A fifth generation Sooke boy, John Hay was always close to his roots, though the lure of the north called him up to Dawson every summer for the past 25 years.
First son of Art and Marie Hay, John was one of the baby boomer generation, born in postwar 1946. He attended Saseenos School, near the home on Parklands Road his grandfather George Hay had built. While still in his teens, he joined many of the cousins he grew up with, in the fishing and woods industries. Descended as he was from the Poirier and Brule families (think Ecole Poirier and Mt. Brule) John’s heritage is an integral part of the fabric of the region. His first and second cousins number in the hundreds.
Early on, John got a job with Mars Contracting in Port Alberni. Before long though he was back in the woods, where he and friend Terry McNeil got work with Staverman Logging. He went on to work with Munn’s Lumber and Sooke River Logging. While starting out like most young fellows in the woods as a chokerman, he went on to become a machine operator. Demonstrating prowess at running a loader, this job became his specialty and a source of pride during his years in the woods.
Married to Karen Stolth, the couple had two daughters, Bonnie and Lorna, and in a later marriage to Terry Dunnett, his son Jonathon was born. To earn a living, the routine would be to work in the forest much of the year. Then typically, the weather would get hot, fire season would close the woods and men such as John would get work on salmon trollers or other fishing opportunities. For some seasons he decked with his cousin Wally Vowles on Wally’s trollers Calvern and Carrie K.
By the mid-1980s John’s life had taken a completely new turn, and it was the remote north country that drew him. For six months of each year, even before the ice had broken up on the Yukon and Klondike Rivers, he and his wife Dawn would join her family, Art and Noreen Sailer at their gold mine a few hours drive from the exciting frontier town of Dawson City. Bulldozers would precede them on the rough road leading out from Dawson, making a swath clearing the snow so they could set up spring camp.
The Sailer mine on Dominion Creek is one of many gold claims operating around Dawson, once the most famous town in the Canadian north. While camp life at the mine was fairly rugged, the family enjoyed their work amidst the beautiful northern scenery.
John’s work at the placer mine mainly focused on operating machinery, as they searched and sifted for the glittering gold. Trips into Dawson for supplies gave a change of pace during the summer, and sometimes Sooke visitors exploring the north would even run into John and Dawn Hay walking their dog in the historic town. When his son Jonathon went north to join the crew a dozen years ago, it was a bonus for each.
During the past year or two, John’s once-robust health declined and he was no longer able to continue the 25-year tradition of heading for Dawson at spring breakup. On July 21 he passed away, leaving his wife Dawn, siblings Nancy (Dave Smith) Glen (Susan) children Bonnie, Lorna, Jonathon and grandchildren Kiefer, Kyle, Riley, Carlee, Kara, Sam and Paige.
The service is to be held at Sooke Community Hall at 1 p.m. August 13. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations could be sent to the Canadian Cancer Society or to the Sooke Region Museum.
Sooke Region Museum