In Memorium – William F. Treston (1881 – 1969)

Bill Treston (1881 – March 08, 1969) was a relief keeper on many lightstations in the Prince Rupert District of British Columbia. Bill was a very interesting man. He worked as a relief keeper on some of the northern lighthouses during the late fifties/early sixties. In his earlier days he had been a prospector and trapper and loved to tell stories about his adventures and misadventures. He was a hard working man of the very old school – a true gentleman. In the early sixties he was relief keeper on Langara for a period of time. I used to take water samples for the Pacific Biological Station every day. To do so I walked to the “landing” -a half hour walk from the station. “Old Bill” loved to accompany me, singing songs from the olden days, reciting poetry, and telling me stories. The trouble was, it was always an exact replay of the day before. The same stories over and over and over. Still, he was such a dear sweet old man you couldn’t tell him that. I thought that at the very least it taught me patience! One day without a word to anyone, Old Bill disappeared. We searched and found no trace of him, finally calling in the Coast Guard. We were terribly worried, picturing him having had a heart attack, or laying in the forest somewhere in the cold and wet, shivering. The second day after he went missing, he was picked up walking on a remote beach on the west coast of the island, totally bewildered at all the concern for him. He had hiked for hours through salal and rain forest to the opposite end of the island where there was a fish camp/floating grocery store, and spent a cold wet night outdoors to bring me a box of chocolates! I remember him asking my mom every day, “Ma’am, are you prosperous today?” I didn’t know what that meant until mom explained that he was asking if she was pregnant! One of our favorite sayings came from Old Bill. We lived in a four-plex with Old Bill living right next door to us. Every day without fail we would hear this horrific crash and know that he had just gone out of the house. He was partly deaf, (and had only one eye), so he would slam the door hard whenever he went out, so much so that the door would pop back open again. So whenever one of us children would shut the door too hard, invariably mom or dad would call after us “Shut the door, Bill!” Old Bill was an extremely hardy old man and never complained about working in wind, rain or whatever the weather. And every day without fail he would invite us to join him in his “morning constitutional” which consisted of a dip in the icy ocean, regardless of the season. He would strip naked and let the waves wash over him. He swore it was excellent for one’s health! Old Bill was the last of a dying breed, one of the early pioneers of our province. He had done it all, and under the most adverse of conditions, with no complaint, and the manners of a perfect gentleman. He was a gentle soul that spoke no ill of anyone. He was an outstanding role model, one that we were fortunate to have in our lives for too short a period of time. – Jeannie Nielsen (one of many who remembers “Old Bill”)

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