J.F. (Jules) Brassard
Jules was born on June 8, 1948 in Edson. He was the third of four boys and grew up in the Edson and Hinton area. From the ages of 13 to 18, Jules attended College St. Jean in Edmonton where his strong faith and love for hockey became entrenched.
Jules attended the University of Alberta and worked his summers at Northwestern Pulp and Power in Hinton. In 1970, he graduated with a degree in chemical engineering and shortly after he married his sweetheart Vicki in June of that year. They started their family and over time had four children: Nicole, Matthew, and the twins Graeme and Andrea.
Jules started his career in Burlington, Ontario working as a chemical engineer with Dowell of Canada. The busy fishing holes around Toronto were not for him so Jules and Vicki headed back to Edmonton where Jules worked for Dowell for another two years before moving to Hinton where he worked as a process engineer with Northwestern Pulp and Power from 1973 to 1977. His love of the outdoors drew him to open a sporting goods store named “The Hinton Sportsman.” Jules spent 18 years running his store. His four children all worked at the store and, through Jules, they were given the opportunity to appreciate and enjoy nature and learn his passion for the outdoors.
In 1996, Jules’ love of the outdoors grew so strong that he decided to take up surveying so that he could be with nature every day. He sold the family store and started surveying with Dave Armstrong, ALS in Hinton. With the support of his family he went back to the University of Calgary to study geomatics at the tender age of 50. He told many people that he had to complete the program because his children were at university at the same time as he and he could not let them down or set a bad example.
It was at the Annual General Meeting of the Association in 2003 when Jules made his mark on the members present. During a lull at the awards ceremony, Jules recited Robert Service poetry from memory. Jules loved Robert Service’s poetry of the North.
During his short time as a practicing ALS he was able to serve on and participate in the Professional Development Committee.
AMEC employed Jules in 2003. In late 2003, he came on the marketplace and Challenger offered him a position. The company had no defined position for Jules so his offer letter simply stated that if you come to Challenger I think you will have “fun.” His email back to the company a few days later said. “I accept your job offer of fun.”
Jules quickly defined a position as the office manager in Ft. McMurray. The young staff whom we acquired from all over the country, soon began treating Jules as a father figure. He accepted that with humility and as an honour.
Jules managed the two largest subdivisions that Challenger has ever undertaken. The two subdivisions comprise approximately 4,000 lots. He spent many hours in the field with staff surveying and he loved every minute of it. One of his favorite sayings was “find a job you love and you never work a day in your life.” He lived that.
Jules was diagnosed with mesothelioma (asbestos exposure cancer) on January 18, 2007. It was traced to his summer jobs as a student in Hinton at the plant sites.
Jules accepted this news and said, “I will just beat this and move on.” During his illness, Jules continued to do all the things he loved. He went to his trap line up on the Little Berland River to finish his and his trapper friends’ cabin. He witnessed the birth of his third grandchild. He traveled with his wife and family and, though he couldn’t play hockey anymore, he spent time with his hockey buddies. Jules, I found out was a very good hockey player. Later on in his illness, Jules commented that he was looking forward to meeting the Lord.
Jules and his wife and four children ran marathons together. Yes, full 26-mile marathons. This year during the Vancouver marathon, Jules could not run but the rest of the family did and Jules was the excited coach waiting at the finish line.
As noted earlier, Jules loved Robert Service poetry. One of his favorites was “The Spell of the Yukon.” The last 4 lines of the poem are very fitting for Jules. They go like this.
It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder’,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder;
It’s the stillness that fills me with Peace!