The 104 Club
David Chase and Al Carder (Photos by NCC)
In 1910 two babies were born who would grow to each have a deep and abiding love for big trees. These boys, and the men they grew into, did not know each other, but until the last month they shared the distinction of being the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) two oldest living supporters in British Columbia.
Al Carder and David Chase both passed away recently at 104 years of age — Al on December 21, 2014, and David on January 2, 2015.
In addition to living long, engaged and compassionate lives, Al and David both left incredible legacies that include the conservation of some of BC's most precious natural spaces. Both grew to have deep connections with BC's towering coastal forests and with the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, in particular.
Al Carder and Michael Curnes (Photo by NCC)
When Alfred, “Al,” Carder was seven years old, the year was 1917 and the Canadian Northern Railway line to Vancouver had just been completed. About a mile from his childhood home in a small village 40 kilometres east of Vancouver called Cloverdale there had stood a towering Douglas-fir tree. Al's father had been keeping his eye on this tree and one morning noted that the top of the tree was missing from the spot where it normally towered above the ridge line. Presuming that loggers must have felled it and anxious to know how tall that tree might be, he grabbed Al and the two made the journey by foot to investigate.
"First we measured the stump," said Al. "It was tremendous — eight feet high. With father assisting, I was able to scramble onto its top. I was surprised at the size as it was as wide as our kitchen floor. Father put his tape around the stump, which showed a circumference of 32 feet and diameter a bit over 10 feet. Next we measured the length of the tree. This took the whole of that Sunday afternoon. When father returned from our last measurement, I could see by his expression that he was disappointed with what he had found. Father said it was not as tall as the Douglas-fir known as the Shannon Tree that had stood six miles to the south.”
The tree they had just measured was 341 feet tall. (The Shannon Tree had been 358 feet tall and 1,100 years old, according to its growth circles.)
From that experience in 1917, Al became lifelong-hooked on big trees in natural spaces. Al began supporting the work of the Nature Conservancy of Canada in 2004 when he was looking for a partner to help conserve some of BC's last stands of original growth coastal Douglas-fir on Vancouver Island. His support helped NCC's work in the Cowichan Valley, where we work to conserve Garry oak woodlands and coastal Douglas-fir forests — two of the most endangered ecosystems in Canada.
Even at 104, Al was proud of his support of NCC and in 2011 made it known that he had named NCC in his will so that his love of big trees in natural spaces can outlive him. During a visit, Michael Curnes, Director of Development for the BC Region visited Al's home when both Michael and NCC were turning 50 years old.
"Al gave me smile as if to say, do it twice and the world takes you more seriously," Michael remembers. "Al Carder would know."
And now, thanks to his planning and foresight, Al's big love of big trees will continue to achieve remarkable outcomes through the conservation work NCC does on the West Coast and around the province.
David Chase and his grandsons, Chase and Woods. (Photo courtesy of the family)
David Chase and his wife Louise first visited Vancouver Island's Cowichan Valley in 1955, after having purchased, sight-unseen, an inexpensive forested property there as an investment. Thinking it could return a nice profit through logging, the California couple traveled to Vancouver Island to check out the property. But as soon as they stepped among the towering Douglas-fir and arbutus woodlands, they knew they would not log the forest, but rather love and care for it in its natural state.
David and Louise moved up to the Cowichan Valley a few years later and spent the next five decades carefully tending their 100-acre (40-hectare) forest. David worked diligently to remove the invasive scotch broom and other weeds that were threatening to overrun the native plants. The couple spent long hours walking in the forest, and took great pride in sharing their private park with friends. After Louise passed away in 1997, David continued to tend the property that she had so loved.
In 2008, David began looking for a new caretaker for the property, in particular one that would protect the natural beauty of the forest. He was 98 years old and, while he could still drive his tractor, he was slowing down.
“I spent half my working life keeping it like a park,” he said at the time. “But I'm out of gas, so it's time for someone else to take care of it now.”
The Nature Conservancy of Canada purchased the property in 2009, naming it Chase Woods and fulfilling David's dream of protecting the towering trees forever. David contributed a significant portion of the value as an Ecological Gift.
“My congratulations to all of you who did such a fine job on this project,” said David during the celebration of the purchase. “This will be a lasting legacy for my family and a wonderful addition to the Nature Conservancy of Canada's portfolio of land stewardship.”
David lived in his home nearby Chase Woods right up until he passed away peacefully on January 2, 2015. His legacy will live on in the Chase Woods Nature Preserve, in his family and in the many friends he gave generously to in his Cowichan Valley community.