Walter Henry Bucher

August 1, 1917—October 5, 2004

Walter Henry Bucher was born

in Lucerne on August 1st —

Switzerland’s National Day in 1917.

“I thought the parades were all for

me!” he used to laugh.

Walter laughed easily and often

during his 87 years. The youngest

of four children, Walter was born

into an established Swiss family

that published the country’s largest

Roman Catholic daily newspaper. He

served in the Swiss military for nine

years and then, faced with a career

in publishing or commerce, he chose

instead to immigrate to Smithers,

British Columbia in 1950. Western

Canada was calling for settlers and

Walter’s dream was to work outside.

“My knowledge of English was

no better than my knowledge of

agriculture,” he once said. With

only a slim pamphlet called Making

Money from Cows as his guide, he

set out to work 200 acres of partly

cleared land with 20 dairy cows,

a team of old horses, a Ferguson

tractor and some bewildering farm

machinery. He had never milked a

cow in his life.

His •rst challenge was penning an

offer of marriage to a lovely young

Italian girl he had met just after the

war. To his delight, Stefania Merlo of

San Remo, Italy soon crossed the

ocean to be his bride. She arrived at

the Smithers train station on a frigid

December day (—50º C). Stefania had

never seen snow. They were married

in January 1951.

Together, Walter and Stefania had

four children and built a series of

successful ventures. The farm grew

into Alpine Dairy and they delivered

milk, and eventually eggs, from

Hazelton to Telkwa. Walter loved

to tell stories about the early days

on the farm. Winter was always his

toughest adversary — frozen milking

machines, frozen milk and frozen

•ngers — but humorous anecdotes

always sprinkled his recollections,

sweetening the years of hard work

and leaving only pleasant memories.

Walter was never content to settle

into a routine. In the sixties, he began

to develop what is now the Hudson

Bay Mobile Home Park — a •rst home

to many new people coming to the

valley. The paving of Highway 16

and growth of automobile travel also

prompted him to build the Juniper

Lodge — now the Sorrento Motel.

Walter was also drawn into civic life,

including the Chamber of Commerce

and municipal tourism initiatives. In

early seventies he founded the “New

to You”, •rst as a fund-raiser for

missionary work in India and later

contributing to other charities. He

was an ardent supporter of both the

Swiss Club and the Italian Club.

Retiring in the mid-seventies, he

went back to his •rst love — farming

— or, as Stefania always saw it, “Any

excuse to drive his tractor.” His

Massey Ferguson 500 was his pride

and joy. In later years, Walter’s body

permanently took on the curve it

had when he sat in tractor seat, one

arm propped up on the fender as

he turned to look over his shoulder

at neat furrows or freshly plowed


Walter shared with his children and

friends his love of music, singing,

books, world history and lively

conversation. He touched others with

his good nature, sense of humour and

optimism. He will be remembered

by many for the pioneering spirit

that built both a strong family, and

enriched the fabric of his community

in his beloved valley, in his adopted

country. “Such a paradise,” he often

said. He considered himself a rich

and blessed man.

Gradually, Parkinson’s Disease and

a bout of pneumonia proved too

much. Walter died peacefully and

without pain on October 5 in the

company of his wife and children. He

will be missed by his wife Stefania,

his children Walter Jr. and wife

Amy, Elizabeth and husband Gerry,

and Francis and wife Cathryn, as

well as by his grandchildren Laurel,

Stefan, Katherine, Manon, Christy,

Anton, Ethan and Marco. Walter was

predeceased by his youngest son

Mark and by his grandson Ryan.

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