Former Taylor mayor Fred Jarvis dies

Fred Jarvis, the former long-time mayor of the District of Taylor, has died.

Jarvis died in his sleep of natural causes Sunday, Dec. 2, family and friends say. He was 74.

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"Fred passed away in his sleep, leaving the community, family and friends shocked by his passing," his brother-in-law Bill Cassidy said.

"There are a lot of memories by individuals of what he has done and achieved."

Jarvis is survived by his wife, Judy, and two daughters Anna and Beverley, and son David, along with several other siblings, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.

A public funeral service will be held Saturday, Dec. 8, at 10 a.m. at the Taylor Community Hall. All are welcome, and a lunch will follow. Jarvis will be interred at the Taylor cemetery in a private ceremony. 

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Fred Jarvis was the mayor of the District of Taylor for 28 years. - WILLIAM STODALKA

Jarvis was mayor of Taylor, the small town of 1,500 people on a flat above the Peace River, for 28 years from 1986 to 2014.

Jarvis was born in Sidney, Manitoba, in 1944. In 1971, he moved to Taylor and never left. He spent much of that time working at a now-closed mill, then working at his father-in-law's farm.

But most people would come to know Jarvis from his political career. It started in 1979 at the suggestion of friend and former councillor Tony von Hollen when Jarvis was looking to get involved with the community. 

He served two terms as councillor being he was elected to his first term as mayor in 1986. His tenure brought major change to the town, which saw the building of the curling rink, arena, and Lone Wolf Golf Course, and saw the village obtain district status in 1989.

Jarvis was big on regional partnerships, and helped broker a deal with other Peace Region communities and the province to bring a share of provincial oil and gas development revenues back to local governments in the region for investment.

Jarvis was always a championship contender at the annual World Invitational Gold Panning Championships at Peace Island Park, and he brought the Spirit of the Peace Powwow to the district, where it's been celebrated now for more than a decade. He was even known to write North Peace Secondary students a personalized letter when they graduated.

Once asked why he served so long, Jarvis once quipped, "You'll have to ask the people."

"They give me the strength and the guidance to do it. The community is absolutely superb" Jarvis said when he announced his retirement in 2014.

His sudden passing is a surprise to all in the community, Taylor Mayor Rob Fraser said. 

“He was a great leader in our community and region. I miss him already,” Fraser said. "He’s not just a colleague, he’s a family member to everybody."

If you can name it, Jarvis had a hand in it, Fraser said.

"For more than 30 years he’s been guiding this community," Fraser said. "There’s nothing that doesn't have his fingerprints on it somewhere."

In 2012, Jarvis was awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal for his work. The job wasn't always easy, Jarvis said, but always a great educational experience.

"It's made such a change in what my life has been because of it," he said.

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Taylor Mayor Fred Jarvis takes the fly local pledge in April 2013, promising to consider the North Peace Regional Airport as their first air travel service provider.

Jarvis was a founding member of the Peace Crossing Historial Historical Society, and was an elder at the Peace Community Church.

Jarvis may have left politics, but he was still active in the community, and talked often of his many projects, Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman said.

“We’ve lost a good friend,” Ackerman said. "He was quite the character. He always thought of himself last, and always tried to bring people together."

Jarvis was the “king of collaboration,” and thoughtful in his approach to all topics, especially when helping to settle regional differences, Ackerman said.

“He always tried to be inclusive and when he spoke, you listened,” Ackerman said. “He always had a pearl of wisdom in his speeches.”

Mike Bernier, MLA for Peace River South, called Jarvis one of the most passionate, supportive people for the Peace Region.

"He was well known and respected across political spectrums for the great work he did for the people of Taylor and the Peace Region," Bernier said.

Dan Davies, MLA for Peace River North, said one of his last memories of Jarvis was talking about the issues of day in his constituency office the other week.

“I kept telling him we should do this on a regular basis,” Davies said. 

“If you think about the experience Fred had with local government, he had just an amazing perspective on so many things.

"It’s certainly a sad day in the Peace Region."

Karen Goodings worked alongside Jarvis at the regional district level for her 30-year career representing Area B as electoral director. Jarvis was kind, quiet, and thorough, she said.

“He was the kind of person who really took an interest in everything that was happening,” Goodings said.

“It wasn’t so much that he would take the lead; he was there for support, for everything that was happening.”

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Fred Jarvis chairs a meeting of the District of Taylor council in November 2013.

Jarvis built the community one family at a time. Brent Taillefer says Jarvis is the reason he lives in Taylor.

“My favourite story of Fred is when I called him and said why should I move to Taylor, he said, ‘Come on down and I will tell you,’” Taillefer said.

“I met him at his office and he told me of the programs and facilities that Taylor had but most importantly that the people made the community and the people of Taylor were the best at making a community.

“He then rolled maps out in council chambers to show me properties that were for sale.”

Taillefer bought one of those properties in 2004. Fourteen years later, he's on his third term on council.

“He is the reason I live in Taylor and why I ran for council,” Taillefer said.

“He also was a great mentor and we spent many hours talking over a coffee and he showed me how I could make a difference in our community. He leaves a tremendous void in the lives of many and will be missed by all.”

From elected officials to district staff, those mourning Jarvis speak highly of him as a mentor.

Laura Prosko, former district community services director, said he was honoured to help organize his farewell tribute in December 2014 when he retired.

"He gave a life of service and dedication. His wisdom, kindness and guidance will be missed in our community and region," Prosko said.

Davies, who was first elected as a city councillor in Fort St. John in 2005, said Jarvis helped guide him as a wide-eyed new councillor through the annual convention of B.C. municipalities, where civic leaders set collective municipal lobbying priorities and meet with provincial ministers.

“He was one of the first people that came up to me and explained how things went down,” Davies said. “He just had to help people.”

Fraser said he was a single-issue candidate when he ran and was first elected as councillor in Taylor in the 1990s. That quickly changed after he started working under Jarvis. 

“I was that candidate no one wants to see on council,” Fraser said. “He guided me, mentored me, and showed me the true value of leadership.”

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

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Fred Jarvis at the 2017 Gold Panning Championships at Peace Island Park.
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