Glen Harper, a legendary curler in the Cowichan Valley and beyond, and the namesake of the building that houses the Duncan Curling Club, has died.
The 92-year-old Harper was a two-time winner of the BC Men’s Curling Championship, in 1960 and 1963, among many other titles, and was such an integral part of the Duncan Curling Club that the club renamed its facility in his honour in 2012.
Harper went to the Brier twice as the B.C. men’s champion, and contended for national titles on three other occasions: twice after winning the B.C. mixed championship on teams that included his wife, Marg, and once as the provincial senior champion.
“He never won a Canadian championship at any level,” Harper’s daughter, Bonnie Segger, noted. “That was heartbreaking.”
More than just an accomplished curler, Harper was a cornerstone of the sport in the Cowichan Valley. He and his father, Ron, helped get curling started in Duncan when they opened the first club in a quonset hut on James Street. When the roof of that structure started rotting, he spearheaded fundraising efforts for a new building on Sherman Road.
“It was a big community effort,” Segger said of the fundraising campaign. “A lot of people were involved.”
Completed in 1967, it was eventually renamed for Harper 45 years later. Harper was overcome with emotion when the club announced the new name for the building during its 60th annual men’s bonspiel in January 2012.
“Sometimes those honours don’t come until after you’re gone,” Segger noted.
Current Duncan Curling Club board chair Brent Dellebuur said the entire organization was saddened by the loss of someone who was an integral part of the club for such a long time.
“It will leave a loss in the curling community, for sure,” Dellebuur said. “Everybody who has ever curled in the Duncan Curling Club is aware of Glen Harper and what his impact was.”
Although he hadn’t competed for many years, Harper would still show up to watch bonspiels.
“Everybody knew who he was and why he was there,” Dellebuur said. “The love of the sport remained even though he was unable to participate.
“It’s hard to visualize the club with him not being around.”
As a businessman, Harper was a committed supporter of sports and other activities in the Cowichan Valley. He moved to Duncan from McCreary, Manitoba in 1947, and founded G.L. Harper Scrap Metal & Demolition in 1963. That business later became Islandwide Selkirk Recycling, then Steel Pacific Recycling, and is now owned by Schnitzer Steel Industries. He spent more than 50 years in the business before he “retired” around 2004 or 2005.
“A lot of people knew him for that as much as curling,” said Segger, who worked alongside her dad, as did her two sisters’ husbands.
As much time as he put into curling and work, Segger said family was an even bigger priority for him.
“He loved to have family around,” she said. “He was a family-first man.”
Marg, Harper’s longtime teammate on and off the ice, died in 2014, and he was also predeceased by his son, Laurie, who drowned tragically in the Cowichan River at the age of two and a half. He is survived by three daughters, Glenda Barrett, Bonnie Segger and Cathy Waters, as well as five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
“He was an amazing dad,” Segger said. “He was always strong and steady. He was very ethical, always ready to lend a hand. He didn’t say a lot, but he was always there. He always had our backs. He was generous. He raised us to care for each other.”
Segger said that her father died around 1 a.m. on Aug. 3, at the Cerwydden care home in Duncan, where he lived for the last four and a half years. Although he had several different health issues in recent years, he was “super content” at Cerwydden, and his daughters were able to take him out for ice cream — a favourite treat — frequently.
“The last three weeks, all of a sudden he was in a lot of pain,” Segger said. “But he was very brave and never complained to the very end. We’re very proud of him. We were grateful to have him in our lives for so long.”