Arthur Liddicoat was a modest man of simple pleasures and unwavering devotion to many things, including his family, and the Canadian military.
Although he is no longer seen walking with his golden retriever, enjoying his regular breakfast at the K Cafe, or gathering at the cenotaph on Remembrance Day, his memory lives on for many. With a name almost as old as Keremeos itself, his roots in the valley run deep.
On March 17, at 101 years old, William Arthur Liddicoat passed away at home, leaving behind a loving family.
Joan Liddicoat remembers her father as a man of the earth, enjoying small things; walking his golden retriever, sitting down at his regularly-reserved breakfast table at the K Cafe, as well as daily drives throughout the countryside, enriched by his yodelling skills.
His life experiences in the Similkameen Valley, she explained, garnered a love of local history, while wartime experiences confirmed his love of Canada and the democratic values Canadians enjoy.
Neither cornish pasties, cinnamon buns or apple pie, she said, could interrupt his 4 p.m beer.
“Some people say that: everything you need to know, you can learn in your own backyard,” wrote Joan about her father. “Arthur was a good example of that. His roots ran deep in this valley, and if you were to ask Arthur for the secret to his longevity, he would say very little and simply point his finger towards his devoted wife, May.”
Known by many for his unwavering support to the Canadian military, and the Royal Canadian Legion, Liddicoat was for years a face of Remembrance Day in the small rural town of Keremeos.
First enlisting with the Rocky Mountain Rangers in June, 1940, he went on to serve with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, from the landings in Sicily and Italy to the Liberation of the Netherlands.
A dispatch rider for the anti-tank platoon in Italy, he was tasked with delivering messages from the front lines on his Norton motorcycle. He was one of many who played a key role in liberating the Dutch from Nazi occupation. During the final days of this war, he was tasked with driving the German officer to sign the documents formalizing the surrender of Germany, and marking the end of the conflict.
During a family visit in 2005 to celebrate Arthur’s 93rd birthday, Corporal David Strachan from the Seaforth Highlanders asked, “What was the best thing you experienced from the war?”
Arthur paused and then replied, “I am still here.”
The eldest of five, born to British parents William and Frances Liddicoat, Arthur and his family eventually settled on what is now Liddicoat Road, north of Keremeos. There, he lived his entire life.
His early years were quite unlike anything a youth might experience now. While attending a one-room school house in Olalla in the 1920’s, Liddicoat delivered milk from the family dairy, to the community, on horse-drawn cart. He learned and mastered the skill of yodelling by listening to Wilf Carter on the radio.
He eventually took on several other odd jobs including bounty hunting cougar in Manning Park, laboring as a ranch hand, developing fruit farming skills from the Parsons family and later fine-tuning his mechanical skills during the war at the Innis garage, now a real estate office. Following the war, the majority of Liddicoat’s adult career was spent working for the department of highways.
Liddicoat is known for his many years of service as president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 192 in Keremeos, as well as assisting with local Boy Scouts, and the Keremeos Ladies Softball Team.
His daughter Joan found it difficult to summarize her father’s values, aspirations, and impact on the family and community. She admitted she would be continuing to learn from her father, even after his death.
“My father was a proud Canadian and he taught us never to take our democratic rights and privileges for granted. He exposed us to the struggles of less fortunate members of society,” wrote Joan.
“As a member of the working class society, he demonstrated that this segment of society can make a significant contribution to every Canadian’s well being. And today we rely on the role of caregivers, cashiers, farmers and truck drivers to hold our country together. He supported the struggles of the working class such as miners and labourers as they tried to improve working conditions through the collective action of unions.”
Arthur’s grandmother, a Suffragette in England during the early 1900s, instilled in him the importance of the vote for women. He always believed, Joan explained, that voting in a democratic society was not only a privilege, but also a responsibility.
He placed his last vote at the most recent federal election at the age of 101 years.
Arthur taught his family members to be critical thinkers, and to have the courage to ask questions and stand up for their beliefs. He was not governed by monetary gain, or by fame, but rather by principles of social justice.
Joan remembers him as a modest man, who valued his roots and respected the land on which he was raised.
“His honesty, integrity and good sense of humor garnered lifelong friendships and even after their passing, my father would continue to acknowledge them in absentia as we drove by the locations which was once their home,” wrote Joan.
As her father’s caregiver in his later years, Joan had the opportunity to witness the challenges facing seniors in today’s society. She said she is grateful he was able to retain dignity and respect, in the place that was home his entire life.
People like her father, Joan explained, are an inspiration, and she believes many can learn from their perseverance. She said this is particularly relevant for those who are taking up the challenge of home-schooling their children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They found ways to navigate through difficult times. They set the stage for our privileged lives,” said Joan.
“The rights and privileges we enjoy come from the struggles of past generations. Perhaps these most profound lessons are not found in the aisles of shopping centres or streets of pop culture, but rather in our own personal histories and the struggles of our previous generations.”
The Liddicoat family extended their thanks to those in the health care team who helped to fulfill Arthur’s final request to remain in his home at the end of his long life. They also thanked the local Legion, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, and Veterans Affairs Canada, who, “have never forgotten Dad’s contribution during WWII.” They also extended thanks to those who helped facilitate his end-of-life wishes, and to their family and friends for their support.