November 1, 1933 – November 29, 2021
In Loving Memory ~
“It isn’t the date on either end that counts but how they used their dash. For that dash between the dates represents all the time they spent on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.”
Howard Arthur Aikins, beloved husband and father, age 88, passed away quickly and gently on November 29th, 2021, the BV District Hospital in Smithers, BC.
Howard “Howie” was predeceased in 2011 by Erma, his dedicated loving wife and mother of his children.
He is survived by children Nona, Norma Jean and Howie Jr. and their respective families.
Howie’s dash began when he came in to the world on November 1, 1933, born to Laura Marie Fife, wife of Hobart Freeman Aikins, at their home on a farm near Notikewin, Alberta.
He grew up in and around Manning and Peace River areas and was introduced to the work away from the farm at the age of about 14 when he started working with his dad on ‘cat trains’ hauling supplies for exploration companies into the frozen tundra areas north of Manning. AB.
This was a large number of skid mounted sleds connected train style to one another and included cook and sleeping shacks. This ‘train’ was pulled by a cat operated by Howie.
After farm life and northern rural schooling in elementary years he went to boarding school, Red Deer Composite High School in Red Deer, AB, for a couple of years and then continued with studies at the Provincial Institute of Technology & Arts in Calgary, AB., (now known as S.A.I.T.) from which he graduated as a qualified machinist in 1953. From there he went on to work in his field employed by Burns & Company. His parents were always extremely proud of his accomplishments.
Somewhere around this time he met and fell in love with Erma Marcella Cavadini, they were married in Calgary in 1953 shortly after graduation from Tech. They spent only a short time living in Calgary before they moved out to the Cariboo area in BC.
They spent some time in Beaver Pass and Wingdam before moving to Wells, where all 3 children were born.
Howie worked in many fields while living in Wells, he was never a stranger to hard work. He worked on gold dredges, operated drag lines, did whatever was required on his shift, operate it or fix it so he could operate it and keep the show on the road. He also did work within the logging industry which was a secondary industry to the mine which employed many of the residents of Wells.
After a few years he and Erma invested in a trucking company and hauled freight and other supplies to and from Wells and Quesnel. With that also came a few other pieces of equipment and it is notable that much of the initial prep work done with equipment on the historical Barkerville restoration was done by Howie or his company.
He had so many interesting short stories to tell of things they would come across when they were pushing dirt, all lost now.
Free time in those days was hard to find but what there was would be spent with his wife and family near Bowron Lake where they cleared the brush and placed a small but comfortable 2 room cabin. Many happy hours were spent here.
The Wells years were hardworking but rewarding years. He many times took his kids along on his work day and they’d proudly ride along in the freight truck or on the back of the cat sitting high behind him on the fuel tank ‘helping’ him plow snow or down to the shop where they learned some math when he asked for a 9/16 or a 3/4 or a 5/8 this or that.
In 1967 with the closure of the Cariboo Gold Quartz mine, they sold the freight license and moved the family to Terrace and greener pastures. Howie went back to school and enhanced his machinist knowledge by adding welding accreditations.
Howie worked for awhile in the logging industry again but really didn’t like being away from home & family every night doing camp jobs so he put his entrepreneurial mind to work. Out of it came the idea to buy a Dog’n’Suds franchise, first in Terrace and successful enough that it was able to expand to a 2nd location in Smithers.
So Howie and Erma moved the family to Smithers. He always said it was such a nice place to drive through and he really was not very fond of Terrace anyway, said it rained far too much. So 1970 saw the launching of another very successful venture with the popular Dog ‘n’ Suds Drive-In restaurant Smithers. Howie and Erma worked together very hard at this and soon sold their interest in the Terrace location because they really liked Smithers much better and had no intention of returning to Terrace.
As the kids got older they also worked in the drive-in and learned to work shoulder to shoulder with Howie & Erma who led by example in providing the good old time ‘customer service with smile’. In 1978 they sold this business. After a short break In 1979 Howie outfitted a welding truck and did mobile welding for a bit. Then he sold that unit and his last years of work before retirement in 1993 were as a machinist in local welding shops.
Howie set the bar high in the role of husband, provider, father and protector. And not only was Howie a partner in a successful marriage but also in more than one entrepreneurial venture he undertook with Erma as a partner.
After retirement they built a home on the Bulkley River (nicknamed Clubmoose) that began as a tent camp and culminated in building a full scale house where they spent many enjoyable years, entertaining friends, playing and gardening until age started to take it’s toll and they moved back to a townhouse in Smithers.
Erma passed away in 2011 and left a void that Howie was never able to fill. RIP. That is not a surprise, they were mighty big shoes to fill.
Howie’s dash was inspirational, the things that man could do and did! Self made and skilled at many trades, he built houses, could weld most anything, skin a cat, machine his own parts, monkey wrench all manner of equipment, build a boat, brew a batch of darn good wine that he liked to share, moonshine you ask…?? a good marksman and hunter (friend Percy can attest to that) who could load his own ammo and oft times poured his own bullets, he butchered his own game, a pretty decent fisherman (although some of his methods may have been unorthodox, only Jody knows for sure) a generous host (friend Dave will vouch for this), Past Master of the Masons, Cariboo Lodge #4, retired member of the Smithers Fire Department, worked with the BC Ambulance Service in his days as a volunteer fireman, he loved old time country music and danced a fine 2 step and waltz, he cooked a mean hamburger, he set an awesome campfire that he loved to sit around….
He enjoyed a good joke and played many a prank, savoured a single malt scotch on occasion, was fond of going out for ‘China Food’ as he called it, an exciting cowboy story went a long way, he was old school and taught us that a firm handshake was an indication of favourable character, he instilled respect in his children and many others who worked for and with him during his dash….
Howie truly made the most of his dash and he had a good long run. He is missed by family and friends . Another one of the handsome good guys…gone . Yes, Dad “Papa” “Poppie”, we shall remember! Love ya , miss ya, bye for now!
We will meet again….
Respecting dad’s wishes, he was quietly cremated and no formal service will be held. He and mom’s ashes have been placed together in the columbarium at the Smithers Cemetery. Memorial donations in his honor may be made to : Community Cancer Care Team, PO BOX # 3776, Smithers, BC., V0J 2N0
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