The Biography of Alex Verigin
Alex Verigin was 73 years of age when he passed away on December 17, 2015 at 3:30 p.m. in Kelowna, B.C. He was born on June 19, 1942 in West Grand Forks, B.C. into the Doukhobor family of Alex and Polly Verigin (nee Dubosoff). He was the second of three children: Paul, himself, and Irene; all of whom predeceased Alex.
Alex was born in a time of great change. The Doukhobor community was in flux. The USCC had just been created. In 1938 the CCUB had been bankrupted and Doukhobor life was changing dramatically. In the bigger world, WWII was well underway and Japanese families were being interned nearby in Greenwood. The whole world was in chaos and it was out of this turmoil that “Al” Verigin emerged.
Who in the Doukhobor community would have guessed that Alex would go to school beyond grade 8 and go to University. He would play competitive sports well into his 50’s. He would have three marriages, three sons. He would own land and businesses. These were all “new things” to Doukhobours.
Al’s story is similar to many of his generation who were the first Doukhobors to fully integrate into mainstream Canada. There was tremendous opportunity for them and large growing pains.
Alex tried to be the best family man he could be. Given his nature, he had many successes; but equally, he had some failures.
He was an avid businessman who strived to find the perfect business – that being one where he could work enough to live well, and more importantly, allow him the time to enjoy life itself. Al knew how to enjoy life.
Sadly, he would spend the last years of his life with dementia and suffer severely at its hands. Al’s life reflected the turmoil of the world into which he was born. He had challenges, victories, sadness and love. I hope my words that follow will do justice to the man that I loved, my father Alex Verigin.
Alex was a generous man who loved to explore the wider world. He was a free spirit and a bit of a loner. His nickname was “Casper” after the cartoon character “Casper The Friendly Ghost”. This describes many aspects of him well.
He did a lot of good things. For example, Al supported Eva’s sister’s family in their to move to Canada as refugees from Poland. Eva’s sister and two children would live with them for over two years before her husband was allowed to emigrate to Canada.
He was very generous with my friends. He is remembered for taking us on many ski vacations to Sun Valley and Whistler. One Christmas at Whistler we had Dave Traynor, Dave Smith, Mike Ryan, and my brother Jeff for a week. It was so much fun. Our Sun Valley ski trips were filled with extreme skiing, great dinners, and lots of laughter. So many people shared in those trips. I love hearing Dave Traynor and my cousin Larry reminisce about them.
Al was also very generous with Brian Simms and I when we were at McGill. His visits were well timed, welcomed and needed. We needed help. Often in the height of winter he would arrive and immediately try to fatten us up with huge dinners. This turned out be a great trade for Al as Brian eventually moved to the Bahamas and Al visited often.
Alex’s childhood years revolved around the USCC. He learned “poselmi”, sang, cut JJ’s lawn, and the lawn at the USCC like the others. I remember him talking about the Hoodikoff’s a lot. He loved those guys.
Education and Work
Alex completed high school in Grand Forks and went to UBC where he studied Forestry. His Forestry education led to long career in lumbers sales. He worked as a lumber trader for over forty years. He started in the 1960s with Cooper-Widman in Vancouver. He became a part owner of his first business in the early 1970s. He then owned, partnered, and operated many forest products firms into the 2000s. He was a successful businessman, but this was not where his heart was.
Al loved sports. He took them seriously and competed in baseball, basketball, hockey, ski racing, tennis, and golf. He was most skilled in fast-pitch, where he was a pitcher, and skiing, especially slalom.
Al loved sports. One of his favourite stories was that his mom gave him money to buy a new suit for a special function (his brother Paul’s wedding). He borrowed a suit and used the money to buy new skis. He thought that was “a stroke of genius”.
In high school he played many sports including baseball, basketball, and hockey. In University he took up skiing, joined the UBC Ski Team and became a nationally ranked ski racer. He was an amazing skier right into his 60’s. He trained hard in his 50’s and a top Masters ski racer in Canada. There was just one guy he couldn’t beat. We thought that was funny and he was serious. I remember him explaining to me the new techniques required to win with the “new breakaway slalom” poles – the shin and arm pads. He talked forever about a session at Whistler with Swedish skiing legend Ingemar Stenmark – total “ski nerd” talk. Alex trained hard and was so good at slalom that he often came in the top 5 overall in races at Whistler. At 50 he was beating 20 year olds.
In his twenties and thirties Al was a fast-pitch pitcher. When he stopped playing fast-pitch, he took up tennis. Al’s tennis skills never matched his skiing or fast-pitch levels, but his athleticism was shown most in tennis. He injured his right arm so badly that he couldn’t play. That didn’t stop him, he simply switched to playing left-handed. It was crazy. His physical gifts were remarkable.
Alex’s family story is that he was a good man who lost his focus and got distracted a few times. I can’t say that his parents were very happy with this aspect of his life. The memories trigger a smile. It was a grand game. But they were devoted to him and helped us out a lot with our houses on 16th, then 14th, and finally on Cypress St.
Al was with his first wife Anne Verigin (nee Polonicoff) early on. They had two sons, Iain and Jeffrey. Al was with Jan Broughton, his second wife, for almost a decade and for a few years Iain and Jeffrey lived with them. Then Eva and Al were together for over fifteen years. Eva’s son Martin quickly learned to love skiing and photography. Martin’s cousins Anja and Andrew were more fond of lunch. They skied a lot in their preschool years and Andrew’s story of skiing is well remembered “When you go skiing, you put your skis together and go for lunch”.
Alex was predeceased by his immediate family, Polly, Alex, Paul, and Irene Verigin, and his son Jeffrey Verigin. Alex is survived by his son Iain with his wife Sue and their children Mikaela, Katie, and Thomas. His first wife Anne Verigin (nee Polonicoff), his second wife Janet Broughton, and his third wife Eva Mahoney (nee Kaczynska) and her son Martin Verigin.