Former mayor Johnder Basran, one of Lillooet's biggest boosters and greatest ambassadors, has died at the age of 83.
Mr. Basran passed away Dec. 29 at Ridgeview Lodge in Kamloops and funeral services were held Jan. 4 in Kamloops. A Celebration of Life will be held in Lillooet later this spring.
Basran was a dominant figure on Lillooet's political scene for decades. First elected to Village Council as an alderman in the 1960s, he served three terms as mayor before eventually becoming Chairman of the Board of Lillooet School District # 29. He was the first Indo-Canadian to be elected as mayor of a Canadian municipality. He was also the only person in Lillooet to serve as mayor and school board chair.
His family said Basran loved serving the community, and he did so with courage and passion.
In addition to his elected duties, Basran served Lillooet in other capacities, including as a member of the Recreation Commission, the Economic Development Commission and the Chamber of Commerce
He also represented Lillooet for many years on the South Central Health Unit Board, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Board, the Okanagan Mainline Municipal Association and Yale District Credit Union Board. After health care services were regionalized in the 1990s, he represented the community on the Thompson Regional Health Board.
A fervent free enterpriser, Johnder Basran was active in the Social Credit Party in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. He twice ran for the party's nomination in the Yale-Lillooet riding.
He maintained a keen interest in politics and correctly predicted that Christy Clark's Liberals would win a majority government in last May's provincial election. "The polls mean nothing," he confidently told his family. "There is no way this province is going to vote NDP."
As a community volunteer, he was a 50-year member of Lillooet Elks Lodge #467, serving as Exalted Ruler and District Deputy.
"He was my mentor and I learned so much from him," longtime mayor Joyce Harder recalled last week. She served as an alderman when Basran was mayor. "I remember the late meetings we would have. I would be starting to flag at 8:30 or 9 o'clock and Johnder would just be getting his second wind."
Harder remembered Basran as a man whose opinions were "never superficial.
"You could be having a discussion with Johnder and he would come up with a whole new angle on the discussion that you had never thought of. He really thought things through and I'm sure he left this world thinking there was so much left to do. He will definitely be missed and this is a sad day for Lillooet."
Harder, who knew Basran for 40 years, added that he was such a familiar figure to people in town that "he was part of the landscape."
Bob Dew, another former mayor and longtime resident, described Basran as "always energetic, hard working, frugal yet very generous to people in difficult circumstances." Dew called Basran "one of the very few true politicians in Lillooet politics. He had all the connections and the contacts."
Rev. Ed Lewis served on the school board with Basran. He recalled last week, "The first time I really met Johnder was at the School Board meeting after being elected in 1990. Over the years, we always didn't see eye-to-eye but I never once doubted that he was working for the best interests of the students. He always spoke his mind and never acted out of spite. I know that the students in our school district benefitted because of Johnder's years of service to our community."
Because he wanted Lillooet to celebrate Lillooet, Mayor Basran was the driving force behind the creation of the Only in Lillooet Days celebration, which began in 1982. It evolved into Begbie Days, which morphed into today's Apricot Tsaqwem Festival. For the first Only in Lillooet Days, he dressed up as the Boss Hogg character from the then-popular TV show, "The Dukes of Hazard." He cut an unforgettable figure in his all-white suit and white cowboy hat, greeting visitors and locals alike at the celebration.
Born in Kelowna on July 13, 1930, he attended school in Kelowna and Rutland. His family's home stood where the Costco store is located now in Kelowna.
Basran was also a successful businessman. He and his wife Mary and their two daughters moved here in 1959 to establish Lillooet Timber with his father-in-law Milkit Biln. He then went on to operate the Basran Sales and Service gas station on Main Street and a Nissan auto dealership. Later, he founded Sanbar Contracting, an asphalt and road building company.
Johnder Basran was predeceased by his wife Mary. He is survived by his three children Linda Basran, Sandra (Ron) Silvey and Michael; his three grandsons Dustin Silvey, Tyler and Brayden Basran; and his sisters Yvonne, Rosemary and Susan.
Donations in his memory may be made to Lillooet District Hospital.