E.E. Little

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Earl Little, ALS
Known for Also a British Columbia Land Surveyor

Earl E. Little will be remembered as the pre-eminent land surveyor of British Columbia's oilpatch during the 20th century. Earl died peacefully of heart failure on November 23, 2001 at his winter home in Chapala, Mexico, at the age of 81.

Earl was born in Vancouver on August 15th, 1920. He and his older brother Don were schooled at General Gordon Elementary and Kitsilano Secondary, but only until Grade 9. That year was 1935, near the nadir of the Great Depression and, as there was no work for carpenters like Earl's father, the family packed up and went placer mining for Cariboo gold.

Times were tough, so when World War II broke out, Earl and Don eagerly volunteered. After basic training, Earl entered RCAF No.3 Training Command's wireless school in Montreal. During this period, he met Denise Lauren from Ottawa, and they were married in 1942. In 1943, Earl advanced to RCAF No.1 Training Command's flight training program in Oshawa, and earned the rank of Pilot Officer.

Don Little was killed in the war and remains buried in Italy. However, Earl never saw action. Earl's closest brush with a hostile situation was safely landing a Harvard fighter with the gear jammed in the "up" position. As the war neared its end, there was a glut of allied pilots, and nearly the entire group Earl trained with was released from duty.

In 1944, Earl and Denise moved west to raise their family, and over the next nine years their firstborn Mike welcomed siblings Susan, Pat, Diane, Ross and Clifford into the world.

In 1945, after upgrading to Grade 12, Earl entered the Mining Engineering program at the University of Alberta. During this time he got a summer job in Edmonton with A.G. (Alex) Stewart, ALS, and was thus indoctrinated into the land survey profession for good. Earl earned his B.Sc. in 1949, and directly entered articles under Stewart.

This began an intensive six-year period where Earl earned four land surveying commissions: Alberta in 1950, Dominion Lands in 1951, Saskatchewan in 1953, and B.C. in 1955. In addition, he earned designation as a Professional Engineer in Alberta in 1953 and in BC in 1962.

In 1951, Earl entered into partnership with A.G. Stewart and his son John Stewart, a geologist, and later Charlie Weir, ALS, eventually forming Stewart Little Stewart Weir. His early years included some cadastral work and a lot of government road contracts, which required tent camp operations for extensive periods. After that experience, Earl was well-prepared for the difficulties of remote oil and gas surveys throughout Northern Alberta. The last stretch of Earl's affiliation with Stewart et al was from 1955 to 1957, when Earl and Charlie worked on the Mid-Canada Early Warning Line contract as surveyors and site engineers.

By 1957, the Alberta oilpatch had begun to spillover into Northeast BC. With the frontier spirit still intact from his gold mining days, Earl and family set out for Fort St. John to establish an office for Midwest Surveys Limited. The work was difficult and remote, and the oilpatch life took its toll. By 1960, Earl and Denise had separated and, as the rest of the family moved back to Edmonton. Earl elected to stay in Fort St. John.

Earl continued to run Midwest's BC operations until 1965, when he and Ken Longstaff, BCLS, left the fold to establish their own partnership. For the next 18 years, Little Longstaff & Associates grew steadily with the oilpatch in northeast BC, northwest Alberta and the Territories. During that time, they were leaders in the survey industry in BC, using tellurometers from the early 60s, the first EDMs in the 70s, and had full digital plan production as early as 1979.

Earl remarried in 1967, to Edna (Mitchell), and adopted Edna's two children, Trudy and Terry. Two years later, they welcomed the arrival of Troy, bringing Earl's total to nine children over 24 years. Earl was always very involved in the community, serving on the school board from 1971 to 1977 and chairman in 1974. It was also around this time that Earl and Edna began to travel, and once bitten by that bug they never stopped. Over the years, you might have caught them just about anywhere in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the South Pacific and, of course, Mexico, their favorite retreat.

By the late 1990s, Earl was still working full-time as a BCLS, but the cold winter months usually found him and Edna in Mexico or some other warm and exotic location. Earl still really enjoyed his work and, even in the twilight of his career, was eager to learn new technologies and techniques.

Earl E. Little was a fine surveyor and a gentleman. He was quick to praise others, but always understated his own accomplishments. Earl was always first to answer a question or lend a hand, and he loved to tell a tale, especially if a glass of wine or a wee nip of scotch was about. In summary, Earl was simply a pleasure to be around.

Jeff Robertson, BCLS, CLS