It has been two years this January since philanthropist Fritz Pfeiffer died. His wife Renate passed in 2000 and when she did, their estate was bequeathed to two local organizations.
The Bulkley Valley Health Care and Hospital Foundation received $3.4 million.
The other recipient of $1.8 million was Bulkley Valley Community Foundation.
Prior to his death, Pfeiffer also donated $1.6 million dedicated for the purchase of a CT scanner for the Bulkley Valley District Hospital (BVDH).
The Pfeiffer legacy has affected many lives in the Bulkley Valley and surrounding areas.
How Fritz Pfeiffer arrived in the Bulkley Valley was a notable story in itself.
It was approximately 70 years ago a young Pfeiffer came to Telkwa and settled.
He had been born in Silesia, once a region of Germany, now Poland. He was recruited into the German armed forces in 1941.
His initial role was to string telephone communication lines behind enemy lines.
In 1944, he switched roles and became a paratrooper and was sent to France. There he was captured and became a prisoner of war, but he escaped in 1946 becoming a refugee.
As a refugee, he was given the opportunity to resettle in Canada, which he took, sailing on the “Nellie” to Quebec City.
Prince George was his next destination, as he had heard there was work there. From Prince George, he found his way to Telkwa.
Once in Telkwa, he found work with TF&M mill.
In 1953, Pfeiffer purchased his first bulldozer, and with a loan founded Pfeiffer Logging Ltd.
Pfeiffer took great pride in his logging practice, receiving several awards for Best Log Quality and Best Logging Practice from Pacific Inland Resources. He was known for being conscientious of waste and a strong advocate in reforestation for future generations.
He worked at his mill until his retirement in 1989.
Pfeiffer married Renate Paulien in April 1960. They built a home on Cottonwood Street and lived in the same house until Renate’s passing in 2000.
Even as Pfeiffer oversaw a busy logging and sawmill operation, he had time to volunteer time in the Village of Telkwa. First he was an alderman and later became mayor for nearly 18 years.
As Mayor he was involved with the formation of the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako board, where he remained an active member until his death.
Prior to his death, he donated not only his time, but also money, as he promoted community. He donated to the new extension to the Pioneer Activity Centre and to the Telkwa & District Seniors Society.
As the Pfeiffers were displaced from their homes in Germany after the war, they were very appreciative of their freedom and work opportunities in the Bulkley Valley.
That was the impetus behind leaving a legacy to the people and communities they loved so much.
The donations to the Bulkley Valley Community Foundation and BV Health Care and Hospital Foundation are gifts to the community from the Pfeiffers that continue to touch lives, and will for many years to come.
To date the CT scanner has performed approximately 7,000 scans at BVDH.
“It really has been a game changer in so many ways,” said Health Services Administrator Cormac Hikisch.
Prior to Smithers getting a CT scanner, those needing a procedure — oftentimes in emergency situations — had to travel to scanners in Terrace or Prince George.
“Two of the most common comments I hear is people appreciate not having to travel, especially in winter, for these procedures, and that it is much easier on elderly people,” Hikisch said.
The CT scanner officially opened July 12, 2019.
“I think that it’s one of the largest single philanthropic donations in our community’s history, certainly in recent memory, and it really speaks of his commitment to this place and his love for community,” said Taylor Bachrach, then-Smithers Mayor.
The Bulkley Valley Community Foundation (BVCF) is a charity that supports local non-profit organizations and projects from Topley to Gitwangak.
In 2020, BVCF dispersed over $30,000 in grants in categories of arts and culture; community and social support; health and recreation, and education.
The foundation also provides learning awards in the springtime.
“It’s huge, and I was happily surprised,” Jill Dunbar, president of the BVCF said of the donation.
“We collect donations, and invest them. We build an endowment so we only spend the interest we generate,” she explained . “We have an endowment now that is about $3 million and it is enough to disperse about $50,000 to $60,000 in grants a year and still maintain that $3 million.
They awarded additional funding as a result of Pfeiffer’s donation in 2019.