In Memory: Doug Huggins

Doug Huggins was many things — a gifted architect, a potter of merit, a dear father, a devoted husband, and a very proud grandfather and great-grandfather.

He was an enthusiast, instrumental in cultivating the theatre scene in Vernon and the province of BC.

He was a Past-President of Theatre BC 1968-1970, as well as a Life Member and a recipient of the prestigious Eric Hamber trophy.

Huggins, a founding member of Vernon’s Powerhouse Theatre, passed away on April 9, 2018 in his Lower Mainland home at 95-years-old.

“Doug was a great mentor for me.” said Sarah ”Scotty” McLean.

Huggins relocated to Vernon with his wife Mary from the UK in the 1950s.

An architect by profession, Huggins and business-partner Drew Allen were approached by City Council in 1962 when the building, that would later become the home of Powerhouse Theatre, was slated for demolition. They were asked to see if it could be salvaged and used for a fire hall,” “The answer was “No, it would make a lousy fire hall, but it would make a wonderful theatre.’”

While Huggins and Allen hadn’t set out to create a theatre at the time, as it seemed too wild a dream, the enthusiasts were enamoured with the building. Vernon Little Theatre and the Theatrical Arts Centre moved in and would eventually become what is now the Powerhouse Theatre.

Formerly a power station, which was covered in vines, Huggins and Allen redesigned the building and came up with the concept for the iconic Vernon building as a theatre.

According to fellow founding member Lorraine Allum, the 75 team members who worked on the transformation of the building were involved in the opening production. “Everybody who worked on it, was given a part,” Allum said. “Whether they wanted it or not,” laughed McLean.

“On the evening of Nov. 23, 1963, the Powerhouse Theatre opened with a production of Jean Giraudoux’s Madwoman of Chaillot, directed by Paddy Malcolm, and the set designed by Doug Huggins.

Since that original performance, the curtains have continued to open for more than 50 years, with the final performance this season, Calendar Girls

Huggins’ impact on the industry extends beyond the confines of Powerhouse Theatre.  Throughout the years his design talents extended to many other theatre companies.

Many of the sets he designed have won provincial awards,” McLean said. He was so dedicated to theatre that he continued to design sets well into his 90s.

“Theatre was a passion for Doug. He designed many, many, many sets for sure,” Allum said.

She credits Doug and Mary Huggins as the two who taught her everything she knows about theatre.

“They really push you to your limit to get the best out of you,” McLean said.

Huggins’ architectural work is also seen in various locations across the city. City Hall, the RCMP building, The Fire Hall, the former Library and Museum are a few of his legacies..

“His work is embedded in the clay of Vernon,” Allum said, adding that Huggins was a theatre consultant in the formation of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.

“His contribution to the city is major and his contribution to Powerhouse exists because of people like him.”Because of Huggins’ hard work, Allum said, it gave theatre buffs an outlet in Vernon

“A theatre is only a building and is of no value without the human resources to fill it and bring it to life,” Huggins wrote. “Our aim is that the Powerhouse Theatre, with its advanced and excellent physical resources, will continue to attract the people of this community in providing high standard of live theatre.”

Huggins is survived by his wife Mary, sons Michael and Peter, his daughter Susan Sambol, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren. He will be remembered by all for his contribution to Powerhouse Theatre, the City of Vernon, and the province of British Columbia.

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In Memory: Shirley Clark

Shirley Clark passed away on January 16, 2018 from a long courageous battle with cancer. She loved theatre and was best known as set designer, decorator and director with the Langley Players Club. Her infectious smile was ever present at Mainstage events.

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In Memory: Pat McClean

Pat McClean passed away on January 13, 2018 after a long battle with cancer.

A fixture in Lower Mainland community theatre circles for her passionate and tireless work behind the scenes on countless productions. She was best known as costumer and set decorator. Pat taught many the tricks of faux painting for sets and had a keen eye for colour combinations. Her most favourite costumes included any show that required period costuming. She was a lover of exquisite clothing and shoes! She was the recipient of many Theatre BC and Community Theatre Coalition awards. She was a board member of Theatre BC’s Greater Vancouver Zone, and long time board member for both Metro Theatre and the White Rock Players Club.

Pat’s infectious laugh and love of life will be deeply missed!

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In Memory: David G. Jones

31 May, 1932 – 21 May, 2015

D.JonesA few days before his 83rd birthday, on a brilliant shining day, beneath a bright blue sky and a hot sun, David Gilbert Jones died suddenly as the result of an accident at the Vernon Yacht Club. He was doing what he loved, on the lake that he loved–pottering around on his sailboat, Davy Jones’s Rocker.

His loving wife Jo, his cherished and respected sons Adam and Craig, his beloved daughter-in-law Amanda and treasured grandchildren Daniel and Sadie celebrate David’s life–a life of action and service in full measure to his country and to his community.

Born in the UK, David grew up in Surrey, and completed his National Service in the Secretarial Branch of the Royal Air Force. After a year of reflection and travel, he decided to enlist, took a commission, and served 20 years in the RAF Regiment, specializing in airfield defense & fire-fighting, and in nuclear, chemical & biological ground defense. As a Squadron Leader, his final 2-year posting in 1969 was as an exchange officer with Canadian Forces in Ottawa.

While there, David and Jo decided to immigrate to Canada, so David took early retirement from the RAF, and in 1971 they brought their family to Vernon, B.C. Once here, they began putting down roots, and David became a respected commercial realtor and Chartered Arbitrator. He put his organizational skills to good use, becoming President/Chair/Director/Member of a large number of local and regional organizations.

He donated thousands of hours to groups such as the Powerhouse Theatre, Vernon & District Arts Council, Social Planning Council, OUC Advisory Committee, Performing Arts Centre Board, Radiological Defence System, Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board, Theatre BC, Okanagan Symphony Choir, Sewage Reduction Task Force, Water Conservation Committee, City Tax Exemption Committee, Abbeyfield House, United Way and Kalamalka Rotary Club. He was also an alderman of the City, a newspaper columnist, and for many years manager of the old Medical Clinic. He was awarded the Eva C. Innes Award (Canadian Arbitration Institute), the Eric Hamber Trophy (Theatre B.C.) and Rotary’s Paul Harris Medal (for his work on the establishment of a children’s orphanage in Cabo San Lucas). He was also working towards a Bachelor’s Degree through Open Learning.

The Powerhouse Theatre was his greatest joy, and he loved making people laugh as he took on many comic roles there. He worked physically hard on many projects, and through the years supervised three major renovations of the Theatre building. He was above all a man of initiative and action.

After undergoing two cardiac quadruple bypass surgeries in 12 hours in 2006, David’s health remained precarious, but he refused to give in to the many physical challenges he faced; he was determined to “carry on” as usual. He was a doer—he hated being without a project—whether it dealt with something new, or with something old that he could mend and make new. His most recent “job” was as handyman at Abbeyfield House, and he was working diligently on a project there to improve communication between Abbeyfield and Vernon Restholm.

Cremation has taken place, and David’s ashes will be scattered around the signpost at the David Jones Lookout above Ewing’s Landing. A Celebration of the life and work of this remarkable man will be held at the Powerhouse Theatre at 2pm on Sunday, June 14th.

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
—(Dylan Thomas)

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In Memory: Learey, Dennis Eric

D.LearyDennis Eric Learey, at the age of 90, peacefully passed away in his sleep in the early morning of May 16, 2015. Dennis was born in London, England and at the age of 16 joined the Royal Air Force and served in Europe.

During WWII Dennis and Gwen’s families became close and right after the war in 1948 they were married. For their honeymoon they moved to Canada and settled in Vernon, BC. Dennis was devoted to his wife and together had a family of two sons Stephen and Eric.

Dennis and Gwen together became some of the founding members of the Vernon Little Theatre which later became known as the Powerhouse Theatre. At that time, Dennis did work at several jobs, including many years at Okanagan Electric, but his true passion was acting. Over the years he performed in over 60 plays and took on a wide range of roles from comedy to Shakespeare.

He won numerous awards for his acting, with the crowning achievement being when he was voted the Best Actor in Canada, in 1969 at the Dominion Drama Festival.

Dennis will always be lovingly remembered by his family—Stephen Learey and Shelly with their children Parker and Connor; and Matthew (Eric) Learey with Kristine and their children Denthew, Meta, Gwendolin, Eritin and Timeran.

For memorial donations and flowers Dennis wishes you to please donate to the Powerhouse Theatre.

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