Bill Ernst was born in Germany in 1923 to a family that had deep roots in that country but also some history in Russia where Catherine the Great, herself of German ancestry, invited German farmers to settle and open up the land.
Bill’s parents moved between the Ukraine and Germany to find work in the early part of the 20th century but eventually decided to leave Europe, heading for Canada in 1932. The family homesteaded in Nova Scotia, then turned to logging to make a living.
In the early part of World War II, Bill’s father and older brother were taken from the family farm and sent to an interment camp in Alberta because of their German roots. During the four years they were imprisoned, Bill became the head of the family, providing for his mother and four other siblings.
In 1947, he married Margaret Marsters of Nova Scotia, and the following year headed for B.C. to find work. Margaret followed him soon after and the two set up a mini-logging camp in the bush, where Margaret cared for a growing brood of children and fed the four or five loggers who helped Bill with his fledgling logging enterprise. The family eventually settled in Quesnel, then to nearby Dragon Lake, where the children grew up and Bill owned and operated Apollo Transport, a trucking company.
In 1987, Bill and Margaret sold the family home and moved to Nanaimo. There, Bill continued to work into his late 70s, hauling fish from the west coast of Vancouver Island to his son’s fish processing plant in Nanaimo.
In early 2006, having just turned 83, he proudly told his family that he once again had passed his Class 1 license and would still be able to drive a big transport truck, if he wanted to.
Bill was enormously proud of his children, and loved nothing better than a rousing game of crib. Debating politics was another pleasure for him, and his children knew that in the end, he was always right. He loved reading good spy and mystery novels, and enjoyed tending his small garden of tomatoes and beans, though at times he was confounded by the many deer roaming his neighbourhood.
Bill, who lost the battle with cancer, was sadly predeceased by Margaret, his wife of 58 years, in 2005, and grandson Danny in 2004. He is survived by his six children, Bill (Robbie), David (Barb), Judy (Gary Gelderblom), Holly (Jim) Jack, Ric (Renee Blackstone) and Colin (Kris Ongman), as well as grandchildren Mike, Colin, Stacy, Stephen, Jamie, Nicole, Gavan, Zach, Lena, great grandchildren Kayla, Brandon, Dustin and Madyson, and his sister, Gertrude Dewis.
A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 11 a.m. at Sands Funeral Chapel, 1 Newcastle Rd., Nanaimo (250-753-2032). A reception will follow at the Coast Bastion Inn (250-753-6601). In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Bill’s grandson Danny Ernst, to the Mind Foundation of B.C., (1-888-888-0029, www.bcss.org/Mind_Foundation/Donation.html) gratefully accepted.