It would be hard to find anyone more true-blue Sooke than Pat Forrest, writes Elida Peers. (Contributed - Sooke Region Museum)

Sooke History: Pat Forrest left lasting mark on Sooke

Life-long fisher contributed to salmon enhancement

It would be hard to find anyone more true-blue Sooke than Pat Forrest.

Born in 1928, Pat was the first of three children of Jim and Olive Forrest. Jim Forrest, of a Scots and Dutch background, had found work here on the coast and it was while he was in Bamfield in 1922, he was hired by Sooke Harbour Fishing & Packing Company, operators of our famous fishtraps enterprise.

Before long, Jim Forrest had made the acquaintance of a lovely young woman, Olive Norman, who was with the Standfast Bible Student Colony situated at at the intersection of Highway 14 and Whiffin Spit Road.

With his fishtraps wages, Jim had bought a spanking new 1923 Chevy, and this enabled him to drive up the gravelled Malahat to court Olive, when her family, the Normans, had left the colony and moved back to Cowichan.

The two married and set up a home in Sooke. They bought a cottage built by William Muir on waterfront property, overlooking a series of wharves at the foot of Maple Avenue. This house still stands.

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Growing up alongside sister Merle and younger brother Harold, Pat enjoyed life to the fullest. Hanging around with his pals, they’d often go up to the Sooke Community Hall and shoot a few baskets. During the Second World War, when the fledgling Sooke Fire Department was re-inventing its roots, he and his buddy Laurie Wilson became junior volunteer firemen.

Though Pat faithfully attended Sooke Superior School, the classes did not go as far as Grade 12, and that’s how come he and his classmate Hank Hanson boarded in Victoria to attend Victoria High, where they became the first Sooke kids to graduate.

As his dad was an engineer on the fishpackers, Pat had no trouble getting a summer job at the fishtraps operations during his teen years. Beginning as a deckhand on the packers, he branched out into crewing for fishermen like Bill Pitrie on the Pacific Belle.

Pat married young, and while he and his first wife had a busy household of six children, much of his time was spent in the north Pacific fishing.

Children grown, his life took a different turn, and since 1975 his new wife Linda accompanied him as crew each season. Pat’s latest vessel was the 48-foot troller West Foreland. The couple worked hard going after their catch and only came into port to offload their catch; ports included Ucluelet, Tofino, Port Hardy, Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii.

As an experienced fisherman, Pat recognized that the once prolific salmon were dwindling in number. Pat was one of the men who had been drawn to the endeavours initiated by federal fisheries officer Jack Brooks, who had begun to work restoring streams and enhancing fish habitat. He joined the Sooke Conservation Society, which later became the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society.

It was in 1972 that Pat joined the Sooke Lions Club, seeing another opportunity to contribute his skills to serve the betterment of the world around him. He helped build the Jack Brooks Hatchery on Rock Creek in the 1980s; also the Bill James dam, continuing in salmon work until his health gave out. Pat helped build the museum, the Lions playground on Murray Road, and the maintenance of the Sooke Harbour Cemetery, a responsibility the Lions took on two decades ago.

When the historic Muir Cemetery on Maple Avenue was restored, Pat shared in that undertaking as well. Recently, he and Lin have enjoyed living quietly at their waterfront home.

Lion Mike Thomas, who worked alongside Pat Forrest for decades, says, “It would be hard to find anyone more dedicated than Pat, but what I remember is, no matter how hard we were working, Pat enjoyed a bit of practical joking and sharing his great sense of humour. We will surely miss him.”

Mel Hull, who worked with him for many years, says, “It was with great sadness and a huge sense of loss that the SSES members learned of Pat’s passing. At the same time, there was a lot of quiet humour at all the hours we had spent enjoying Pat’s legendary stories of fishing adventures as a much younger version of the man we had so much respect for, talked about and cherished. Pat was with the Society from the earliest days and his expertise with rope and net were invaluable, time after time.

Possibly the memory of Pat that will live on with most of the long-term members will be him sitting on the raggedy old couch in the old office, as several love-struck dogs clustered around him, knowing that his pockets were a source of goodies. His passing will be mourned by all of us at the hatchery for a very long time. Calm seas and good fishing, old friend, from all of us.”

Pat Forrest died Oct. 31.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email

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