Rebuilding Johnsons Landing may seem difficult to imagine, and with one of the residents who loved the community so much gone, the spirit of the town will likely change.
“Valentine [Webber] was a wonderful community person,” said Chris Klassen who lost his home in the massive landslide. “He was always willing and went into things with his eyes wide open. [Webber] was very hard working.”
Both Klassen and Johnsons Landing resident Gail Spitler remembered Webber’s commitment to the renovations of the community hall.
“I had the great opportunity to work with him on a community project last summer,” said Klassen. “We were re-roofing the community hall. I was sort of spearheading the project with others and [Webber] was on the crew. He was absolutely amazing. He was the best worker. He did all of the dirty jobs with a smile and a chuckle. ‘No’ wasn’t in his vocabulary. He was a 100 per cent pleasure to work around.”
Spitler shared similar memories of Webber’s work on the community hall.
One memory stood out for her where workers were needed to go into the hall’s crawl space.
“That isn’t the most pleasant job in the world and the other guys working on the job were kind of standing around while not saying they didn’t want to do it,” she said. “They were standing back and basically no one wanted to do this except [Webber] who just stood forward and did it. He had this attitude of this job needs to be done, I’m going to do it, let’s get it done. That epitomizes him in so many ways. This job needs to be done, let’s do it.”
Spitler and Klassen both recalled Webber’s smile and his kindness for others.
Klassen said even though Webber had signed over the home in Johnsons Landing to his ex-wife Lynn Migdal, he stayed in the community and cared for the house.
“His place was immaculate,” he said. “He must of been a really wonderful father, truly. He was really there for them. The girls were fortunate in that regard.”
“[Webber] was a sweet man. Down to earth, a big kid and loved his family very much,” said Webber’s niece Sarah Jenkins.
Jenkins said Webber was one of four siblings: Philomeda, Ray and Diana.
“His parents were a military family, grandpa Jack was in the Royal Air Force and my grandma [Elizabeth] was a nurse who continually was going back to university — she loved academics,” said Jenkins. “They were originally from Ireland and moved around a lot, lived all over Europe and came to Canada when [Webber] was little.”
Jenkins and her sister were adopted into another family when they were three and four.
“We started reconnecting with our blood family in our late teens and early twenties,” said Jenkins. “My hubby, my son and I went up to the house in Johnsons Landing last summer and had an amazing time there. [Webber] had held onto so many bits of memorabilia and pieces of our family history and handed it all to me in a black briefcase. We sat around drinking wine and going through all the stuff together that weekend.”
Webber and his daughters Rachel and Diana were killed in the devastating landslide that destroyed Johnsons Landing last month.
Their bodies were recovered by the BC Coroners Service, the remains of the fourth victim Petra Frehse are still in the debris field.