The West Shore Local Hero Awards are back! You can find this year’s special feature in the March 16 edition of the Goldstream Gazette or online under e-editions. Stay tuned for more on each of this year’s honourees, you will also be able to read their stories online at goldstreamgazette.com/tag/local-hero-awards.
Family, friends and the entire Langford community are mourning the loss of Al LeQuesne, a longtime chief of Langford Fire Rescue, a father, a husband and a grandfather, in the wake of his death March 1 at the age of 86.
LeQuesne spent much of his life as a firefighter, joining the department in 1952 when he was just 16, and became chief in 1967. Son Dave LeQuesne said Al was “legendary” both for his skill as a firefighter, and for the lasting impact his tenure as chief has had on the department.
During his time with the outfit, LeQuesne was instrumental in bringing 911 service to the community, and securing hydraulic extrication tools (jaws of life), fire safety resources and many other critical pieces of equipment.
Phil Goldie, who worked with LeQuesne at the fire department for 38 years, said he was a fantastic person to work under, especially when the going got tough.
“We had some good times. There was one time when I was down underneath a truck on a creeper, and he decided he was going to swing me out onto the apron in the front of the yard,” Goldie said with a chuckle. “He just grabbed me by the ankles and rolled me out.”
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But beyond his service to the community, LeQuesne played an important role in his family as a father, husband and grandfather, even if many a family dinner was interrupted by a fire call.
Daughter Lesley LeQuesne said beyond simply being a wonderful person, Al was a strong yet caring presence in the family who would always give criticism when it was needed, forgiveness whenever possible and who always maintained a great sense of humour.
“He always had open arms for everybody and anybody,” Lesley said. “Dad just wanted everybody to do the best that they could. He didn’t expect anything further, just to give your 100 per cent.
“He taught me how to drive … once. Dad took me out for a drive and a car was trying to pass me so I sped up, and he said you don’t race somebody when they try to pass you. And I said ‘well you do,’ and he said ‘well I have red lights and sirens.’ That’s the kind of person he was. He was funny, loving, and he cared so much … I am so proud to be his daughter.”
While his dedication to the community he was born and raised in was an important part of LeQuesne’s life, daughter Kim LeQuesne said family was always number one for him.
“We were the type of kids who would run to the front gate to open it greet him when he got home,” she said. “He was a really good dad. There could be the deepest, darkest thing going on in your life and he would come talk to you and help you see the other side of it and what it will be like when you get through it.”
As a single mother, Kim said Al happily became much more than a grandfather to her children, but a father figure, too. Even as he got older, he never hesitated to jump up out of his chair and play with any of the kids, even helping them build a soap box racer.
LeQuesne had a lifelong passion for machines, especially those with a connection to Langford. Even leading up to his death, he and Dave had been working on several car restoration projects.
“He wanted a T-bird really bad, and I found one in Vernon and bought it for him. It was his pride and joy,” Dave said. “One of the projects he and I were working on is a 1925 Model T, which is a replica of my grandfather’s first tow truck in Langford … we enjoyed buying anything we could find that was old Langford … dad was Langford through and through.”
For his wife of more than 60 years Barbra, LeQuesne was a wonderful person who caught her attention right from the moment they first met, as he gave her and a friend a ride home.
“I’d do it all over again for sure,” Barbra said. “He was really good with the kids. There were times when we had a family event and he would have to go to a fire, but we understood he had to go help somebody. He was a really good father. There are just so many good memories. I can’t begin to recall them.”
READ MORE: Truck restorations reflect Langford’s past