Former school trustee and education pioneer Al Coulson passed away on March 24, two weeks shy of his 89th birthday.
The family is holding a memorial for Coulson, who had strong ties to New Westminster traditions, on Thursday at Columbia-Bowell Chapel.
Son Ron Coulson said the event will be a celebration of his father's life.
"He was somebody who enjoyed life to the fullest and smiled and laughed at every opportunity and had a lot of friends, lot of new, lots of old friends and hardly any former friends," says Ron. "He just was one of those types of guys that had an engaging character and touched a lot of people."
Coulson was a lifelong New Westminsterite with roots so deep they go back to the Sappers, the group that laid out the city in the 19th century.
"His grandfather was an original Sapper in Sapperton and was a homesteader," Ron explains. "His grandfather's home was at the foot of Alberta Street in what is now Thrifty Foods. His farm was where the Royal Columbian Hospital (now) is."
Coulson served as a pilot in the Second World War.
Afterward, he received his degree at UBC and started teaching for the Vancouver School District in 1950. Coulson was a key figure in the development of adult continuing education in the Vancouver School District.
He retired in 1981, and later in the same decade he turned his focus to New Westminster's education system, serving as a threeterm school trustee.
Coulson was also involved in numerous other community traditions, including being captain of the Hyack Anvil Battery.
"We made him an honorary captain at his request," says Fred Sparkes, who replaced Coulson as captain of the Hyack Anvil Battery after he had a stroke. "He enjoyed the battery very much. He was a good leader."
Having started with the Hyack Anvil Battery in 1960, Coulson was the longest serving member of the group that's responsible for the anvil salute every Victoria Day.
Coulson also served as president of the Hyack Festival Association.
"He was a very good guy. He was a peacemaker who got consensus," Sparkes recalls. "He had lots of wisdom. He was looking for compromise in decision making. A really nice man."
Bill Radbourne, current president of the Hyack Festival Association, says Coulson motivated him to get involved in the community.
"He took part in everything," he says. "He was happy to take part in the community."
Coulson was also one of the Royal Lancers who danced at the May Queen formal with the members of the May Queen Suite.
He was also a member of the Royal City Curling Club.
"He always had a great big smile," Radbourne says. "He was always smiling."
Coulson is survived by his wife of 63 years, Eileen, sons Bob (Diana), Dave (Sandra), Barry (Debbie) and Ron (Carol), eight grandchildren and a sister.
A celebration of life is being held on Thursday, April 5 at 2 p.m. at Columbia-Bowell Chapel at 219 Sixth St.