Joe Van Bergen received this lovely plaque from Greg Steel, the president of the Sproat Lake Community Association. (SONJA DRINKWATER / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Sproat Lake volunteer retires at 94 years old

Joe Van Bergen was a volunteer member on the Advisory Planning Committee for the ACRD for 20 years



Joe Van Bergen had a big surprise on Sunday, July 26 as more than 20 boats of every size and description came by to thank him for his many years of service to Sproat Lake residents.

He was told by Bob Cole to be on his wharf at 11:15 a.m. and when he got down to the dock, he still didn’t notice for a few minutes until seeing Joe Monrufet’s boat with the mast that said “#1 Joe Van Bergen” on one side and “Joe thanks for everything” on the other. Each boat had either a sign or a shout out thanking Joe for his many years of service.

Penny Cote, the Sproat Lake electoral director of the ACRD, presented Joe with a gift of a metal tree with the ACRD logo on it. Greg Steel, the president of the Sproat Lake Community Association, presented him with a wooden plaque made by Home Hardware that said, “Thank you Joe, Memories made at the lake last a lifetime.”

Joe lifted a beer and toasted his friends and was in utter awe that all these people had shown up for him. He had recently retired community volunteering to spend more time with his family. This only seems fitting as Joe is 94 years young and still going strong.

Joe was born in Lierre, Belgium to Hubert and Blanch Van Bergen. At the age of six months in 1926, he and his parents and brother Tony moved to Ottawa, where his dad continued in his trade as an auto mechanic. Joe entered the navy in 1943 and was in it until 1946, on board a minesweeper on the Atlantic coast.

Hubert moved to Port Alberni during the war and started a tire shop with Katilla Motors, located in the block where Gayle’s Fashions is now located. Joe went to work at Homewood’s Meat Market that was located in the Carmoor Block. When Woodward’s opened in 1948, Joe went there and worked as a meat cutter in the grocery section of the food floor. While working there in 1949, he met June, who was working in the food floor office, and they were married on November 25, 1950. They were married in the Legion Hall that was above Little Bavaria by Reverend Roy Rogers of the First United Church.

Joe had been moved to hardware in Woodward’s and, as was company policy, only one person in a family was allowed to work there. So June went to Tahsis Sawmill and worked in the office.

In 1958, Woodward’s opened their service station. In the winter, they had a snow ski shop and in the summer sold boats. This was a booming business in both seasons. Joe was the manager and said, “I remember that gas sold for 22 cents a gallon.”

In 1980, he was promoted to store manager and stayed in this position for four years. He retired at age 58.

“I got all of my benefits and saw this as a perfect time to retire from Woodward’s,” said Joe.

After retiring, he and June went to New Zealand for three months. Their exchange student, Claire Dallison, was getting married, so they went and explored the area. The couple also took numerous trips to Maui with their family. They have two daughters, Karen and Gail.

Joe then went into real estate and worked with NRS (National Real Estate Service) in 1985, which was owned by Nairn McConachy and was located on the corner of Third Avenue and Argyle Street (where NanaTech is now located).

Joe was also a volunteer member on the Advisory Planning Committee for the ACRD for 20 years.

“We were so lucky to have Joe share his knowledge of Sproat Lake and the ACRD in recommendations for community development,” said Cote. “It is recognized the endless service hours that Joe spent on many community initiatives to make our community a better place to live. Whether it was his drive for safer roads, beach cleanup or lake zoning regulations, Joe was a leader in making a change for a better community. So happy for Joe and his family in his retirement.”

Joe is a past 10-year member of the Rotary Noon Club.

His daughter Karen (and husband Gilbert and their daughter Valerie) lives here in Port Alberni, and his other daughter Gail lives in Comox and has two children (Sam and Jessie). Joe’s brothers Tony and Bill have passed, but his brother Hubert, at age 88, is still in the boat business in Vancouver.

Joe would like to give everyone involved in this fantastic tribute a huge thank you.

“It has been a pleasure working with all of you,” he said.

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictVolunteer

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