Former City of Penticton councillor Gus Boersma, who was known for his generosity in giving back to the community, has died.
“He was amazing. An incredible positive energy and he had so much kindness,” said his son Olav Boersma. “He saw the good in everybody and his love for life was amazing. He believed very strongly that giving back to the community is the right thing to do. He never differentiated people, whether they were rich or poor didn’t really matter. If he could help that was his priority. Dad was a pretty awesome role model for me and for the community.”
Gus served as a Penticton city councillor for two terms (1999 to 2006) and had a long history of being an active participant in charitable work in all the communities he has lived in. He also served on the City of Fernie council as both mayor and councillor between 1974 and 1983.
He battled cancer for the past six years, going into remission three times, before dying at home with most of his family by his side on Oct. 14 at the age of 81. He leaves behind his two children Erica and Olav, four grandchildren, one great-grandchild and his wife of 55 years, Sigrid.
“He was an unstoppable force that fought cancer for so long. Every time he got into remission he was right back out there helping the community,” said Olav.
Gus and his wife were both born in the Netherlands but immigrated to Canada separately.
“My dad arrived in 1960 and my mom came to visit her brother, who happened to be my dad’s best friend. He had heard a nice looking, young Dutch lady was in town and thought he better get to know her,” said Olav. “She came for a visit and ended up staying.”
Olav said the pair were always supportive of each other’s causes.
“My mom is passionate about nature and gardens and even worked at the Summerland Research Centre gardens. My dad knew that was something important to her so he helped found the Friends of the Summerland Gardens and set up fundraising to support a cause he knew was important to my mom,” said Olav. “She always was there to support him in his endeavours and basically the last six years has been dedicated to him. It has been a difficult time.”
He was also supportive of his fellow council members.
“An absolute gentleman. I can’t tell you how much of a fine gentleman he was, in every sense of the word,” said MLA Dan Ashton, who served with Gus on City of Penticton council. “Being new to council at the time, getting to work with Gus was phenomenal. He brought with him a vast wealth of experience. He was really progressive and really cared for his community. Everything he did was for the community.”
Deeply saddened to learn former #Penticton councillor & community leader & volunteer extraordinaire Gus Boersma has passed.
— Dan Ashton (@DanAshtonBC) October 16, 2017
For his achievements in public office and within the community, Gus was given the Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
The Boersmas lived in northern Quebec for eight years and then moved to Fernie. Olav said his father’s claim to fame there was getting a dike built.
“When Calgary and all of the Rockies were having major floods around 2013, the only city that didn’t was Fernie. That is because of dad’s dike. It was something he was always quite proud of, especially coming from the Netherlands,” said Olav.
Gus served for close to 20 years as a member and zone chairman for Lions International. He served as provincial president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce in 1985-86 and was awarded a lifetime Governor designation. Gus was also honoured to be the first ever elected British Columbia Senator at the University of Lethbridge 1981-87. He retired in 2002 from an active career as a sales consultant in real estate and served the South Okanagan Real Estate Board both as member and president in the year 2000.
Former City of Penticton councillor and Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola MP Dan Albas first met Gus through their business connections and with the B.C. Chamber.
“I would speak to him about political issues on a constant basis to see where people are at because he was such a highly attuned individual to what the community wanted,” said Albas. “He was so kind and welcoming that people felt comfortable sharing with him, whether that was religion, politics or stamps. Gus always listened and gave people the space to open up and he was a great conversationalist,” said Albas.
— Dan Albas (@DanAlbas) October 15, 2017
A long-time member and president of the Penticton and District Stamp Club, Gus would provide local media with monthly updates on their fundraising efforts. Gus’s duties with the club included looking after the collection of stamps and building actionable lots for the club members. The club, with more than 40 members, set a goal to raise $30,000 for the Penticton Regional Hospital new patient tower campaign. Olav said they recently achieved that goal.
“The care he received from the local authority was phenomenal … I believe the stamp club was going to announce this week they hit the $30,000 mark. It was something dad was most passionate about recently because of the great care he received and he really believes the tower will take it up a notch for Penticton,” said Olav.
As of June, the club had raised over $35,000 for a variety of charities including the hospital, South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation, Moog & Friends Hospice House, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the BC SPCA, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Camp Winfield and many other causes.
A service for Gus Boersma will be held at the Penticton United Church on Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, a donation be made to the Penticton Hospital tower campaign.