945. Kenneth returned to the Creston Valley to work in the family logging and sawmilling business, J.H. Huscroft Ltd., often living in logging camps in the mountains for extended periods, sometimes with his young family.

Through the late ’40s and the ’50s, Kenneth and Kate had seven children: John, Warren, Gwen, Ruth, Kevin, Barry and Jeannie. Kenneth’s life changed dramatically in 1953 when his beloved oldest brother Elmer died in a sawmilling accident. With Elmer gone, the management of the family businesses fell to Kenneth, Leonard and Mickey, and from that day forward their mother forbade them to ever travel together in the same vehicle, out of fear of losing all of her sons in another accident. Kenneth’s father, John, died in 1964.

Over time, Leonard and Mickey took over the family farms and Kenneth took over the logging and sawmilling business, which Kenneth built from a small portable sawmill that was set up in the woods to the large business that it is today, with the support of hardworking and loyal employees, many of whom were and are relatives. He earned the respect of his employees both through his business sense and through his expert mechanical skills, being able to design, build and fix almost anything. He earned their friendship by being a good friend. Besides work, Kenneth also focused on his lifelong passion for flying as he came to own several airplanes, including his favourite, the Piper Cub, which is still flown by his son John today.

Although Kenneth loved to hunt and fish and play hockey, the demands of business left little time for leisure activities for many years. Kenneth and Kate divorced, and then Kenneth married Gloria Woodford in 1974 in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. With Gloria, Kenneth travelled to many parts of the world, seeing many places in Europe, North and South America, and many Pacific islands. Gloria also worked with Kenneth at the sawmill for many years. Kenneth and Gloria adopted two children, Roselle and Derek, in 1978. And then Kenneth joined the [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints], and became active supporting various church programs, especially those for youth.

Kenneth suffered loss again when his first grandchild, Larry, died in 1982, and when his older brother, Leonard, (and his sister-in-law, Edith) died in a vehicle accident in 1983. His mother, Amy, died in 1989 after a lengthy illness.

The success of his sawmilling business enabled Kenneth to return to his roots as a farmer and through his new company, Ken Huscroft Ltd., he purchased first Piper Farms in the early 1980s and later Christensen Brothers Farms to establish the largest farm on the Creston flats. Kenneth was proud to say that he now owned the land upon which his grandfather had homesteaded in 1891, before relocating two years later up onto the bench land at Huscroft, B.C. Through good times and bad, both the farm and sawmill that Kenneth loved, have survived and grown to what they are today.

Kenneth was a founding member of the Creston Valley Rotary Club and was proud of the perfect attendance that he maintained throughout his business career. And in later years, when he had more time, he enjoyed spending time hunting, fishing, flying and snowmobiling with family, friends and employees. For a while, he even returned to playing hockey.

Then in 1993, Kenneth and Gloria adopted Hilory, who was only a toddler at the time. Kenneth loved to tell people that he was a new dad at age 69! Indeed, until Parkinson’s disease slowed him down, Kenneth remained very active until well into his 80s, where he still went to the sawmill or farm almost every day, helped to raise Hilory at home, and remained a licensed pilot until he was 86, becoming the oldest pilot in Canada at the time.

Kenneth died peacefully on Feb. 8, just after noon, surrounded by family and friends. In addition to the family members already mentioned, Kenneth was predeceased by his older sister, Irene, his first wife, Kate, and his daughter-in-law, Dulce. Kenneth is survived by his wife Gloria, all 10 of his children, and his younger siblings, Dawn, Mickey and Shirley. Kenneth is also survived by 21 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by his family, relatives, friends, and employees.

As for me, I am very proud to be his son. I have great respect for how much he accomplished in his life, for his humility despite his success, and for his generosity to many people. I loved his mischievousness, even though I was the victim of several of his pranks. And I was always amazed by his energy, determination, and intelligence. He could build or fix almost anything, and come up with innovative solutions for difficult problems.

I always felt that there was nobody that I would rather be with if I was in a dangerous situation, with survival at stake. He used to say, “Never say die.” Indeed, he saved my life and Warren’s, when I was a child, when the single engine Piper Tri-Pacer airplane we were in suffered a major engine failure. He nursed it home over the snowy Selkirk Mountains and across a very cold Kootenay Lake, to safety and survival. So I owe him twice for everything that I have, and all that I am. Thank you, Dad.

—KEVIN HUSCROFT

 

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