Nelson school paid tribute to longtime trustee

Gordon Sargent, namesake of the closed Uphill school and now-defunct primary program, was a longtime school trustee for the West Arm.

Gordon Sargent

Gordon Sargent, namesake of the closed Uphill school and now-defunct primary program, was a longtime school trustee for the West Arm.

He was also one of the founders of Selkirk College, having served on the college council during its formative years, and his name appears on a plaque there and at L.V. Rogers Secondary.

According to his obituary, “his greatest interest was young people and their education.”

Born in England, Sargent came to the Crawford Bay area in 1931. He worked on fruit ranches, then bought property at Longbeach and started raising chickens and driving a school bus.

During World War II, he served five and a half years overseas. Upon his return, he married Lillian Dickinson and worked as an inspector for the BC Fruit Growers Co-op.

Later he was a city bus driver, a parts man at McElroy Motors, and a toll collector on the Nelson bridge. He served 21 years on the Nelson school board, including one year as chair.

“As long as I can remember, he was always trundling off to school board meetings and conventions at the coast,” says his son Eric, who lives on the North Shore.

After Sargent’s death in 1969 at age 59, two scholarships were established in his name, along with trophies for top social studies students. His wife was also presented with a scroll from the Nelson District Teachers Association, honouring his “devoted service to education.”

But his greatest posthumous honour was the open-concept primary school built in 1971 and named after him following what the Nelson Daily News called a “mild debate.”

While trustees agreed he deserved such an honour, some wondered if it should be saved for a school in the area he represented.

“Gordon Sargent was expressly interested in a school on the West Arm,” said Shirley Bonney, “and I believe he said he would not mind having his name used for a school there.”

However, Dr. D.F. Larder, chair of the committee that presented the motion, replied: “We felt that with a new school at this time, we should honour him now. If a school is built out there in the future, we could change the name.”

That never happened, although Sargent’s son agrees it would have been more appropriate. In fact, Redfish Elementary was built on land Sargent and his wife lived on when they first married. “If they were going to name anything after him, that would be the one,” Eric says.

But the family did ultimately have a direct connection with the Sargent school: in 2007-08, the year before the program moved to South Nelson, Gordon Sargent’s great grandson Oscar attended Kindergarten there. “He was very proud to be there,” Eric says. “Dad would have been proud too.”

Regardless of its location, he says a school named after his father “was certainly an honour … Our family is very sad to see it go and wishes there was some way the name could be continued.”

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