W.E. (Skinny) Bright

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W.E. (Skinny) Bright was born in Vantage, Saskatchewan in 1918 and passed away peacefully on Wednesday July 4, 2007, at Victoria, BC. A "celebration of life" was held on July 25, 2007 at the Trafalgar/Pro Patria Branch No. 292 of the Royal Canadian Legion at Victoria, BC. The ceremony included a tribute located at his favourite bar stool. Beside an earlier photograph was placed a glass of beer and a ticket for the pending meat draw (you only need one to win).

The story goes that Wally was of slight build as a youngster. His father, mother and two brothers all called him 'Skinny' — a name that lasted throughout his lifetime. After completing high school at Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Skinny entered the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan in 1936. His summers were spent surveying rights-of-way for irrigation canals with the PFRA. With the advent of the Second World War, Skinny left university and started full-time employment as a junior surveyor for the Dominion Department of Transport laying out earthworks, underground drains and runways for airfields. In 1942, he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Engineers and retired with the rank of Warden Officer 2nd Class in 1954.

Jean and Walter were married in Chilliwack, BC, on December 27th, 1946 while Skinny was still in the Canadian Army. Robert John Bright was born on January 29, 1948 and Lucile Ann Bright was born three years later on December 17, 1951. Then Skinny and family were transferred to Calgary where Karen Lynn Bright was born on January 5, 1955, almost at the same time a notice of transfer to Germany came which resulted in Skinny's decision to leave the Army.

Soon after, Skinny entered private practice with the firm of Strong, Lamb & Nelson in Calgary. The Brights purchased a home in Calgary and then decided to build a new house at 43 Winsdor Crescent SW. They moved into the new house just before Christmas in 1959, where Skinny lived until his move to Victoria. Jean Bright passed away on November 15th, 1980. Skinny married Elaine four years later in Honolulu, Hawaii.

After an articling period of three years, under the guidance of John A. Lamb, he was commissioned as an Alberta Land Surveyor on November 15, 1957 (Registration #235). He obtained his commission as a Saskatchewan Land Surveyor the following year. He was appointed Calgary branch manager on April 27, 1974 and was involved in almost all facets of Strong, Lamb & Nelson until his retirement in 1976.

Skinny's contributions to the Alberta Land Surveyors' Association were many. He served on Council from 1961 to 1966 and as president in 1965. He will always be known as the one who kept those AGMs on track as the undisputed 'parliamentarian' with a number of 'sidebars' like the singing of 'O Lord It's Hard To Be Humble' during one of the debates. Skinny's 25th anniversary as a member was marked by the publication in ALS News of “The Mechanical Surveyor.” Skinny was recognized for his outstanding service with the presentation of the Professional Recognition Award in 1983.

He was a member of the Shriners Club of Calgary (Al Azhar) and played the glockenspiel in the marching band with great pride. He also played the tenor and alto sax, but his favourite had to be the clarinet which he played until he was hospitalized in May 2007. He passed that love of music onto his only grandchild Linda Jean Pic (Karen's daughter), who also loves to play the tenor and alto sax that grandpa gave her. She has played them in a jazz band for years. Linda was born in Virden, MB on April 1st, 1983 (Good Friday), so she is referred to by the family as the ‘Holy Fool.’ She earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in physical geography from the University of Manitoba and continues her studies towards a Masters in Environmental Studies.

Skinny loved the outdoors and every weekend from May through October, the family would pack up the camper and head off to the mountains or wherever the car was pointed. Skinny's favourite spot was in Banff at a campground on the old highway called Protection Mountain. Skinny, with children in hand, would walk all the trails and paths in the area, never thinking of taking the sky trams when available. While Jean took the tram, he would explain that it takes away from the nature of the trip. He was famous for his Grey Cup parties and the special spaghetti he made for his guests. There was also the carrot pudding—never to be duplicated— that he would make at Christmas. Later, in Victoria, he perfected the art of brewing his own barley sandwich.

Skinny was loved as a husband and father, respected as a land surveyor, an accomplished musician, a mentor and a devoted friend to many who enjoyed his keen and dry sense of humour. He had the insight to a simple solution to most situations and always enjoyed a pint of beer with his friends. No tribute to Skinny would be complete without at least repeating a few of his parables and stories including: “hangovers, like sunburns are self-inflicted and therefore are not eligible for sick pay” and “don't drink until quitting time—but it's always quitting time somewhere” (Dave Edwards).

At a get-together at Skinny and Jean's with a number of party chiefs and with all the wives pregnant, the comment was made by one of the surveyors; “cause you're sending us out of town all the time.” Skinny retorted “no, it's ‘cause I let you come home” (Ron Stothers). A few weeks after starting work at Strong, Lamb and Nelson, I was observed supporting a wall while waiting for the party chief, which resulted in Skinny's question, “if you're here to work and I'm paying you get to work, handing me a snow shovel to clear the long melted snow on a hot July afternoon”—lesson learned. This was followed years later by a very serious meeting with the boss after finally receiving my commission and suggesting it would warrent a major salary adjustment. Skinny's comments cooled those aspirations. “Yesterday you were my best party chief today you're my worst land surveyor.”

Skinny truly left his mark.

S.M. Loeppky, ALS