Langley’s most meticulous historian and its only honourary pioneer, Norm Sherritt, died on Friday, Aug. 16. He was 92.
In addition to his lifetime interest in Langley history, he was a longtime teacher and principal in the Langley school system, and was much-admired by students, parents and teachers for his many contributions to the school system and students’ education. He founded the Langley Scholarship Committee in 1954 and served as its chair for 21 years.
Mr. Sherritt was born in Murrayville in 1920 and grew up in what was then the centre of much Langley activity, as the municipal hall and many businesses were located in the Five Corners area. His father, Ab Sherritt, was in charge of building the Murrayville Hall in 1928, which replaced an earlier hall that had burned down.
He took part in many aspects of community life growing up in Langley, and recalled fondly for The Times in 2002 the brief visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Fort Langley, as part of the first royal visit to Canada in 1939.
The royal couple’s train was not scheduled to stop in Fort Langley, but school children from throughout Langley had gathered above the CN tracks to see their train go by. When the king and queen saw the large number of people there, they waved to them from the rear platform until the train was out of sight, he remembered. (See separate story).
Mr. Sherritt became a teacher and started teaching at Fort Langley Elementary in 1940. After serving in the military during the Second World War, he went to UBC and graduated in 1947, returning to teach in Langley. He later was vice-principal at Langley Secondary for 21 years, and served for 11 years as principal at Aldergrove Secondary before retiring in 1980.
He served in the Royal Canadian Artillery in the Second World War and was a gunnery instructor in Manitoba.
He married fellow teacher Mabel Main in 1942 and they resided in Cloverdale throughout their marriage. They had two children, son David and daughter Linda. They also have two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
He also founded what became The Centre for Child Development of the Lower Mainland in 1953. It was initially known as the Lower Fraser Cerebral Palsy Association. He served on its board for 40 years.
The centre now provides more than 2,000 children with developmental disabilities with 30,000 outpatient medical rehabilitation service sessions every year throughout Surrey, Langley, White Rock and Delta.
CEO Gerard Bremault said “On behalf of the board of directors, children, families and all the staff of The Centre for Child Development, thank you Norm for your enduring and growing gift to all those we serve on your behalf. We will continue to do everything in our ability to honour and cherish your legacy.”
Mr. Sherritt was a prolific contributor to many local history projects and his memory for detail and meticulous research skills were unexcelled. He had gathered an extensive library of information which he later donated to the Langley Centennial Museum.
In 1998, he was named the H.D. Stafford Good Citizen of the Year in Langley. He received a Canada 125 medal in 1992 for his community service in Surrey.
In 2005, Langley Township council named him an honorary pioneer of Langley and he regularly attended the Douglas Day dinners for Langley pioneers, many of whom he knew on a first-name basis.
Historian Warren Sommer, who has authored history books on both the City and Township, relied on Mr. Sherritt’s detailed knowledge to assist him.
“Norman Sherritt’s death truly marks the end of an era. He was one of those people who seemed to have been among us always, and who always would be,” Sommer told The Times.
“It’s amazing to think that his career as an educator began at the outset of the Second World War. As a teacher and administrator he touched the lives of thousands of students, some of them the children and grandchildren of his earliest students. “Outwardly stern when the occasion demanded it, inside he was warm, generous, and compassionate. He was highly intelligent, possessed a rapier-sharp wit, and a delightfully dry sense of humour.
“I knew him best as a fellow historian and author. He had a great love for Langley’s history, especially that of his home community of Murrayville. If he couldn’t answer a question I had asked him, he’d work away at it until he could.
“He was a stickler for accuracy and would spend untold hours in research, determined to get even the smallest, elusive fact utterly correct. It was hard to catch him up. He was a true inspiration to others and leaves a remarkable legacy behind.”
Funeral arrangements have now been announced.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Newlands Golf and Country Club, 20125 48 Avenue, from 2 to 4 p.m.
Donations in his memory can be made to the Langley Scholarship Committee, in the name of the N.A. Sherritt trust, ℅ Mrs. M. Pepin, 25323 12 Avenue, Aldergrove, B.C. V4W 3N2. The committee hands out scholarships to high school graduates.
Donations can also be made to the Centre for Child Development, attn. N.A. Sherritt fund, 9460 140 St., Surrey, B.C., V3V 5Z4.