May 30, 1949 – November 9, 2020
The family of Gerhard Ronald Toews announces his passing with sad hearts. Ron died suddenly from complications of heart disease and diabetes in his home in Smithers, British Columbia on November 9th.
He will be greatly missed by his brother David Toews, his sisters, Julie Schopp and Erica Riggs, his sister-in law Deanna Toews, and his brothers-in-law Gerhard Schopp and David Klaassen.
Also mourning are his nieces and nephews: Gwenneth Toews, Eric Toews (Leslie), John Schopp (Leslie), Helen Cluett (Mark), Kristin Sopotiuk (Owen), Marie Slade (Allan), Tim Klaassen (Rita), Rob Klaassen (Jolanta), Cari Klaassen, Adam Klaassen (Susan), Julie Burn (Will), Katie Riggs, and Marion Riggs (Tom), as well as grand-nephews and nieces Sarah and Rosa Olberg, Amira Toews, Sam, Sasha, and Augusta Toews, Hannah, Adelaide and Jacob Schopp, Emily (Jake) and Victoria Cluett, Josephine Sopotiuk, Oliver and Elly Slade, Alicia and Olivia Klaassen, Michael and Anna Klaassen, Gavin and Simon Burn, Thomas Cesario, and Helena and Viola Bailey.
(Ron was predeceased by his parents, Kornelius and Helen Toews, his sister Louise Klaassen, his brother-in-law Christopher Riggs, and his grand-nephew Garrett Schopp.) The family is joined in mourning by a wide circle of friends and colleagues in Smithers, across Canada and abroad.
Ron enriched our lives over many years with his talents, integrity, spirit and generosity. His bellowing laugh warmed our hearts.
Born in Rosthern, Saskatchewan on May 30th, 1949, he was the youngest of five children. He grew up in Regina, where his father was to become a professor of mathematics at the University of Regina.
Ron attended Benson Public School and Luther College High School. In addition to academics, he enjoyed sports and excelled in music. A high school work term in Bavaria sparked his early interest in travel and learning languages.
While at the University of Regina, he began pursuing an interest in history, both inside and outside the classroom, completing an honours history degree and spending summers working at national historic sites such as Batoche, a major battlefield of the Riel Rebellion.
While at Law School at the University of British Columbia, he took two years off to travel around the world, mostly by bicycle or local transport, concluding with a six months’ stay in Japan. After completing Law School in 1975, he set his sights on northern BC. He obtained his articles in Prince George in 1976, and was called to the bar, opened a general law practice in Smithers, and settled there.
His practice thrived and he was able to invest in Smithers commercial Real Estate. Always curious about the law, he took a sabbatical from 1983 to 1984, earning a Master’s degree in Law from the London School of Economics. Upon his return from the UK, he hosted a BBQ for the northern legal community, which became an annual event for many years, complete with roast suckling pig, lamb and salmon, all roasted on a spit of his own invention. (The BBQ has been so successful that it has been taken on and hosted by other local lawyers in later years.)
In 1995, he was elected Law Society of British Columbia Bencher for the County of Prince Rupert, representing all the lawyers from Burns Lake to Haida Gwaii. He served four terms from 1996 to 2003 achieving the rare distinction of being appointed Life Bencher, a role tasked with ensuring the competency and integrity of BC’s lawyers.
He was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 2000, a significant achievement. He was also appointed to assist the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC with regulating the competency and integrity of BC’s doctors.
He was appointed a member of the Board of Directors of the Law Foundation of BC where he assisted the public with gaining access to legal services and law reform. In 2009 he closed his general law practice and joined the Smithers Crown Counsel office as a senior lawyer handling challenging cases. He retired from full-time criminal prosecution work in 2017.
Throughout his many years practicing law, he took extended breaks from his work to travel the world. He journeyed over every continent except Antarctica.
Some holidays were exotic – riding the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow, swimming in the Hellespont, and hiking the Silk Road from Istanbul to Xi’an. Sometimes his travels were inspired by his reading of history, particularly that of his Mennonite forebears – to Poland, Russia, the Ukraine, Paraguay, and western Canada.
His interest in music, particularly in opera and jazz, fuelled extensive travel in Europe and the United States. Locally, the west-coast terrain suited his love of archery, trap shooting, kayaking and scuba diving with his family and friends.
He was an expert pheasant hunter and owned a series of beloved dogs, his constant companions, that he trained to hunt with him to fill the freezer with wild game. The large yard around his home provided room for the dogs to roam freely and space for Ron’s bountiful vegetable garden.
Ron also played clarinet and saxophone in the Smithers community band for many years and achieved a first-degree black belt in Judo as well as founding the Smithers Judo Club. He was instrumental in getting the Bulkley Valley regional pool and recreation centre built, sitting on the board of that organisation. He was also on the boards of the Smithers Historical Museum, the Bulkley Valley Rod and Gun Club and the Smithers Archery Club, to name but a few of the community groups that were happy to engage his organisational talents. With this community involvement he hoped to provide opportunities for young people in the Smithers area.
A celebration of Ron’s life is being planned for a time in 2021 when larger gatherings can be safely held.
Those wishing to make a memorial donation are invited to do so with the Bulkley Valley Community Foundation for scholarships and bursaries (www.bvcf.ca) or to a charity of their choice.
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