It felt as though someone was missing at last week’s Elks New Year’s Baby Celebration.
That ‘someone’ was Thor Davidson, who was there for the first Elks New Year’s Baby celebration in 1967 and who was still organizing and making the presentation for the New Year’s Baby in 2016.
Davidson’s name became synonymous with Lillooet’s Elks Lodge where he was a member for more than 50 years. He devoted countless volunteer hours to the New Year’s Baby Celebration, organizing the May Day Parade, organizing a presentation for Speech and Hearing Month and making sure there were enough Easter Eggs for the Easter Egg Hunt. He also worked quietly behind the scenes to assist Lillooet-area residents, whether they needed a new wheelchair or a speech learning device. A letter to the editor in 2015 praised him as a “a remarkable, intelligent, hospitable, humorous and caring man.”
Those qualities were recognized in 2016 when Thor Davidson was made a Freeman of the District of Lillooet – the highest honour this community can bestow.
In her speech honouring Davidson as a Freeman, Lillooet Mayor Marg Lampman told him, “You exemplify everything the Elks stand for and everything that makes living in Lillooet precious and heartwarming.”
Thor Davidson died Friday, Feb. 16 in the Comox Valley Seniors Centre at the age of 94 years and four months. He had moved away from Lillooet in the summer of 2017 to be closer to family on Vancouver Island. The Davidson family says a Celebration of Life Service for Thor Davidson will be held Saturday, June 2 at 2 p.m. in Lillooet’s Elks Hall.
He was born Thure Harald Davidson in Norway on Oct. 16, 1923. In Lillooet he was known as Thor. He worked as a fisherman for his father and completed his carpentry apprenticeship before the Nazi occupation of Norway in World War II.
He met and married his wife Tula in Steinkjer Norway in 1943, when they were both 20.
Following the war, the young couple decided Canada would be a good place to live their lives and raise a family. After they moved to this country in 1949, Thor worked on the DEW (Distant Early Warning) line, a system of radar stations built in the early 1950s in the far northern Arctic regions of Canada. The DEW was set up to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War, and provide early warning of any sea-and-land invasion.
The Davidson family moved to Lillooet in 1957. As a master carpenter, Thor began working for BC Electric (now BC Hydro) as the head carpenter building a tunnel from Carpenter Reservoir through Mission Mountain to the Bridge River powerhouse on Seton Lake.
Thor had the chance to move to San Diego, but, while he and Tula waited for their American immigration papers to be approved, they decided they decided they loved Lillooet and wanted to stay here. As Mayor Lampman noted in her Freemen speech, “San Diego’s loss was Lillooet’s gain.”
His talents as a carpenter kept Thor Davidson busy during his working years. He worked for Evans Products, was involved in the construction of Cayoosh Elementary School in the mid-1960s, worked on the Bridgeside Wood Products plant, built his own home and other houses around town and - as an avid and excellent curler - volunteered during the construction of the curling rink after the first rink burned down.
Thor and Tula started their own business on the Hop Farm. They called it T and T Building Supplies and T and T Road was named for them.
However, the project nearest and dearest to his heart was the Elks Hall on the Hop Farm in North Lillooet. Initially, Thor found two large housing trailers for sale at the Mission Dam site and the Elks purchased the trailers and installed them on top of the poured foundation for the first Elks Hall in North Lillooet. The Hall and the grounds around it became an important focus for the Lillooet community.
In October of 2000, Davidson received the Lillooet Chamber of Commerce’s Volunteer of the Year Award, voted on by community members. He was honoured by the Chamber as a longtime mainstay of the Lillooet Elks.
When he was nominated to be a Freeman of the District of Lillooet, one of the letters nominating him for the honour was particularly poignant. It said, “Thor always did, and still does, treat folks of all colour, religion and life styles with the greatest respect and as equals.”
Thor Davidson was pre-deceased by his wife Tulla and daughter Grethe. He is survived by his sons Karl and Erick, his daughter Jenny and their families, as well as many other relatives and friends.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children.