Larry Rumsby was born at Jordan River in 1926, and he always had a soft spot for the frame house at the bottom of the hill on the waterside, as you approached Jordan River, a structure now gone.
It was the life of a thriving pioneer community that brought together Frank Rumsby, an electrician who arrived by boat in 1911, before there was a road to Jordan River, to work at the hydroelectric plant, and Nettie Maloney, a teacher who began ministering to her flock at the Jordan River School in 1919. They were married in 1922.
In 1929, the village of Sooke was first able to access electricity, with the establishment of a substation that diverted power into the village from the hydro lines that carried power from Jordan River to supply Victoria. It wasn’t long before Frank Rumsby brought his family to the new subdivision of Saseenos, where Larry, his sister Joan and brother Bill were raised in a waterfront home.
Rumsby Electric, begun in 1932 by his dad, became the primary electrical firm in town, and as Larry mused when he was 80 and still working at his trade, it was probably Sooke’s oldest business. Not only did Larry and brother Bill carry on the firm, but Larry’s son Stephen became an electrician as well.
After attending Sooke Superior School and barely old enough to join, Larry served briefly during the Second World War, went to work, and married a Prairie girl, Betty Lence, nursing at Saint Joseph’s Hospital.
The couple made their home alongside the Sooke River and raised a lively household of seven children, while both Larry and Betty contributed generously to community life.
Sooke was his town, and in Larry’s relaxed way, he was always an interested participant with a great smile.
It would be impossible to note the many ways that he contributed his electrical skills to the Sooke community over the years, but among the many endeavours that he helped would be the Sooke Community Association, the Sooke Centennial Committee, the Sooke Region Museum, the Sooke Lions Club, the Royal Canadian Legion, and pretty well all major community celebrations.
A man of the Roman Catholic faith, he carried a significant role in encouraging inter-church activities.
Larry’s sociable nature meant he enjoyed carrying on another tradition begun by his dad, barbecuing the beef in pits at the Flats in the Leechtown style, the night before All Sooke Day so that the succulent meat would be ready for the eager crowds next day. It wasn’t only the beef, though, as while the Flats were being readied each year, whenever an electrical problem arose, there was always a call to Larry, which brought a quick response.
Most outstanding, when the first Sooke Fine Arts Show was being set up in 1986, Larry spent weeks working gratis at the arena, organizing and setting up the lighting.
Larry did take time for fun and was a member of the Sooke Badminton Club, attended a memorable car rally in 1957 with his boyhood friend Gerald Roberson, and particularly enjoyed annual boating trips around the Island with Glen Holland and visiting Bill Hewlett. Best of all were the many summer camping trips taken with his family, where the kids would all gather around while Betty prepared lunch on the tailgate.
Daughter Lorna recalls his boundless energy and enthusiasm – that on his 80th birthday, he called her and suggested a bike ride – she said after riding to Sidney and back, he was not even tired, while she collapsed to the bed.
More recently, though, Larry’s age had caught up with him, and his final days were at Ayre Manor, where he died March 12. Predeceased by his sister Joan Zipp and his brother Bill (Kathryn), Larry leaves his wife of 69 years, Betty, his sons Stephen (Michelle), Peter (Deborah), Christopher (Susan), Brian (Laura) and daughters Lorna, Maureen (Boh) and Karen (Reece). His grandchildren are: Robin (Dan), Zachary, Rebekah, Scott, Travis, Lance, Sean (Meagan), Chelsea (Reece), Leland, Jennifer (Chris), Kaitlyn and great-grandchildren are: Vienna, Hope, Ledger, Kylee and Knox.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.