The hall of the Nakusp Royal Canadian Legion was packed as family, friends, and residents came to celebrate the life of James Earl Elliot Moffat, known simply to the community as Earl.
Starting the ceremony was Harvey Truax, past president of the Legion. He led Legion members in a poppy drop, reading Laurence Binyon’s poem “For the Fallen.”
Following Truax was Earl’s son Andy Moffat who thanked everyone for coming to the celebration, noting this was not to be a sad occasion but one filled with smiles and laughter because Earl would want it that way.
Earl was born on his family’s farmhouse near Saltcoats, SK in 1924, the eighth child and seventh son in his family. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the army, serving with the Sherbrooke Fusiliers as the supply truck driver, and then as a tank instructor. His regiment was involved in the D-Day landing, the capture and clearing of the city of Falaise, and the liberation of Holland.
While he wasn’t shy about telling his children about his time in the war, he was selective about what he said.
“He always talked about the funny parts where they’d hide someone’s shoes, or played jokes on each other,” said Andy. “When he went into Holland, there was a lot of people starving. I think my dad helped boost a lot of food out of the Canadian Army barracks and gave it to the Dutch people. He went over there to help, he didn’t go over there to hurt people.”
He met his wife, Jean Cahoon of Melville, SK while on a training leave. They married after a year of correspondence. After trying their hand at farming, Earl and Jean knew it wasn’t for them, and they sold the family farm.
“One day in 1956, Earl Moffat loaded four children, a pregnant wife and everything they owned into an old car and drove away from his farm in Saskatchewan and drove down the road,” said Andy. “That car ride affected everyone in this room.”
After coming to British Columbia, Earl sold real estate in Kamloops, before being hired by BC Hydro in 1965, moving the family to Revelstoke. They moved to Nakusp in 1969, where Earl became the land reservoir manager for BC Hydro. He was responsible for relocating families in anticipation of the Columbia River flooding.
During the relocation, many residents in Nakusp saw him as a fair man to deal with.
“He just saw them as people who were like him,” said Andy. “He had been in their shoes, and he knew what not having enough money was like, and what having to leave your home was like. He could really relate to what they were going through. You’ve got to be proud of him for that.”
Earl will be remembered for his pranks and tales of his various escapades, which had attendants laughing as family and friends came up to share some of the jokes he’d pulled over the years.
While he will be missed, Earl Moffat will always be remembered.