A family is hoping that their father’s commemorative water wheel is returned to safety after it was allegedly stolen from Lazy Lake near Wasa, B.C., some time between April 1 and 18, 2019.
Trent and Tara Deleeuw say they are asking those in the Kimberley and Cranbrook communities and back country to keep their eyes peeled for the water wheel, as it has significant sentimental value to the family.
The Bulletin spoke with Tara Deleeuw, who says the wheel is very important to her as it houses her father’s ashes and represents his history with the area.
“Heavy labour would be needed to remove the wheel, at least three men, and it is difficult to conceal,” she explained, adding that a reward would be given for the wheel to be returned in the right circumstances.
Deleeuw says that her father, Warron Hastings Bridger, was born into humble beginnings at Windermere Lake on July 14, 1936. His family was one of the first pioneering families of they valley for a short time, but for the majority of his life, and hers, they lived in Kimberley (from 1958 until 2012).
Bridger moved to Cranbrook in 2012 as he needed to live somewhere he could receive the medical attention he needed, says Deleeuw.
“Our father was an outdoors, labouring type of man, and in 1970 he purchased a lake front property at the south side of Lazy Lake,” said Deleeuw. “We grew up as lake kids and the lakefront was very underdeveloped at this time. It was more like a slough; very few people were around but our father loved the challenge of the development and was a true hands-on, meticulous labourer. He loved working with wood.”
Bridger’s history with the Lazy Lake community was strong, having held all positions with the Lazy Lake Community Association, says his daughter.
“One of his positions was the ‘water boss’, and this is where the first water wheel had its beginnings. As visitors to Lazy Lake recall, there was a red, wooden water wheel at the boat launch. My father built this wheel, lasting at least 15 years,” she said.
Deleeuw adds that the function of the original wheel was not only cosmetic, but also served purposes for the lake including preventing erosion of the earth, as overflow from the holding tank was transported back to the water.
Bridger passed away in 2016 and at that time the old, red water wheel needed to be replaced.
“Approval from the present day ‘water boss’ was given for go-ahead with the new water wheel. Next thing you know, the wheel is sketched up on paper and the labour of love was commenced by [my father’s] grand-sons and son-in-law in our farm shop,” Deleeuw said.
The wheel was constructed of rolled steel and plastic cups, coming in at 50 inches in diameter with an iron base, says Deleeuw. It was painted blue and on the bottom, in yellow, it reads “a memorial for Warron Hastings Bridger”.
Deleeuw recounts when they first brought the water wheel from her home in Alberta to its permanent home at Lazy Lake.
“In the early summer of 2018 the task was completed, we placed our father’s ashes in the water wheel in a hidden compartment. A few men loaded this work of art into the back of a truck and started the eight day journey from Alberta to Lazy Lake. What an interesting journey it was, from thumbs up to smiles – people were interested in the water wheel,” Deleeuw explained.
“People would walk over to our truck and ask us about the water wheel, and as we advanced on the journey we stopped at Windermere Lake, where we collected earth and water and mixed it with the same at Laze Lake for purposes of christening the water wheel.”
She says they also collected earth from her mother and father’s resting place to mix with that from Lake Windermere and Lazy Lake.
“Excitement was in the air as we arrived to have a perfect ritual of introduction to the water wheel to the lake. Prayers and all, the familiar sound had returned,” she said.
If anyone has any information as to the whereabouts of the water wheel, they are asked to contact Kimberley RCMP at 250.427.4811 or Tara at firstname.lastname@example.org.