Dozens of police officers from around Greater Victoria joined hundreds of residents to salute former Central Saanich Chief George T.L. Lawson during a memorial service held Thursday afternoon in Sidney.
Lawson died on Dec. 29, 2018 after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s Disease, leaving behind Carol, his wife of 56 years, son Cameron, daughter Leanne, and four grandchildren. During his policing career, he served 24 years in RCMP, starting in Saskatchewan, with stops in Victoria and Port Alberni. Following a brief career in real estate, Lawson joined the Central Saanich Police as a deputy chief in 1986. He retired as Chief Constable in 1999.
The memorial held at Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre drew ordinary citizens and top brass representing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and municipal police forces and it was a member of the Vancouver Police Department — Lawson’s son Cameron — who described Lawson as a person who lived life to the fullest.
“When dad passed, a good friend sent me a message,” said Sgt. Lawson. “It read, ‘Life’s journey is not to arrive in the grave safely, but skidding in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘holy s—t, what a ride.’ Dad was always smiling, and he lived his life like that.”
Speakers Andy Anderson, Andy Rosequist, Rick Maillot, and Wade Murray underscored this sentiment, with anecdotes from Lawson’s professional and personal life that eventually earned him in the words of his son the reputation of cowboy philosopher.
Rosequist, who served as Lawson’s deputy, often addressed him with a drawl. Lawson also had a habit of punctuating stories with a giggle. He also had a fondness for rye whiskey and water that did not end with Lawson’s arrival in the Sidney retirement centre where he would regal other residents and recount old stories with visiting friends.
“Here is to you, old friend,” said Rosequist, as he took a swig out of a whiskey bottle.
Others such as Anderson, who first met Lawson, when they underwent RCMP training, praised Lawson for his gentle and charitable demeanour with which he led others, correcting others with “kindness and passion,” as Maillot said.
“Despite decades of police service, his humility remained so profound,” he said. “For many of us, he was a father figure, as much as a police chief.”
Sgt. Wade Murray, now serving with the Victoria Police Department, broke down several times in describing Lawson’s influence on his career and person.
“George is, and always will be my hero. Rest in peace, Chief.”