Born on the island of Grand Manaan, N.B., Joe Titus had coastal living in his blood, though mostly it turned out to be the west coast.
Born one of three children to John and Tillie Titus, Joe grew up on a farm and went on to the University of New Brunswick. After earning his bachelor of arts, he attended Wycliffe Collegiate where he earned his divinity degree in 1954.
Looking at his choices of assisting at a New Brunswick parish or heading to the west coast where he could take on the challenge of running a mission boat, he went west. Heading for Vancouver, he was ordained and joined the Columbia Coast Mission.
Meanwhile, Joe’s betrothed, Joan McAvity, was finishing up her degree as a registered nurse in Montreal, and on her graduation she entrained for Vancouver, where the two were married.
As teenagers, the two had met camping, and their meeting could not have been more fortuitous, as they shared much. Not only did they share a love of the outdoors, but they each were graced with quiet confidence, an adaptable low-key nature, and an attitude of “don’t worry, everything will work out,” which must have stood them in good stead in the next few years.
Joe’s first mission ship was the Rendezvous, a 35-foot gasboat. His wife crewed for him, and a later 42-foot vessel, which even had two heads, made her lot easier, as Joe’s responsibilities took him to Alert Bay, and to Cortez, Quadra, Stuart, Redonda, Sonora and Reed Islands.
His duties included not only church services but weddings, christenings, funerals, and emergency trips transporting those in need of medical aid. One of the most valued functions was social contact and news for isolated villages.
The Titus home on the island was at Whaletown, and when their first child was due, Joe had his wife flown to hospital at Campbell River, where son Stephen greeted the world. When second son Brian was born, however, Joan found herself on her own.
Joe was away with the boat picking up clergy for a conference back at Whaletown, and one can imagine the surprise the men got when they reached the house and found a new baby had arrived.
After five years with the Coast Mission the couple went back to New Brunswick with their three little ones (the two brothers had been joined by David). Back east, Joe became a parish priest in the Oak Point, N.B., area but before long the sea called again and he joined the Royal Canadian Navy.
Happy to be posted to Victoria, Joe was assigned to Royal Roads at first, then spent two years at sea, then served at Naden and Belmont Park. While youngest son Peter had been born in New Bruinswick, their only daughter Anne was born here.
Meanwhile the Tituses had been building a waterfront home of their own at the far reach of Sooke Basin, where their little cove offered saltwater swimming at any time and wonderful views of sunsets down Sooke harbour. The hospitable family enjoyed having friends come by any time.
After seven years in the navy, Joe was assigned to St. John’s Church in Colwood and St. Matthews in Langford, and then became pastor at the Church of the Advent, where he retired in 1994. In addition to his church role, for many years Joe volunteered with Junior Forest Wardens and the Boy Scouts, particularly with Jamborees at Camp Barnard. He also taught courses for Sooke Power and Sail Squadron.
The longboats at Edward Milne had become a big interest for Joan, so it was only natural that the couple joined the many excursions to longboat competitions at Port Townsend, the Columbia River, and more. It was only natural as well, that Joe and Joan became part of Sooke’s 14-member expedition that climbed the Chilkoot Pass, through Alaska and the Yukon, in 1997.
In more recent years the couple travelled many times across Canada in their camper/van to visit relatives in the east. Those trips were taken in summer, as during the school year, Joan and Joe both volunteered their time for school class tours at the Sooke Region Museum.
In the last few decades Joe was able to indulge his passion for photography and he developed an incredible collection of wild flowers, forests and beaches. The Titus’ friends have been blessed at Christmas each year to receive gift bundles of assorted photo cards.
Besides his wife of 63 years, Joe leaves sons Stephen, Brian, David, Peter, daughter Anne, their spouses, eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Many friends gathered for the service for Rev. Titus which took place Monday at the Church of the Advent, in Colwood.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.