Harvey "Joe" Allen Chambers
August 25, 1955 - May 29, 2003
(Written by his close friend, Randy Nelson. Funeral At Cranbrook, B.C., June 3, 2003)
Every man dies. Not every man really lives. Joe knew how to live. He knew what was important. He was a loving friend to everyone that really got to know him.
When Anita asked me if I’d do the eulogy for Joe my first words back to her were “I don’t know if I could hold up.” She said, “ I’ll be there with you if you want.” That was the kind of support both Anita and Joe always provided to friends. And they have a lot of friends. Joe would want us to celebrate his life. He’d want to fill his house with friends and family and that’s why this house is so full.
I was honoured Anita asked me and started to think of what I knew about Joe and what I’d say. I knew him from 26 years of working with the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans and nearly 20 years of hunting and fishing together with our families. Our families have a very close friendship. I thought, " all I know about Joe was his family, hunting, fishing and work." It was then I realized I knew Joe very well because those 4 things were his life. Joe was amazing at balancing work with family and time for himself. Whether it was a school function with Paige and Ryan, work commitments or plans for fishing, Joe balanced it all. Many people are good at one or two priorities but few could juggle like Joe.
Harvey Allan Chambers was born on August 25, 1955 to Harvey and Corinne Chambers in Gainsborough, Saskatchewan. Joe has 2 brothers, 2 half brothers and a half sister. The family moved to Milk River, Alberta when Joe was 3. Joe lived in Milk River until graduating. His love for the outdoors and his passion for hunting developed in his teens when he began hunting with his good friend Conrad Galts and his father.
Upon graduation Joe attended university for one year in the field of accounting. You should see the accounting in Joe's fishing and hunting diaries. What a pile of accounting! Joe met Anita while attending university. Joe's calculations were correct and he married a winner on September 4th, 1976.
Joe married into a very large family with Anita. 10 brothers and sisters made for some huge family gatherings. Joe was always eager to help out with family reunions for Anita's large family. They have described him as a fabulous in-law.
Joe realized the outdoors were his 2nd love, after Anita, and turned to the Renewable Resources course at Lethbridge College. Paul Visentin was a college classmate with Joe and works as a Conservation Officer here in Cranbrook. Paul and Mance also became good friends with Joe and Anita. They were the first one's by Anita's side when she got the news about Joe.
Joe and Anita headed west where he began work as a Fishery Officer with the Dept. of Fisheries on May 6, 1977 receiving an annual salary of $12,300. I met Joe and Anita in Vancouver. After a few months we both ended up working in New Westminster. I was without a place to live for a while. Joe and Anita invited me to stay with them until I found a place. A friendship was formed that would last forever. Their hospitality has always been there for everyone.
The following year he transferred to Kitimat. The fish in the Ocean had a new predator. Oh, what a predator! Joe’s love of fishing blossomed. As with all of Joe’s fishing and hunting he was a meticulous planner. Plan and write every detail of every trip. It usually led to a successful trip if you went fishing with Joe. And successful didn’t always mean getting something, successful because Joe didn’t mix work into his own time. I’ve always admired him for this talent, which eludes most everyone else. Discussing work was not optional on our trips. After spending a week hunting with Joe you’d feel so relaxed. Work was never discussed and it was always a good time.
Joe was so well mannered, thoughtful, happy and so calm. Except when someone yelled ”fish on” or “there’s a moose.” He certainly taught me it’s more fun to watch a friend or family member land a fish or bag an animal than to get one yourself. I have so many great memories of watching the grin grow across his face when nature provided us the opportunity.
Joe and Anita moved to Salmon Arm in 1981. The fish in the Ocean breathed a sigh of relief. Joe and Anita lived in Salmon Arm until 1985 when they transferred to Port Hardy. Those poor salmon! Joe bought a boat. His boat harvested more fish in a year than many commercial boats but Joe always, always played by the rules. People that planned to visit the Chambers in the summer had to book a reservation because they had so many family members and friends that wanted to come fishing and share their hospitality.
After spending 15 years as a Fishery officer Joe moved into a habitat technician role and found his niche. He worked in that role for 9 of the 15 years he lived in Port Hardy. Joe found the delicate balance between habitat protection and allowing industry users a way to continue to operate. There was seldom a need for investigations. Joe’s valued work ethics became most apparent when they moved from Port Hardy. The numerous gifts they received from the many companies in Port Hardy were a true testament to the respect he earned. Joe would always protect the resource in an honest, fair way. The only ones happy to see Joe leave the coast were the salmon. Joe and his family moved to Cranbrook and word spread fast through the elk and deer community. They were trembling in their hooves. Not only Joe but also his eager son Ryan was coming to the Kootenays.
Often when someone dies we think about a time when we had a conflict with that person or said something we shouldn’t have and feel some remorse or guilt. When I got the news of Joe’s death I couldn’t think of a single time when this had happened between us. The more I thought I realized that’s because he was not your average Joe. His kindness and his patience wouldn’t allow for conflict.
Two of Joe’s greatest achievements that I know are Ryan and Paige. Although Anita says she did play an important part in that as well. Joe was so very proud of his 2 children. Paige, at age 11 has all the charm and poise of royalty. That’s why her family affectionately calls her Queenie. She is definitely an adult personality in a child’s body. She’s destined to attract the attention of many young men in the near future. Your Dad was very proud of you Paige and often would talk about you on our many trips together.
Ryan, you’re a young man with a great future. You and I have lost our best hunting and fishing partner. Nothing can replace your Dad. We have some challenges ahead of us.
I think the advice that your friend Cam gave you is good for both you and Paige. You will have many decisions to make in life. Think about what your Dad would have told you to do. The impression he has made on you will last forever. He is a part of you.
Ryan, I know you are concerned about your future in the outdoors. I share that concern. I trust many of your Dad’s friends here today with help you out. I’m sure many here will take you along on trips. It’s the thing that friends have to do in times like this. I know you’re Dad is with us. I hope he took a 2-way radio with him. He’s going to have a much better view of where all the animals are.
Ryan, treasure your Dad's diaries and photos. They are an amazing account of every fishing and hunting trip he took. I'm sure many here would love to have a page or two of the information and probably willing to pay a price for it too.
A few examples from recently include:
July and August, 2000 - 41 days fishing, often after work
Fall of 2000, 18 days hunting
2001- 8 days fishing with a pile of friends and relatives, 124 salmon in 33 hours of fishing
2002 - Cranbrook - 25 days with some hunting, often after work just for a few hours but always making time with Ryan
Joe’s meticulous study of shooting was amazing. Joe was the most accurate hunter I have ever seen. He was very proud of his ability but very humble. He was so humble that I only learned yesterday from Anita that Joe participated in the Southern Alberta summer games. He won 2 gold medals in trap shooting. His rifle skills were equally incredible. Several people here have witnessed Joe take one accurate shot at a running animal at 300 yards.
Lucky for you Ryan, you learned well from your father. I know one of our other hunting partners is not nearly as accurate. I’m sure you heard the story of “Machine Gun Kelly” and how not an elk was shot even though a gun was emptied. The elk must have known it wasn’t your Dad shooting. They never moved until the noise stopped then walked away. In fact if that friend had taught you to shoot you would likely become a vegetarian.
Joe's younger brother Hal is also a fairly accurate shooter but I'd like to share a quote from Joe's diary from November 25, 1994. Hal shot 2 times at moose, 1st shot pierced both ear lobes, caused no fatal damage, however it was trotting away to safety when its flight path was hindered by a 130 grain Spitzer in the eye. It was a good birthday for Hal Cat. But miracles never cease and bro decided to burn the hair in his left nostril with his lighter on full flame."
If Joe were here I’m sure he like us to talk about some more of the fun times we’ve shared. I’d like to share a few of our more memorable trips. These were the ones that we reminisced about the most. The first was a moose-hunting trip near Vanderhoof. Joe, his brother Hal, Barry Ackerman and I made the late November trip north. We arrived at our destination at noon. There was 2-3 feet of fresh powdery snow and it was –33 degrees Celsius. We did a quick hunt that evening after setting up our wall tent. We arrived back at camp at dark; Joe had shot a moose and so had I. Joe’s was in the ditch and we easily loaded it. But mine, as was often the case, was a long walk from any road. There we were, wading through the knee-deep powder snow under a bright starry sky, inching our moose about a kilometre to the road. We got both moose back to camp and started skinning. We had to stop at about 2a.m. because the moose hide was frozen and we couldn’t finish the job. We packed up the next day, went home and thawed out the moose.
Another story is one of those in the swamp stories. More like a shallow lake. We’d hunted here before and often thought about how we could recover a moose if we had a chance to shoot one in the swamp. You couldn’t walk on it, as it was too deep. I decided to try chest waders and snowshoes to help keep me on top. I went for a test run and said to Joe, “I think it’ll work”. This particular trip only Joe and I were able to go. We set our camp up and both went off for a walk just before dark. I lucked out and shot a moose, 500 ugly yards from any road. As was our practise if we heard shots we’d turn our radios on to see if it was our partner and get directions to come help. Joe answered my call on the radio and said, “I see a moose, should I shoot?” I never thought twice and said,” Da, yes”. I walked back to the road thinking, “good, he was on the road when he shot”. Joe was on the road but the moose was neck deep in the swamp and it was nearly dark. Not a problem, back to camp, get the waders, snowshoes and a coleman lantern and our 600-yard spool of rope. The snowshoes were my idea and my legs were much longer so off I went under Joe’s careful direction.
After the first step in the water, I realized this was much deeper than where I’d field-tested my snowshoes. I was able to slog around but I just couldn’t find the moose. After an hour and a half of wading through water up to my waist, in my snowshoes, and grass up to my eyes we decided to wait until daylight. My last step out of the swamp didn’t quite work and I fell backwards filling my waders with icy swamp water. I said “ praise the Lord” or something about his son Jesus but that’s not important right now. Joe never laughed. He didn’t dare. He never laughed at someone but would always laugh with them. He did say, “ At least you saved the lantern!” We got back to camp, dried out and came up with a plan. We called for help and two friends came the next day and we got both moose out by mid afternoon.
Last year my son Darren, Darren's grandfather and I travelled to Port Hardy for a fishing trip. It was fantastic. We caught 18 different species of fish. It was very special to all of us. One of the funniest moments was Ryan trying to release a small cod (yes the Chamber's released many fish). The fish was released but without it's lips.
Joe and Ryan came to Kamloops last September to join my son Darren and I for a special junior hunting season. The first morning out our two young boys bagged two young bucks. They were proud but Joe and I were prouder and probably more excited.
Joe also had a love for the game of curling, which he shared with Anita. He was the President of the Port Hardy curling club for 3 years. Joe would travel around the North Island to participate in bonspiels, often with his good friend Frank Voisey.
Oh, that thing I mentioned earlier about never having a conflict. Truthfully there was one thing of conflict in our hunting trips. Joe snores and I don’t. Hal snores and I don’t. Barry snores and I don’t. But Joe was king when it came to snoring. He could actually fall asleep in the middle of a sentence and start snoring. Of course the more I’d try ignoring it the more I’d think about it. Last fall I actually left the tent and slept for several quiet hours in the front seat of a pick-up. I never thought I’d say it but I’ll miss his snoring.
Anita, you are a special person. You are rock solid support to so many family and friends. Please call on any of us to help you in any way we can. Cherish your memories. Remember that yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future and today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present. It’s okay to feel grief. When the heart grieves over what is lost, the spirit rejoices what it has left. It’s okay to shed a tear or even a bucket full. If we try keep out the sadness, we’ll also keep out the joy.
I'd like to end with a small poem.
A Friend Forever
I'm not alone but lonely.
No food. No hunger.
No injuries yet pain.
Exhausted but not tired.
Safe but scared.
Friend - you are not gone.
There - waving in the tall meadow grass
- whispering in the gentle breeze
- in the spirit of every animal I see
- warmth by the flickering flame.
- You are with me forever.
(Randy Nelson, May 30, 2003)
Enjoy the happy hunting grounds Joe. And save a few for us.
Letter from Ryan
IN LOVING MEMORY OF DAD (JOE)
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
I miss you so much lately it is unexplainable. I was very shocked and upset but for you I’m glad it was sudden and not painful. I miss just having you around to talk things out, And find out how your day was. Mom and Paige are having a lot of trouble with this too, I hate to see them like that it’s been so hard lately. Everything that I see or touch makes me think of you, I go outside to grab something and I can’t help but think of the fact that we were going to build a shed under the deck this past weekend then after the shed was done we were going to take out the boat and you were going to show me how to use the oars that you just bought so I could catch a big trout! Next I go into my room or the family room and I see the big buck that you got when you were a kid or the deer that you and I got in the fall, my heart drops because I notice the fact that you won’t be able to guide me to the next one. From now on you will always be with me, I loved you so much. I keep trying to think that you are on a big vacation but that’s not working. I want to thank-you for always being there to help me learn and respecting my rights. I don’t know what we’ll do without you. You did so much for us. From now on the next deer I shoot, the next fish I catch, the next girl I meet or bring home I’ll be thinking of you. When I graduate, finish college and start work in an outdoor environment I’ll think of you and how much you enjoyed the outdoors. I plan to try and follow and pick up on your work ethic. You’ve always been the person I’ve looked up to for things, I have no regrets about the relationship that we had. I’m only going to miss what would have been in the future. There was no more that I could have asked for in a father than what I had in you. I found a good quote in a book the other day which I think described you quite well which was “ANY MAN CAN BE A FATHER BUT IT TAKES SOMEONE SPECIAL TO BE A DAD”.
I will never forget any of our fishing trips as long as I live and I know that they’ll always be with you as well. In the thought of hunting and hiking I went for a walk in the forest the other day and saw 6 mule deer, I couldn’t help but think of how much you loved it up there which brought back memories of when we’d go looking for a deer and see the elk by Jaffray. In the summer I’m going to go out and camp by our lake and see if I can see the elk and maybe a nice one for hunting season. It’s painful to think of the great times we had just because there won’t be anymore. I will try and help out mom and Paige through hard times just the way you would have done. I will never forget you in the days to come. You were a really good guy who was appreciated by all his friends and family.