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COVID casualty, tournament organizer memorialized with Sugar Cane Ball Diamond dedication

Byron Louie died from COVID-19 in January, 2021 six days before his 47th birthday

The Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) Sugar Cane Ball Diamond has been named after the late Byron Louie who died in January 2021 from COVID-19.

“Byron played ball and started the vision for our ball diamond,” WLFN Chief Willie Sellars said. “He did the first major renovation which led to what we have now. He organized tournaments there. He was a solid guy, well-liked and known in the baseball circuit.”

A new sign that reads ‘Welcome to Sugar Cane Byron Louie Memorial Park’ was unveiled Saturday, Aug. 13 during a fun family-friendly ball tournament hosted by Byron’s family.

“He was a good friend to all of us,” Sellars said.

Byron, who was former Chief Ann Louie’s son, was almost 47 when he died.

Ann said last year a golf tournament was held at Coyote Rock in his memory.

“My younger son Will Louie has been the one who has organized the events in conjunction with WLFN. The band has been very supportive and very respectful in honoring our son, father, uncle, brother and friend.”

She described Byron as a “very kind and special young man” who was taken too soon.

He made many friends and worked in a variety of areas for the band including haying, logging, mining, treaty negotiations and was manager of Chief Will Yum gas bar.

Bryon loved his sports, played hockey and was an awesome hockey player.

“Many people still talk about how he played. He played ball, golf, poker and called bingo for our elders who loved him,” Ann said.

Byron left behind three adult sons - Malcolm, Jaron and Daniel Sellars - who reside in Kamloops with their mother.

Chief Sellars said an invitation went out to whoever wanted to play in the tournament and enough people signed up to make five teams which were put together randomly.

“We will even have 70-year-old elders playing,” Sellars said in advance of the tournament, noting he was playing too with his first game scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday morning. “It won’t be too competitive.”

The sign was made by community member Joey Alphonse out of wood at the operations and maintenance shop at Sugar Cane.

In 2017, Byron spoke with the Tribune when WLFN received a $90,000 investment through the Toronto Blue Jays Care Foundation and local support to upgrade the ball diamond. At the time he said having a thriving sports community can be a big deterrent in keeping youth out of trouble.

“The biggest thing is trying to stop the kids from being in town all the time,” he said. “A lot of them are at home on electronics, as well. Trying to get the field up to par and being able to use it for things other than baseball is something that’s envisioned when all the work had begun a few years ago, so hopefully that can all be followed through with as well.”

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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