By Steve Hubrecht
Columbia Valley resident, Ray Crook, who may very well have been the valley’s oldest living resident, passed away earlier this month.
Crook passed away on Wednesday, Dec. 1, exactly three months after he turned 103. The Pioneer attended that birthday celebration, which brought many of Crook’s friends out to celebrate on the grassy back lawn of Lakeview Manor, with cake, silver balloons and plenty of festive cheer.
Crook was in great spirits throughout the occasion, engaging all those around him in lively conversation, and relating the story of how his mother had gotten a ride in the local hardware store owner’s pickup truck to the Invermere hospital to deliver him in 1918, noting that his mother frequently commented on how bumpy the roads were back then.
He grew up on farms and a cabin in the Windermere area before his father started up the Rocky Mountain Cabins Camp in Kootenay National Park when Crook was 13. The camp (the site is now called Crooks Meadows) included cabins, a gas station and a store. The camp was run by Crook and his mother through the summer months, with Crook working as a mechanic in Calgary during the winters. After his father passed away, Crook managed the camp until it was sold in 1956. Thereafter Crook moved to Invermere, working in the local post office, the liquor store and for the provincial government’s Forest Service for many years. He lived in the same house for more than 50 years, before moving into Lakeview Manor 14 years ago. Even at this 103rd birthday earlier this year, he was still living quite independently, cooking his own meals and doing his own laundry.
Crook was very familiar to Pioneer readers and a frequent commentator on the newspaper’s popular page 6 Historical Lens feature (Crook was occasionally a subject of the feature too), using his astute memories to fill in the details surrounding the featured historical photo on any given week.