June 16, 1935 – September 18, 2020
After a life filled with blessings, Don Laishley, of West Vancouver, passed away at the age of 85 years from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Don is survived by his wife of 62 years, Marilyn Louise (nee Harrison), daughters Brenda (Bruce Dancik), Deborah (Dave Fenn), Jan (Greg Ewart), son Rob (Marie-Lou Plante), and six grandchildren Nicholas, Christopher, William, Christian, Alexi and Samantha, as well as sister Phyllis MacDougall and her family.
Don was born and raised in Nelson, BC, to parents Dr. Wilfrid and Ruby Laishley. His father was a respected surgeon, and his mother was a business grad. He had an active childhood and adolescence filled with fishing, hunting, music, and close friendships that he maintained all his life. Don loved the Nelson area and made annual return visits every summer to 9 mile on the west arm of Kootenay Lake.
Don studied forestry at UBC, graduating (BScF) in 1960, where he was re-acquainted with Mari-Lou, also from Nelson, whom he had known since childhood. He fulfilled the declaration he made to his mother as a young child “I’m going to marry that girl!”
Don was the manager of the UBC rowing team, whose men’s eight crew won gold at the 1954 British Empire Games, and then went on to win silver at the 1955 Henley World Championships. In 1999, as part of the rowing team Don was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
Don fostered a life-long love of reading and education at UBC, and deep enduring friendships. Later in life, he re-connected with UBC, as a guest lecturer and mentor in forestry, as a member of the Harry Hawthorne Foundation, and the UBC Library Board.
Don had an interesting and varied professional life. After working for forest products companies in the Kootenays and the interior of British Columbia, he joined Forestal International, in Vancouver, where he eventually became President and CEO.
In this capacity, he worked in international forest consulting, which took him to projects in 44 countries. During this period, he continued his education by attending the Senior Executive Program at the Sloan School of Management, at MIT.
After his time at Forestal, Don became Woodlands Manager for Weldwood at its Hinton, Alberta, operation, and then Weldwood’s Director of Forest Strategy in Vancouver. Don rounded out his career by consulting to a number of First Nations communities in the Nicola Valley region of British Columbia. In 1996, Don received a Canadian Forestry Achievement Award from the Canadian Institute of Forestry.
Following the family move to West Vancouver, Don supported Mari-Lou’s return to university and her developing career. Don taught his children that pine cones don’t grow on Douglas-fir trees and that “wood is good!”
He enjoyed bird watching, fly fishing and hunting, and built a family cabin at Whistler. Don was a voracious reader; he instilled his love of language in his children and grandchildren, and supported them all in their educational, sporting and outdoor pursuits.
Don loved to tell stories about his experiences and the people he met: his childhood in Nelson, shooting a black bear when he was 12, his UBC rowing days, and his trips around the world, many with Mari-Lou.
The family plans to establish a forestry scholarship in his name at UBC. A memorial service will be held at West Vancouver United Church at a later date. In the meantime, we hope you will raise a glass of whiskey in a toast to Don, and maybe re-tell one of his many stories.
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