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June 20, 2024

In Loving Memory (1931-2024) ~

For a complete biography of Ray, entitled "Designing the Kootenays - A Surveyor's Memoir - Google "Designing the Kootenays" or check out\cryofront

Raymond George Johnson was 2 when he arrived in Nelson in 1934 from Shaunavon, Saskatchewan - he travelled with his parents George and Fay. The Prairies were a dust bowl and offered nothing to keep the small family there.

The trek from southwest Saskatchewan to the Kootenays took a month and the family travelled in a covered wagon that was converted from a car body, referred to at the time as the Bennett Buggy. The family settled into the Cottonwood Flats community in the Cottonwood Creek Valley south of Nelson. Ray's family was poor, but they got by with his dad working as a welder, and his mom creating a ginormous garden.

Ray was a smart kid and did well in school, with the exception of music. Outside of school, he enjoyed the bush that was his backyard at the time, and he enjoyed and became very skilled at fishing in the flats of the Apex area south of Cottonwood Lake. This was an interest he maintained throughout his entire life.

Ray Johnson found his life's calling in 1947 at the age of 15, when Boyd Affleck, a Nelson-based British Columbia Land Survey and Civil Engineer, was subdividing the Cottonwood Flats area. All the residents in this area, including Ray's family, were squatters, but they were being given the opportunity to buy the land they were occupying.

Ray watched Mr. Affleck, as he always referred to him, and his chainman for two days. The chainman, who was a little older than Ray finally spoke to him and said, "So you like the looks of this work? Well, you can have my job. Go ask him. He's kind of a grumpy old guy."

Ray vividly recalls Mr. Affleck looking him up and down, and he recalled that "Luckily, I was a skookum fella. I was training for shot put, skiing and playing hockey, and strong as all heck." Mr. Affleck agreed to hire him but insisted that he bring his own work boots and an axe. Ray borrowed the boots from his dad and showed up with a huge double-bitted axe. Mr. Affleck asked "What are you doing with that?" and Ray replied, "It's the only axe we've got, but I know how to use it". The story goes that one edge was kept sharp for cutting trees, and the other edge was kept dull for cutting barbed wire.

One of Ray's main responsibilities in the Cottonwood Flats subdivision was the "negotiation" of the property boundaries for the squatters. He was well qualified for this since he knew everyone in the area.

In 1950 Mr. Affleck promoted him to instrument man and he was assigned to lay out the new road from Shutty Bench to Lardeau along Kootenay Lake north of Nelson. Each summer he put in long hours and earned enough to pay his way through the University of British Columbia, completing a civil engineering degree in 1955.

In 1954, Ray married Rosalie Picard, whom he met while staying at her Mom's local boarding house in the community of Sheep Creek south of Salmo. Ray was surveying mineral claims at Sheep Creek for the summer of 1952.

Rose was the love of his life, and they were married for 63 years before her passing in 2017. They raised a family of 4 children, namely Kathy, Ken, Kim and Kevin, first in the Fairview area of Nelson, and finally at the Big House in Rosemont on Jeffs Avenue from 1966 onward.

Ray's fortunes changed in 1957 when Mr. Affleck became ill with pneumonia and had to lay him off. Ray kept his stride and was immediately hired as a resident engineer on the Big Orange Bridge in Nelson. The bridge work provided the necessary work experience for him to qualify as a BC Professional Engineer. With land surveying still in his sights, he earned his commission, Number 373, as a British Columbia Legal Surveyor in 1958.

Ray became a consulting surveyor and engineer in 1958 and maintained an independent consulting company until his retirement in 2012. Among the major projects completed in his 54 years of professional practice included Kokanee Springs Resort, and the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. Another milestone was the creation of the Integrated Survey Control system in the City of Nelson, which is a series of 100 survey monuments with positions established very accurately.

Remembering Ray are his sister, Shirley, his surviving children, his 15 grandchildren, and his 18 great-grandchildren. Very sadly, Ray's granddaughter, Taryn Elisabeth Johnson passed away in April of this year.

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