El Fedewich with his new book.

Memoir a tale of two cities

El Fedewich’s book weaves stories from Cloverdale, Strathmore

Frank Bucholtz

Special to Peace Arch News

El Fedewich has been a fixture in Cloverdale’s business community for decades.

Now he’s written a book about his life, and included many interesting stories about his years as a notary public in the community.

Living in a Glass House and Being Raised by a Small Town is a well-illustrated and well-edited memoir.

Many people have good stories to tell about their lives, but sometimes their stories don’t read as well in print. This book is much better than most. It has been professionally written and edited, and thus has a clear theme – one which ties together two very different towns, Cloverdale and Strathmore, Alta.

Fedewich grew up in Strathmore, and due to the death of his father when he was 10, was raised primarily by his hard-working mother, and by extension, by the whole town – including his teachers, town business people, the local police and many others.

“With my dad gone, my teachers and other self-appointed guardians who took up the slack became the key influences in my life, pushing me to work harder at school, encouraging me to seek out potential leadership roles in cadets and urging me to better myself. I was still afforded a great deal of freedom to fool around, experiment and make mistakes,” he writes.

He moved to B.C. as a young man, and for many years worked in the finance business. He first came to Surrey in 1968, when he and his wife Noreen purchased a 5½-acre parcel of land and an older house in Newton, planning to raise their three girls in a country atmosphere.

That eventually led to his friend Earl Stewart inviting him to open a mortgage business, in conjunction with Stewart’s real estate and insurance business in Newton. He did so in 1975. Stewart, who was also a notary public, eventually inspired Fedewich to enter the business.

Through his friend Rees Hugh, a longtime Cloverdale resident who was a lawyer in New Westminster, he learned that Frank McKinnon was planning to retire.  He had been a notary and fixture in the Cloverdale business community for decades, as part of the real estate and insurance firm Hugh and McKinnon. In those days, an aspiring notary had to buy a seal from another notary, then take an intensive training course before starting in business.

“Cloverdale! That would be perfect. It reminded me of the small Prairie town I’d grown up in. It had a well-developed business centre, an agricultural focus, a clearly-defined catchment area. Once I heard that Frank McKinnon was retiring, all I wanted was Cloverdale,” he writes.

His start as a notary in Cloverdale in 1978 was a bit challenging, as it must have been for many notaries who had to set up their businesses in what seemed to be a backwards approach – getting a seal, then  taking two years of training, before finally starting in business.

“About a week after we opened, a fellow came into the office. “I’ve just bought a house on 24 Avenue,” he said. “Can you handle it?” “Of course I can, sir,” I replied.

“I worked hard to find clients, calling on people, buying them lunches, getting to know the community and, more important, getting known. I was out of the office 85 per cent of the time as I pulled out all the stops to increase business.”

His business eventually succeeded, due to his hard work and the many connections that he made through business and community work. He became secretary-treasurer of the Surrey Dyking District, which managed the dykes along the Serpentine and Nicomekl Rivers and prevented flooding in Surrey’s rich farmlands. He was part of many Cloverdale business and community organizations.

In many ways, he was going back to his Strathmore roots.

He became deeply involved in the provincial notary organization, and also attended many international gathering of notaries in places such as Amsterdam, Cartagena, Colombia and Morocco.

Eventually, his youngest daughter Trish decided she would like to become a notary public as well. She articled with her father, and soon after completing all her training took over the business, which she now operates with her husband Norman Witt. Her father continued to help out with the business, but took more time away so that he and his wife Noreen could spend more time travelling.

One of their most interesting trips was to Ukraine, the area where both of Fedewich’s parents were born.

His parents had both come to Canada in the 1920s. They had come from villages that were only three kilometres apart. They were married in 1929 in Calgary.

There are many good stories in the book, about teenage pranks, sobering reality on the side of a highway as a tow-truck operator, learning how to collect money from people and the attempted castration of a young bull.

The book is available from the Cloverdale BIA, 5748 176 St.

 

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