Smithers lost two stalwarts of the community last month.
Andy Howard and Dale Chartrand shared many commonalities. They were both firefighters, both hard working family men and both dedicated to service of the community. They were both known to be men that if you needed something done, they were the ones you went to. Both loved the outdoors, a good story and a hearty laugh.
And both men were well known for helping other people, and for being outgoing, light-hearted, but deadly serious about the projects they committed to.
Andy Howard, March 6, 1944 – Oct. 9, 2020
Howard, a long time community leader and businessman in Smithers, passed away Oct. 9 after battling cancer for more than a year.
Howard was orginally from Iroquois Falls, Ontario, where he was a professional firefighter for 16 years before moving to Chetwynd, B.C.
He moved around in B.C. before he landed in Smithers and stayed. Besides being a firefighter, he had multiple businesses including various cattle, pig and dairy farms along the way.
Howard was also a farm equipment salesman, then a car salesman. There wasn’t much he wasn’t willing to try.
Howard moved his family to Smithers in 1988 to operate the Petro-Canada bulk plant.
While in Smithers, Howard owned and operated multiple businesses, was a school bus driver and sat on the Smithers Town Council.
He was an original member of the Second Sheet of Ice Committee in 2004, which he felt passionate about and was instrumental in seeing through to the end..
He also spent time on the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako board of directors.
With a diverse background, Howard was a very business-minded person and always enjoyed a challenge.
He was a very social person, with a ready smile and a way with kids that would make the most surly of people laugh. If you ever had the chance to pick up your kids from his bus, you would know this to be true; the kids adored him.
“Andy is one of the most genuine persons I have ever met. He loved Smithers,” said former Interior News publisher and editor Todd Hamilton said.
“Back in 2007, for a couple of years, after Andy had served as a town councillor, I rented a small house from him on his property near Lake Kathlyn. I could almost set my clock on Wednesday when he would stroll over with a rolled-up copy of the paper to grill me, or discuss, what we had published.
“He was a straight-shooter … always saying honestly what was on his mind,” Hamilton said. “I remember the night when he was not re-elected to Smithers Town Council and our entire newsroom went, ‘dammit, now who are we going to quote?’.”
“I am going to truly miss Andy and, for certain, Smithers will as well.”
“Andy was the ultimate business entrepreneur,” said Al McCreary, who served with Howard on the second sheet project.
“He was as down to earth as they come. He would start a project, get it done and move on to the next. Andy was willing to get in there, roll his sleeves up and help.”
According to McCreary, Howard’s time as a town councillor meant he understood the political process involved in getting projects underway and/or completed.
Howard loved the outdoors, loved to ride the Harley Davidson he treated himself to after many years of hard work.
He loved animals, and always had time to sit down and “chat for a few.” He never held back his opinion or praise, and was a person you could always count on.
Howard loved his family and friends deeply, as well as the valley and all the people in it.
The number of hours, the dedication and the many ways Howard publicly helped make Smithers a better place to live and play is beyond the scope of this article and there are also many other things he did and people he helped that nobody will ever know about.
“He would prefer it that way,” Hamilton said.
Dale Chartrand, Dec. 15, 1958 – Oct. 13, 2020
Dale Chartrand was an employee for the Town of Smithers and a volunteer firefighter for over 20 years. He was a member of this community that truly got involved.
“Dale Chartrand will be missed at the Town of Smithers,” Gladys Atrill, Mayor of Smithers, said.
“Dale’s good humour and ability to get things done made him a ‘go-to guy’. He’s worked at the Town for so long, 20-plus years, and so his memory of how things worked and where things were was also highly prized.
“Dale’s co-workers, his family at the Smithers fire department, council and of course the many residents he served will all miss him.”
Being an outgoing guy, Chartrand was also an entertainer – which included acts such as the Blues Brothers and Sunny and Hair. It didn’t matter where he was; the hockey locker room, fire practice, or just a regular Friday night, Dale would be front and centre, recounting one of his many stories and making everyone laugh.
This love of entertaining and making people laugh also led to his yearly appearance at the Annual Amateur Comedy Night at the Legion. He loved telling new people his old jokes.
Chartrand also enjoyed being outdoors. He revelled in his annual fishing trip, camping at Francois Lake, which would regularly include a solo on the wooden spoons and lots of laughter.
“He was a passionate firefighter, he served with distinction for over 20 years,”said Keith Stecko, fire chief for Smithers Fire Rescue.
“He was compassionate, brave and dedicated and took every opportunity to help this community. He put the community first, even before himself, that’s the kind of person he was.”
“He brought a positive, light-hearted, funny spin to the firehouse, which we all loved about him.”
Stecko went quiet for a moment thinking of his friend and fellow firefighter.
“He was my go-to guy. He touched the hearts of many in this community and he will live on in the hearts of his brother and sister firefighters, and in the hearts of the people in this community for the many good deeds he performed.”
By all accounts of those who knew him, Chartrand had a heart of gold, and left this valley full of friends and family who loved him and made the valley a better place to live.