January 22, 2023 – Given the huge contribution of Art Skipsey to the enhancement of the community of Qualicum Beach that we know and love today, we thought it fitting to devote our letters page to the former long-time mayor of Qualicum Beach, aka ‘Mr. Qualicum,’ first in his own words and then in the informative and affectionate obituary recounting his many accomplishments. — Editor
In his own words
“Former Qualicum Beach mayor Art Skipsey sees the key to a successful mandate as having a vision and being able to work with other people,” said a 2011 article in the PQB News, The Making of a Good Mayor.
“ ‘You have to bring people together,’ Skipsey said. ‘Somehow, you have to engage people. There was a time in this community when everything that was built or done in the community was done by grassroots effort, not by the government.’
“Skipsey stressed that a good mayor facilitates the voting process, but rarely takes part, voting on an issue only when absolutely necessary.
“ ‘When I was on council, in 13 years I only voted four times,’ he said. ‘I let the council decide. It was only when there was a tie that I voted.’
“If there was one piece of advice Skipsey could give the incoming mayor of the community, it would be to ‘sit down over dinner and say, ‘what can we do as a council for the community,’ Skipsey said. ‘Get them discussing things on a personal level and keep politics out of it.’ ”
Obituary published in the Victoria Times-Colonist – Arthur Norman “Art” Skipsey
Art Skipsey of Qualicum Beach passed away peacefully on January 5, 2023, surrounded by family and guided by his strong faith. Art was born on March 7, 1927, in the Alberni Valley to pioneer parents, businessman Joseph Skipsey and teacher Gwendoline (nee Hole). Predeceased by his wife Cora May (nee Manton) in 2004, he is survived by his loving family: older brother Les Skipsey, children Joseph (Kathleen), Norman (Becky), Jane (Richard), Corinne, Anne (Randall), ten grandchildren Heather (Paul), Bill (Amanda), Joe (Robyn), Andrew (Samantha), Neil, Katie, and Brent (Raina), James, Matthew (Emily) and Natalie, and two great-grandchildren, Aurora and Felix, and extended family.
Art spent his childhood and young adult life in the Alberni Valley. He delivered papers by bicycle, fished, and acquired his first boat, a dugout canoe, at age 13. Also at 13, he and his brother rode bikes to Salt Spring Island to visit relatives. He attended Vancouver Technical for Grade 10, expanding on his wood and metalworking skills. In his teens, he worked various jobs, including tree planting. He spent many hours hiking Vancouver Island with his two dogs and building a log chalet with friends on Mt. Arrowsmith. At 18, he finished building his power boat and enjoyed cruising in it on Sproat Lake, claiming the fastest boat honours.
After a year at UBC, Art partnered with his parents in Skipsey Sash and Door for 18 years. He led Boy Scouts backpacking, boating and travelling to jamborees. Art’s Scout Troop formed an honour guard when Art and Cora married on a sweltering August 18th in 1956. Many family adventures and much laughter followed. In 1964 the family moved to Vancouver while Art obtained a Bachelor of Education in Industrial Arts from UBC, then in 1966 to Qualicum Beach to raise the family. Art barged a house from Vancouver when a suitable home was hard to find. Then when Cora found the perfect lot, he designed and did the finishing work on a new family home.
Teaching woodwork and drafting brought Art to Qualicum Beach, and in early days at Qualicum High, Art sponsored a Christian Fellowship group and walked to and from work, prompting one student to ask if he owned a car.
He took a Vice-Principal position at Parksville Junior High before returning to the classroom at a new Ballenas Secondary, then to the new Kwalikum Secondary before retiring in 1988. Art took a genuine interest in his students, leading to some lifelong friendships. Colleagues commented, for many years after his retirement, on Art’s lunchtime show of peeling his daily apple in one continuous length, a skill his children also were delighted by.
Art described himself as a “would-be” gardener. He was inspired by friendly contests with colleagues while reaping the economic and health benefits of homegrown fruit and vegetables.
Art’s interest in the community saw him elected in 1975 for a two-year term as Alderman. Elected as Mayor in 1977, he was acclaimed in subsequent elections until he stepped down in 1990 to travel.
As Mayor, he represented Qualicum Beach on the Regional District Board, initiated the first Official Community Plan, and was involved in the acquisition of the Memorial Golf Course and Lot 10. He supported The Old School House from its inception, serving as president and even painting the entire building one summer using his bucket truck. He participated in Citizens on Patrol for 15 years. Art served as president of Qualicum Beach Historical and Museum Society for 11 years, had a role in the early days of the lawn bowling facility, and was integral in starting the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Community Foundation.
A highlight as Mayor was welcoming the Queen and Prince Philip to Qualicum Beach on their unofficial visit to the Milner Estate in 1987. He was pleased and proud for his youngest daughter Anne to follow in his political footsteps.
Art’s faith led him to life-long service in his church. He was a Sunday School teacher, and an Elder, served on the Board, and sang in the Choir, and when St. Stephen’s added a hall, he built the new tall windows to match the church. He worked diligently for Moorecroft United Church camp on the management board for over 20 years and acted as a cabin leader and director of boys’ and backpack camps and later at Keen Ager camps. He was Groundskeeper for one summer and supplied much manual labour over the years, building and repairing everything from wooden rowing and sailing boats to painting old school buses.
Art led his family on too many adventures to tell all. Still, some included: hikes up Mt. Arrowsmith to the Rosseau chalet he had helped to build, trips to Expo 67 in Montreal and Disneyland, and a tour of BC, all with the family of seven in a 16 foot-trailer. Later, over 2 years, Art and Cora crossed Canada in their 5th wheel, stopping at small-town churches and friends’ homes, then back across the USA. Art would be found in the summertime at Sproat Lake, spending happy family days on property he purchased at age 25. Art’s family will continue to gather there to boat, swim, and sing songs around a campfire. The family also will continue Art’s tradition of singing grace when gathered.
Art’s lifelong passion was building things with his hands. He maintained a home woodworking shop, built furniture including beds, redwood tables and chairs, buffets, desks, and later hand-turned burl bowls, candle sticks, and plates under the Beachland Woodcraft brand. For recreation, he made swings, paddle boards, paddles and, most of all, boats – 5 wooden boats in total.
As well he maintained or rebuilt 8 wooden boats. This included “The Swan”, which after laying almost 50 years in the coldest water of Sproat Lake, was raised in 2004 with the work of accomplished volunteers. The hull received fresh ribs, planks, and coach house, and a used steam engine and a new wood-fired boiler were installed. Art’s great joy was blowing the steam whistle while cruising the Lake. “The Swan”, later donated, can be viewed at the Maritime Museum in Port Alberni. Art’s appreciation of telling a good story led him to collaborations on several books of local history: Great Central Lake’s “When the Whistle Blew”, “Sproat Lake Reflections”, and his memoir, “Mr. Qualicum”.
In 1995, Art and Cora were named the Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in recognition of their “outstanding contribution to community”. Rotary acknowledged Art’s work in the community awarding him with the Paul Harris Fellowship in 2001.
In 2008 Art received the BC Community Achievement Award from the Premier and Lieutenant Governor at Government House. 2011 saw Art honoured with Freeman of the Town of Qualicum Beach, and in 2012 he was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. Art said, “As a Christian, I believed it was right to serve my community.” Also in 2012, he was the recipient of the Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce-Coastal Credit Union Lifetime Achievement Award.
Art was a man of integrity, vision, humour, and strength. He loved us all so well and we are all so proud of him. He will be greatly missed.
Celebration of Life for family, friends, and community on Saturday, April 15, 2023, 1 pm at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre. In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the Society of Organized Services or Arrowsmith Search & Rescue Society.
This obituary was published in the Victoria Times-Colonist (Glacier Media) on Saturday, January 21, 2023. — Editor