Andrew Smith Mitchell, 28 Jul 47 – 6 Nov 20
Andrew has been visiting the park since the mid-80s. I first met Andrew in September 2002, shortly after he retired from the Forest Service. Within a few years he became a regular walker on the Alec Road, Merrill Harrop Trail, every morning. Imagine that… must be over 5,000 trips up & down.
Andrew leaves behind four amazing women:
- Wife Janet (69) married for 45 years
- Daughter #1, Jennifer (41) who lives in Ontario
- Daughter #2, Laura (38) who visits the park every day
- Daughter #3, Heather (34) who lives near Oak Bay
A retired Professional Forester, a wonderful family man, a major park volunteer and true friend . . . I am writing to report my best friend, Andrew Mitchell has passed (73).
On 10 Nov 20, I placed the second set of flowers at the signpost, and walked the Harrop Trail for the first-time knowing Andrew was gone (my heart was wrenching). The night prior there was a wind and some branches fell, this was the first change that happened of which Andrew has not seen. And sure enough, WOW, I encountered his wife Janet, youngest daughter Heather with friend Joseph, and middle daughter Laura. A hundred feet away, I let out, “Hello Andrew”, just as I have done for years. Felt so good, and the greeting was warmly received by family.
Every time I worked with Andrew on a specific project, I jokingly asked, what is your middle name…
Smith, he replied.
I always asked, who was Smith.
Smith is my Grandmother’s maiden name [1875–1949].
The conversation naturally continued into getting to know each other. We averaged a day or a project working together about 2-3 times a year, and we walked together weekly along the Merrill Harrop Trail. One time I mentioned that traditional Foresters sign their memo’s using their initials. I asked, how does A.S. Mitchell Arbutus Grove sound? And Andrew laughed. The topic was just for laughs, as we expected him to live another 20+ years.
I am 46, Andrew 73 (27-year difference); and I can say he was my best friend. Three times over the past decade, my wife Touria telephoned Andrew expressing concern that I was late and may be hurt in the park. Twice, Andrew left his home in the dark and drove to Alec, Thomson, Carmanah and Dunsmuir, looking for my car. Turns out I arrived home as he was driving. One time, I found him at Alec Road at 5:30pm sitting in his car, engine running, radio on, waiting for me. It was mid-December, misty wet, and he showed that he cared for me. Not just cared for me, but clearly understood the fullness that goes into the levels of volunteering we undertook.
I made it up to him…. I responded to an invite to receive a box of squash he grew in his garden… The box was so incredibly heavy, it could not be lifted; my back seat was filled. Andrew was much more than a Forester, he was a family man, gardener, cook, an excellent father to the girls, and fully cared for the family.
We shared and agreed over many conversations concerning trail standards in parks. He fully understood trail gradient and always referred to the leading US National Parks trail standards. Once, I arrived at Alec Road, the rain was so heavy (all-day type) that I withdrew and went to his home for a visit. We sat together and drank many cups of a white tea (Janet, I need to know the name?)… His kitchen table was purposely built, very thick, wonderful, warm, and so large that I am sure it cannot be moved, lol. Andrew was the guy to open his door and say, “come on in”. I think I arrived a dozen times, and never once did he show awkwardness, rather it was a full welcome. He was a genuine man, a true real guy, a man who knew and understood everyone, and welcomed friends.
My wife Touria reacted to a remark I made about Andrew kicking a stone out of the trails surface. She said, “Stop, I would get on my knees and kiss his feet. He is wonderful and cares for Laura.”
The morning of Andrew’s 70th birthday, I planned a meet-up with Andrew at the Alec Road trailhead. My two sons, Amir and Sami came with me (ages then, 6 and 4), and we gave him a gift and a fantastic send-off for his walk with Laura. In-hindsight, I am so glad I made the effort to express my love…
Andrew: hundreds of people are thinking of you and will miss you. I am sure everyone who knew you will think of you every time they walk the parks west-side Alec Road Trail. We have your thinking, and friendship continuously in our minds … LOVE
In 2006, Andrew and myself met with BC Parks, and Andrew volunteered to undertake several trail renovations over the coming years. These are the larger projects which Andrew initiated and accomplished. They were well done, solid, and will be in place for many decades to come:
- Slektain Trail: placed soils over roots, raised stretches, and installed lower-side trail supports;
- Barret Montfort Trail West: removed tripping hazards and graded the trail surface;
- Barret Montfort Trail East: re-established the trail level by re-digging the initial cut and installed edging supports;
- Woodward Trail: removed tripping hazards and re-established trail levels;
- Surveyors Trail, east trailhead: added flat stones to reinforce the water bars;
- Surveyors Trail, Canyon, east side: installed a wide rip-rap staircase and rerouted the trail up and around a stump. This was his largest project. My only involvement was in the finishing (this is Andrew’s flagship project);
- Surveyors Trail, Owl Hollow: installed a large pipe and raised the crossing approaches;
- Duck Pond: removed the two old 12” culverts and established a proper outflow channel with a 12’ start to the channel;
- Merrill Harrop Trail: removed tripping hazards and placed clay soils over roots;
- Merrill Harrop Trail: Built two stone walls to support the trails lower edge (2018);
- Merrill Harrop Trail: gathered the rocks and built a 60’ stone wall to support the trails lower edge (2020), this was Andrew’s last project (3 Oct 20);
- For 15 years, monitored the Merrill Harrop Trail, West Viewpoint Trail, Valley Mist Trail, Illahie Trail and Woodard Trail. He tended to fallen debris and cleared many smaller trees; and
- Andrew was a seasoned Forester at heart. Through conversation Andrew provided concepts, information and true interpretation to regulars and visitors alike.
Before I cry, I need to state that Andrew was a wonderful person on all levels, family, friends and gave to the park he loved. He was my park-friend, a major volunteer, and I relished our weekly encounters in the park.
From Andrew’s family private stories: a few months ago, in conversation a family friend pointed upwards to God, and Andrew added, “God is everywhere around us.”
Andrew Smith Mitchell: so-long my friend, so-long! Sending my LOVE. I am looking forward to our future friendship!
Andrew’s Service (13 Nov 20). . . was amazing and so perfect. One of the takeaways for myself was that Andrew was truly a caregiver in all ways: family, through his professional career standing up for the environment, he advocated for the disabled, and cared for parks. From L/JDP, Dan Backan and myself were Pall Bearers, along with his brother William Mitchell, and friends Victor Dove, John Stephans and Joseph Sheppard.
I was flabbergasted to hear the Scottish bag pipe, and to learn he won a heavy lifting medal at the Scottish Universities’ Championship. —- We love and will miss you Andrew!
LOVE from US
Update: 16 Nov 20 – It is very hard to say so-long to a friend. After listening to much music… my heart leads me to this. I’m hoping you can play high-volume and tend to your kitchen or office and think of Andrew.
A major park volunteer and friend – thank-you Andrew!
MITCHELL, Andrew Smith July 28, 1947 – November 6, 2020 Andrew is survived by his wife of almost 45 years, Janet and three daughters, Jennifer (Kaarlo) Hinkkala, Laura, and Heather Mitchell. He is also survived by his brother William (Courtney) Mitchell and sister Mary (Bill) Cant. Andrew was beloved by his family and community. He was dedicated to helping his daughter Laura. Andrew was born in the manse at Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. His father, Andrew, was a Presbyterian minister and his mother, Jane (nee Sutherland) was a nurse. He climbed many mountains with his father and older brother including Scotland’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. At the University of Aberdeen, Andrew was awarded a heavyweight lifting metal at the Scottish Universities’ Championships. He completed his degree in forestry and immigrated to Canada soon after, finally settling on Vancouver Island. He worked for private forestry companies, then at UBC, and then for thirty years with the BC government as a forestry engineer. He, with Laura, was a long-time regular hiker at John Dean Park and was beloved by all the other regulars. He took pride in doing restoration work on the park’s trails and sharing his informative views on sustainable forest practices and restoration. Andrew also built the timber-frame kiosk at Dominion Brook Park. He was an avid gardener, carpenter, and homebuilder. Andrew built three homes. His first was a prefab up island. He then designed and built two homes in North Saanich. His wife, Janet, worked with him to build the second home. The third house was a timber frame that Andrew built over several years. Andrew was dedicated to his family and stood up for social justice and ecological conservation. He enjoyed reading and Scottish country dancing. Andrew lived simply in the example of Jesus throughout his life. He was intelligent, caring, and had outstanding character. He will be dearly missed. May his trails be a lasting legacy to all. A private outdoor green burial service in Royal Oak was held on November 13.To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Victoria Times Colonist from Dec. 6, 2020 to Jan. 5, 2021.