The Editor’s Last Chapter: J.J. Dougan’s Obituary

J. J. Dougan circa 1922.

A daughter recounts her father’s first hours in death.

J Juniur Dougan [no typo, Juniur was a family surname] was the editor of the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Weekly Gazette from 1922 until his death this week in November 1932.  Dougan was well-remembered for his community service in Maple Ridge and Vancouver, where he had lived until 1922.  His daughter Ethel’s obituary for her father, printed across three columns on the front page of the Gazette of November 16, 1932, told the journey of her father’s body from Maple Ridge to the family burial plot in the Cowichan area of Vancouver Island.  Her passage evokes many themes, among them her father’s Protestant theology and their family’s connection to the landscape of the British Columbia coast.  She reveals the pageantry associated with the funeral, describing the circulation of her father’s Orange Order colleagues around her father’s casket and the participation of community personalities in the funeral procession.  Dougan Barton’s writing is reminiscent of her father’s prose, with its alternately clipped and arching sentences, heavy religious influence and imagery, and extended metaphors.  The following obituary is an interesting record of the perception of death in the 1930s.  Photos from Archives.

The Editor’s Last Chapter
by his daughter, Ethel Dougan Barton

It seems fitting that, for this issue, the two objects dear to my father’s heart should unite and present to you the concluding chapter of his life’s record.  Then close the book, lock its clasps and lay it away, leaving others to take up the theme and carry on.  It seems hard to think that, after 10 years of untiring effort to give you the best – and just when the struggle seemed a little easier that in a moment he was called to leave it all without even a word of farewell – but, such is the uncertainty of life.

Every issue of the Gazette brought its editorials, its spicy news – the pages were as full as he could make them with something that he felt would be of interest to all.  But, that is past.   His hand and pen are still, and never again will his familiar figure pass in and out among you.

But to take up the thread.  Aside from his companion, who has so nobly struggled beside him, there were two objects that he held dearer than life; first was his family, who, I believe, no father enjoyed more than he.  His closest friends will tell you that in the quiet chat his favorite theme was the achievement, however small it might be, that one of his children had accomplished. No doubt the readers had wondered many a time at space being occupied by a news note to the effect that a son or a daughter had visited him, or vice versa, not that he might fill up space, but that the readers – his other family – might share with him the pleasure that he had enjoyed.

Second was his paper, and none but those who were closest to him knew the fondness he had for it.  It seemed like his very lifeblood flowed for it, and it was a part of him.  Every waking hour was spent in making it a better publication.  Never did he pick up a paper but he did not peruse it that he might take the best from it and give it to you.

So, it seems fitting that one of his own should use his paper for the last time to bid farewell for him to the community he loved.  To express thanks for him for the many honors you have paid him, and, in his behalf, bid you all to strive in this life to make a preparation for the life to come.

Last week’s Gazette gave you the details of his life and sudden demise, so I need not reiterate those items.  In Reverend Henderson’s beautiful “In Memoriam” he left him “Asleep by God’s touch” – and I have but to conclude the chapter.

As soon as the inquest was over, Mr. Patterson – more of a friend than a mortician – hurriedly prepared the remains and placed them in the chapel, where, surrounded with flowers, his friends might come and bid him a quiet farewell.

At 1 pm Thursday, November 3, all that remained of our “Daddy” was brought back to the district that his friends and colleagues might look upon him for the last time and bid him his long farewell.

When Reverend Mr. Venables suggested the Agricultural Hall to accommodate the crowd, I did not understand, but at the appointed hour, when I saw the group assembled I had a better understanding of what our dear adviser was alluding to.  It was most fitting that he should be carried into the hall of his district by those representing the different activities with which he was connected most closely.  Mr. Mussallem for the municipality which he had tried to aid in building bigger and better for his stay in it.  Mr. Evans for the Agricultural Association, of which he was always an active and enthusiastic member.  Mr. Davison for the School Board, a department of public activity in which he always took a keen interest.  (Well do I remember, as a child, what election meant to him when he was again successful in being elected to the School Board in Vancouver.  That was his life.  I could tell you a lot about this if space would permit, for his life has always been full of such activities.)  Mr. Lazenby for their long friendship and the A.O.U.W [Ancient Order of United Workmen].  Mr. Hutchinson for the L.O.L [The Orange Order]., of which order he had been a member most of his life.  And Mr. Hambly, of his own office staff.

Thus they brought him back to his own, and though the smile had gone and the voice was still, yet it re-echoed in the tribute offered him there.  When the casket was placed the school children came into his presence, each with a floral contribution which was placed on and around the stage.  So beautiful and touching was the scene that the grim reaper, Death, seemed almost defeated in the love that yet lived in the hearts of the community.

Reverend F.E. Cyril Venables read the Scripture reading and offered prayer, after which Reverend Henderson gave the address of the hour.

His remarks were most fitting.  His text was from Luke’s record of David, “the man after God’s own heart.”  He dwelt particularly on the recorded fact that David served his generation and then slept.  How beautifully and truly put!  His nearest and dearest know that he did serve his generation, and, alas, they are slowly realizing that he is now asleep.

Reverend Mr. Henderson then dwelt on the characteristics that he liked best in his dear friend and brother.  He spoke of his kindness to all, especial to children and the less fortunate; of his courteousness in spite of the fact that ours is not a polite age; of his always seeing the best in everyone.  In his remarks he mentioned that a lady of Haney had stated a wish to die in Haney that Mr. Dougan might write her obituary, because nothing but the very best of her life would be mentioned.  He could mourn with those who mourned and rejoice with those who rejoiced.  Then he spoke words of comfort to those who will feel his loss the keenest.Reverend Mr. Venables read from “The Book” of the hope of beyond, which was both fitting and comforting.  After prayer, the district and local Orange Lodges came forward and made their circles on either side of the bier, so that the casket made an unbroken circle.  The Grand Master presided, and the service will long be remembered by those present.  After prayer and song, each slowly passed the casket and placed his emblem upon it, and the service was concluded.I do not know how many were present, but it seemed that for hours there was a steady tramp of feet as each came up to say the last farewell.

P00067.  1932.  J.J. Dougan, third from left, observes the children of Hammond parade at the Agricultural grounds in Haney for May Day celebrations, May 24.  He died in November of the year.

The funeral car was left at Lougheed Highway, and the whole distance from the hall was lined on either side by lodge members and schoolchildren, who paid their respects to their beloved comrade as he was carried for the last time from the district he loved so well.The children again came for the flowers, and it was a touching sight, and one long to be remembered by those present.

The funeral cortege then moved on to the Harron Funeral Parlors in Vancouver, where a second service was held, that his old friends of the early days might come and bid him farewell.

Mr. Meady, a member of his lodge in Vancouver, ably sang “Abide with Me,” and, after a fitting prayer, Reverend MacBeth gave the address.  It, too, was fitting and one of reminiscence of the early days.  He spoke of the deceased as one who stood for the two greatest things in the world – the church and the school.  He spoke of a boy now in college and making his mark because of an aspiration planted there by a mother, an ex-teacher who was given her first educational boosts by Mr. Dougan, attesting to the fact that “Though dead, he yet seeketh”.  It was a grand thought given by a grand man, and so the service was ended.  The casket was again opened, and friends passed for their last look.  The curtains of the family room were opened, and friends of the old and better days greeted us with tear-dimmed eyes.  But darkness came on, and the day was done.

The remains were taken to the CPR wharf to await the hour of loading on the Princess Joan for Victoria.  Midnight found us out upon the waters crossing the Straits so familiar to him as a young man and then a father.  But this time, instead of all happy on deck watching the gulls and the “skid road”, a wife and daughter were heart-broken and a father was lying silent in the baggage room below.  What a change had been wrought in a few short hours!  Then, too, came the thought of the only son and brother far out in the middle of that same mighty water, longing and looking once more on the “Dad” he loved, but the distance between so hopelessly great.  But love came on wings across the water, followed by a letter which said: “We have had a grand Daddy, and he faced life heroically, so we are proud of him. I hope I may serve as well.”

But morning came at last, and with it a view of the beautiful city of Victoria – and such is life, a darkness or shadow and then then dawn.  Soon we were winding up the Malahat, the scenic Island Highway, over which 60 years before his father walked, carrying home on his back the necessities of life to his wife and children, the eldest of whom was soon to rest beside them.

By noon, the casket had been placed in the large sitting room of the old home – a fitting place for those near and dear to bid him good-bye.  From this room he could look on the farm he had helped to clear as a boy.  Here on Sabbath the family gathered to write the chapter they had learned that day.  Here, 41 years ago, he and Mother were married.  From here, in 1915, his father was carried to his final resting place.  Here, in 1922, he bid farewell to his mother, and she, too, was carried to the hilltop.  Seven years later his eldest son, Wilson, was laid to rest.At 1pm, Mrs. Kingston of White Rock presided at the organ, and I sang “Does Jesus Care?”  After prayer, Elder McGill spoke beautifully on the companionship he had had with the deceased for 35 years.  The service closed with “The Sweet Bye and Bye” as a solo, and as we said the last good-bye, we softly sang “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.”

Six of the seven brothers carried him to his last resting place in a plot picked out by his father as the family plot in the very early days.It is a spot that, by nature, like the open grave of Hanover, Germany, teaches of the life to come, a fitting topic to ponder at a time like this.  Just over the grave stands “the tree a part of God’s great lesson book.”  Years ago, when your beloved Editor was a small boy, this tree was struck by lightning and apparently killed by a touch of a might power from above.  Some time later, as the father, in taking a walk with his children, passed this tree he looked up, and, behold! from the apparently dead stump was springing forth a new and perfect tree.  “This,” he said, “is a symbol of the resurrection to everlasting life which follows death. Here we will bury our dead and here, though the sorrow be ever too deep, they can look up at this new tree and claim the promise that they will see their loved ones again.”

So, hope sprang into our heart as the casket was being lowered from our sight, and we could say farewell with a sorrow not as others who have no hope.

So, your Editor’s last editorial is written; his life’s chapter is closed.  But, though he is dead, may the promise of the tree give you hope that what was not done here may be shared and accomplished together over in that better land.

He is resting on the hilltop,
                That precious Daddy of mine;
His life’s record is ended,
                Now he’s resting so sublime.

I’m so glad he’s on the hilltop,
                For it represents his life:
Ever climbing, ne’er complaining,
                Though his days with cares were rife.

It recalls another hilltop,
                Called Golgotha, far away:
Where our Saviour gladly suffered,
                To ope’ to us that better way.

Life is either vale of hilltop –
                We can make it what we will –
Vale if life is not a struggle,
                To know and do the Father’s will.

Oh, that we may gain our hilltops
                In the few remaining hours;
Come to Christ, and gain our vict’ries
                Through our Saviour’s divine power.

When the graves upon that hilltop
                Are opened by God’s hand,
May we meet, no more to sever,

                Over in that better land.