Pat Lauder couldn’t understand why his daughter Corinne, who came up from Ladysmith to see him, wanted him to sit in her car with the heat blasting and wearing a crown on his head.
More than a dozen cars, many of them decorated, gave him the clue he needed on Thursday, Oct. 22 as they drove by Lauder’s Port Alberni property, drivers honking and passengers yelling “Happy birthday!” from their open car windows.
“What a surprise,” Lauder said, waving at the cars and laughing. “It’s not every day I turn 80,” he quipped.
One of Lauder’s other daughters, Caroline (Dolly) Lauder, organized the drive-by celebration. She was one of seven family members and numerous friends participating. Caroline flew home from Toronto a few weeks ago to celebrate her mother’s birthday, and has stayed with family since then. She said it was important to recognize Pat’s 80th birthday while still respecting COVID-19 restrictions against large group gatherings.
“My Dad has terminal liver cancer,” Caroline explained. Pat survived kidney cancer five years ago, having a kidney removed. “It came back two years ago as liver cancer,” Caroline said.
The family thought a year ago that Pat’s 79th birthday would be his last. “We’re really happy to have him here; he has good days and bad days with the chemotherapy,” she said.
Family members met at the Hupacasath First Nation’s House of Gathering and decorated their vehicles with spiders, purple balloons and other Halloween decorations. Caroline festooned her vehicle with a big sign proclaiming Pat’s birthday, as well as a blow-up purple dragon.
Pat Lauder has lived in Hupacasath territory in Port Alberni his whole life. He attended residential school before being sent to “regular” school. “He was ill-prepared because they didn’t keep kids up to speed,” Caroline said.
Despite a lack of schooling, Pat tried a number of jobs from commercial fishing to working at a sawmill before finding his niche as a tugboat captain.
Pat is an elder with the Hupacasath First Nation. “He loves the Valley, he loves fishing, he loves living here,” Caroline said. “He’s a jokester. Even when he’s having a bad day he makes people laugh.”