Sadly we announce the passing of Gordon Lloyd Clarke McPhail on March 29, 2017 at the age of 85. “Gordie” was born into a musical family on September 20, 1931 in Edmonton. Later the family moved to Greenwood where he attended secondary school. He often reminisced fondly of his years there and has maintained valued friendships.
As a young man he was scouted for a WHL hockey team, however he chose to join the RCMP instead. His postings took him far into the Canadian north where he patrolled with a guide and a dogsled; he was on-guard in Red Serge at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa and on highway patrol in Saskatchewan where he met his first wife Faith Swain.
Always an outdoorsman, in the mid 1960’s with his young family in tow, he left policing to become a Park Warden in Glacier National Park. He loved the challenges of avalanche control and wildlife management, touring the Park on foot, horseback and skis’. He moved to Nelson in the early 1970’s to join the Nelson City Police and in later years worked for the Provincial Government in the Sheriff’s Department. He kept busy in retirement providing security at the Chahko-Mika Mall for many years. He also assisted services at Thompson Funeral Home.
A natural athletic talent, during his life, Gordie played hockey and baseball, he was a speed skater, curled, downhill skied, and was an eagle-eye marksman. He was a gold medalist in Horseshoes in the B.C. Seniors’ Games.
Gordie and his second wife Joan lived in Nelson for 40 glorious years along the shores of Kootenay Lake at Willow Point in a house he lovingly and creatively renovated with his own hands (most likely some brute force and swearing). He loved to build things, from birdhouses to greenhouses, porch swings, wishing wells and yes, even coffins. Everything was rustic and sturdy. He loved to tinker with motors, putter in the yard, and devise new and ingenious ways to thwart the bears at the garbage cans.
Life at the lake included several beautiful boats… each one bigger than the last…all christened the “Neverphail”. The grandchildren were often included in boat, camping and fishing expeditions on the lake.
Gordie and Joan’s travels took them to England, Scotland and Ireland, across Canada by train, a tour of the Maritimes, and 12 winters in Palm Springs.
He was best known for his wonderful musical talent and beautiful and versatile singing voice. Self-taught, he played the guitar, banjo, Hawaiian guitar, ukulele, mouth organ and piano all by ear and by heart. He was a welcome singer at many churches, weddings and funerals and, at home, the parties and singsongs were renown. His repertoire was endless and he could yodel and do a convincing Al Jolson imitation. The evenings always ended with a rousing chorus of old gospel songs.
Gordie enjoyed an interesting and varied life. He was a complex person who was quick to anger or laugh. He was independent and strong-willed, funny, charming and richly talented. He was a force to be reckoned with but also someone his friends would call upon in times of need or trouble. He loved to tell a joke or a story particularly with a “cultivated” Irish accent, a heritage of which he was profoundly proud.
For the past four years, following the death of his beloved wife Joan, Gordie resided at Silver Kettle Village in Grand Forks. The family wishes to acknowledge and thank the staff at Silver Kettle for their professionalism, kindness, compassion and respect extended to Gordie and family at all times.
“The song is over but the melody lives on” in the hearts and memories of his surviving sister, children (4), step-children (2) and numerous grand and great-grandchildren.
A celebration of his life was held on April 3, 2017 at St. John’s United Church.