By Dorothy Isted
Special to The Pioneer
Secrets are things you keep from others or others keep from you, either deliberately or by omission. Radium Hot Springs resident Curley Fletcher didnt know about Canadas famous explorer David Thompson until he moved west in 1966, and never dreamed of a blood link between them.
He knew his mother had been a Thompson but then, there are a lot of Thompsons in the Belleville/York/Northbrook area where he grew up.
Curley, the second youngest of four children, was born in Toronto, and named after a good friend of his fathers who had died.
While Curley was young, his father, Anson Fletcher, purchased a half share in a gold mine and the family moved to Northbrook, Ontario, eight miles away. There Curley attended a one-roomed school.
He was nine when the Depression heavily hit the mine and the family made the decision to move back to Toronto. He attended the Duke of York School with 1,500 students but didnt have any trouble adjusting.
You know what kids are like: they just want to play, he said.
His future wife, Dorothy, was born to the Evans family in Victoria Harbour, Ontario. She was also the second youngest child, but had a large family with 12 siblings. The family lived on an acreage with cows, chickens and a big garden. Dorothys father worked as a bricklayer, specializing in stonework.
She attended school until Grade 10 (what used to be called Junior Matriculation) then moved on to Midland Business College for a one year course. Her first office job in Toronto soon followed.
During the Second World War, Curley worked with his father for the John Inglis Company. The famous washing machine maker turned to munitions manufacturing during the hostilities. Curley worked as a welder and his father was an assembler on gun turntables.
It was 1946 when Curley enrolled in bible college, graduating after three years and moving on to serve a two-year internship in Ontario. During this time he helped out both as associate pastor and in constructing church buildings, using masonry skills picked up from his brother-in-law and some self-taught carpentry.
When Curleys denomination, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, sent him to Toronto, he soon met and fall for Dorothy. They met in the church she attended and were married in 1951.
Dorothy had a little black coupe and I was a poor preacher, Curley recalled.
We drove 30 miles to Oakville, population 10,000. I saw there was no Pentecostal church there and asked Dorothy if shed like to start one. Shes game for anything.
When the newlyweds moved to Oakville, housing was scarce. General Motors had just opened up there, bringing many employees along with them.
The couple spent their first summer living in a tent by the river. Curley doesnt remember the name of the river but, Its still there, he quipped. They organized church meetings at their tent.
The hardship was nothing in comparison to the possibility of doing something for God, Curley said.
It was good that Dorothy played the piano, as she often accompanied the singing in churches. A lifelong enjoyment of the instrument led Dorothy to teach piano for 20 years and to date she still enjoys playing at home.
After having two children, Wanda, in 1964, and Kevin, in 1965, the Fletchers were asked if theyd like to come to British Columbia. Here they lived and served in multiple churches; with their last full-time pastorate in Golden.
In 1973, the family moved to Radium Hot Springs and both Dorothy and Curley got jobs at the Radium sawmill.
The mill had constructed homes for their employees and the Fletchers purchased one for $21,000. A year later the mill downsized.
You know how it is: last to come, first to go, Dorothy explained.
She moved on to do office work at several firms, while Curley was self-employed building fireplaces, chimneys and walls.
After their formal ministry ended, the couple was invited to serve in an interim capacity for First Nations churches in Bella Bella, Kitimat, Bella Coola and Anaheim Lake a 12-year adventure that ended in 1994. It was then that the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada commended them for 50 years of service.
More than one First Nations group has bestowed upon Curley honorary elder or chief status because of his support and dedication to their people.
With their son Kevins help, Dorothy opened a bakery in Radium in 1981. The plan was to run this business, freeing up Curley to do occasional overseas missionary work.
Curley learned Swahili from a student living in the valley. He speaks with great fondness of his trips to Kenya, where he preached and helped to build churches, although not every element of Kenyan life appealed.
When a man marries, he thinks I bought you. Youre mine., Curley explained disapprovingly. The men dont work, the women do it all. Women there are [considered] cheap, like a cup of coffee. By 50 theyre finished; they work them right into the ground.
At the time of Curlys visit, you would never see a man in Kenya kissing his wife, holding hands or helping her, he said. At one time he was surprised to see a man helping his wife in the kitchen. Do you know Jesus? Curley asked him. The man nodded. Those memories of his trips abroad are one of the things Curley treasures.
When Dad went to Africa he refused to live in the home theyd set up for him, his daughter, Wanda explained. He wanted to live with the people. Several weeks after his return he was diagnosed with a parasite, which caused a significant weight loss.
Back in Radium, the Fletchers would continue to run their bakery until 1993. When he was not out of the country, Curley made deliveries around the valley and to the campgrounds in his baking gear and hat.
While living in the valley, Curley was surprised to discover David Thompson was his great-great-grandfather. Curley is descended from a son of David and Charlotte, William John Thompson.
Curley Fletcher shares at least two things in common with his famous ancestor: a deep respect for women and a desire to preach Christianity.
Thompsons personal diaries tell of his struggles to understand the treatment of women during his travels through pre-Confederation Canada and his worries of how to teach Christianity to First Nations people.
A Missionary has never been among them, and my knowledge of their language has not enabled me to do more than teach the unity of God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, Thompsons diary records.
David Thompson and Charlotte Small had the longest recorded pre-Confederation marriage, 58 years.
The Fletchers will celebrate their 60th anniversary this year with their son, daughter and six grandchildren.
Last year, the congregation at Bella Bella asked Curley to return and fill in for their absent pastor, offering to pay for the Fletchers flights. Upon landing on the island they were met with a cheery welcome home by their former congregants.
Curley says that was the best church board he ever had and it consisted solely of women. They were very dedicated, said Dorothy, explaining Curleys fondness for the board.
The couple is currently serving another six weeks as interim pastors in Bella Bella and will return at the end of May.
All the things they do every day for their neighbours and community, they think of it as service to God, Wanda said.
Their door is always open, even for strangers whom they will feed and give a nights stay. Mom was always inviting people over for dinners, lunches, tea and biscuits both of them love having company.