The success of the book on local war brides encouraged Sharon Hillman to continue writing about locals as a fundraiser for the Alberni Valley Hospice Society and Ty Watson House’s Reflections program. KRISTI DOBSON PHOTO

Alberni author gives voice to loggers in new book

Alberni Valley Loggers is part of a Vital Voices series


Special to the News

Sharon Hillman launched the Reflections program at Ty Watson House in 2012 to help residents create a literary legacy of their life stories. Since then, the program has not only morphed into an audio version, but has directed Hillman in a new direction with the non-profit organization; one with the goal of funding Reflections to keep it sustainable.

An avid writer, the idea of writing books that would appeal to locals and selling them as a fundraiser struck Hillman as something feasible. The first book, War Brides, was a success, so Hillman knew there was potential to do more.

War Brides was chosen because we had a war bride, Jenny Stewart, living at Ty Watson at the time,” Hillman said. “The book was organized by the ships they came on.” After that, she started writing a compilation of her journals and memories from a two-month trip across Canada with her husband, Dennis, in 2006. Initially, the plan was to have it available only for family members, but the Reflections committee agreed that the stories from Vancouver Island to the Cape Spear Lighthouse would be of interest to the general public. It goes to press at the end of the month and will be the second book fundraiser.

The third, and largest project to date, brought on more volunteer writers and captures the stories of retired and current loggers of the Alberni Valley. As the first of the new Vital Voices series, Alberni Valley Loggers was chosen because of the worker’s prominence and contribution to the local industry.

“They are the backbone of the Alberni Valley community,” Hillman said. “Without them in the woods, we wouldn’t have the size of community we have.”

Included in the two-year process are stories of at least 70 loggers who worked in the heyday of the forest industry and include personal anecdotes from the worksites and beyond. It includes everyone from tree planters through to fallers, engineers, rigging crews, road builders, foremen, general managers and firefighters.

The theme stemmed from Reflections committee member and writer, Kath Stolth, who has personal ties to the industry.

“She is passionate about it because she comes from a strong logging family,” Hillman said. “She was a machine operator. She worked alongside the men and has a specific place in her heart for those who gave their lives for the job they love.”

The four volunteer writers, along with Hillman and Stolth, include Diane Dobson and Marilyn Dailey. Hillman said they all gained a respect for the work these loggers did.

“When you finish reading it, you will have a very clear picture of what it was like to do their job,” she said.

“Every story is very compelling and reflects something new about the industry and about each job they did.”

They also realized that among the workers, there were artists and poets. One of those artists, Doug Harrison, will have one of his industry-related painting featured as the cover image.

The book is set to be released in the fall of 2017 but there is a chance this week to hear all about it. Hillman will be the guest speaker at the Alberni District Historical Society AGM on Thursday, May 18 at 7:00 p.m. in the Dogwood Room of Echo Centre. Preorders will be accepted there, with proceeds going to the Alberni Valley Hospice ’s Reflection program.

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