James Albert "Bert" Lonson
July 11, 1951 - April 26, 2018
James Albert "Bert" Ionson was born July 11, 1951 in Hagersville, Ontario. He grew up on a dairy farm outside Jarvis Ontario with his parents William and Joan and brothers and sister Margie, Andrew and Greg. Having his fill of the farm, Bert's love of outdoors took him to first to Lakehead University in the Forestry Program. However, trees proved not to hold much interest when compared to fish. A short time later Bert moved over to the Saskatoon Community College and the Fisheries Program.
Landing a job with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) took Bert to BC's remote coast. Rivers Inlet, Bella Bella, and many small inlets, bays and coves became Bert's haunts and the locations of many adventures. Bert then headed North to the Yukon. In no small part due to a budding desire to pursue love. He spent time working in Whitehorse and Haines Junction with frequent trips to Destruction Bay.
After a brief courtship (the exact length of which is still debated) Bert was very happily married to Diane Widdicombe on December 13, 1980 in Whitehorse. Their hearts were warm through another cold winter, and a few years later they would make a move to trade in snow for rain. But we'll get there.
Shortly thereafter, still up north, they welcomed their first daughter, Dana Ionson, on October 3, 1982. True to Bert's form, Bert wrote Dana's birth announcement likened her to a new coho salmon heading out for a world of adventure. And the family's adventures were just getting underway. A short time in Ottawa precluded a move to Squamish BC where the family put down roots that are still growing to this day.
Setting up shop in Squamish, Bert kept up with his fishy adventures and welcomed a new 'steelhead' to his growing school. Cari Ionson was born July 15, 1984 in Squamish BC. Their family now complete.
Bert worked as a fisheries officer in Squamish BC. After many fun-filled years patrolling local rivers and streams, Bert moved to the DFO office in Vancouver and became the Salmon Manager. Working with many stakeholders, Bert became the face of Salmon in BC for years to come. Of course he couldn't steward fish forever and retirement came calling in 2008. Though he seemingly never really stopped working for the DFO, picking up contracts over the years.
It should be no surprise to anyone reading this that Bert wouldn't sit still in retirement. Not only turning his attention to enjoying his free time, but actively giving back to his community. Volunteering with the Squamish United Church, the Red Cross, Whistler Olympic Park, and many other events. The 2010 Winter Olympics being a particular focal point and spurred Bert's connection with Whistler Olympic Park. In between all that 'work', Bert and Di took to adventuring all over the world including bike trips in Vietnam and Cuba among many other destinations near and far. Prepping for all these international adventures and volunteering took hard work. And for that Bert joined Body Storm and spent nearly a decade attending early morning workouts almost daily.
The birth of grandchildren Leah Brownfield and James (Jamie) Brownfield were particularly joyous moments for Bert and he took to grand-parenting, like all things, with a sense of ease and joy. Much loved by his grandchildren and known as Papa Bert.
Bert was an adventurous person, always ready to try his hand at anything, and a lover of life. From flying planes in Canada's remote North to always finding a new way to barbecue salmon (and which wine to drink it with) Bert's passions were far too many to list here. Always with an infectious smile on his face Bert spread joy to everyone.
Bert’s final weeks were spent at home and he passed away peacefully surrounded by friends and family on April 26, 2018. It’s a testament to a life well lived to have such received an outpouring of support these past few months. Bert was an amazing person and his positivity and generosity touched many people, the evidence of which shines through. Bert, Berty, B-man, Dad, Friend, Brother, Son, Uncle, and Papa. A man whose journey through life was well lived and whose legacy continues.
"In loving memory of our dear friend Bert Ionson."
-Donna and Al McMillan
"Diane, Dana, Cari and families, How do I express my sadness at the loss of such a wonderful friend? Jim attended Hagersville High School with Bert for five years and knew him as a childhood friend. I only met Bert in Grade 13, but from the beginning, it was obvious what a great guy he was and so much fun! When my sister, Phylis, landed in the hospital for surgery, Bert was there visiting her without hesitation-- thoughtful, kind, sensitive, a true friend! We were so sad to see him migrate to a climate less brutal for his hay fever-- so far away. It makes me happy to remember our time with you in 1986 all those years ago-- Bert made sure I got my camera back from the Aquarium! And our time with him (and you, Diane) when he came home for visits means that much more in retrospect. Our conversations were always interesting and it was great hearing about his adventures. I never did get to do the West Coast Trail with him! He was dearly loved and will be so missed. God bless you and your family as you navigate the sadness and grief. Sending much love..."
- Vicki Duxbury
"Dear Diane and family, Love and thoughts, and heartfelt condolences to you all. It was such a privilege and delight to have shared wonderful times with Bert."
- Sheila, Denis and Éléna
"We were so sorry to hear about Bert, he was such a nice man. Our thoughts are with you."
- Brian & Joan Mcintosh
"With such heavy hearts we send our sincere condolences to the Ionson Family. Your Husband, Dad, Brother and Papa was truly one of the best people we ever had the pleasure of knowing. Berts sincerity and passion for absolutely everything he engaged in, will forever remain with each member of our family. Oh how I'm going to miss those Bertman hugs. Diane, Dana, Adam, Cari, Leah and Jamie, we will always cherish our memories of Bertman. Love you all to the moon and back!"
- L'Hirondelle Family
"I received the note saying that Bert had passed away this past Saturday; it has taken me several days to come to terms with this sad news. I am part of Bert's Rivers Inlet and Bella Bella days. While in Rivers I had the pleasure of meeting and being coached by Bert. As the Senior Fishery Officer in charge of the Rivers Inlet it was Bert's responsibility to both train me as a Fishery Officer and foster my introduction into living in an isolated post. In Dawson's Landing (Rivers Inlet) we had two families living in the immediate vicinity. The two families consisted of the crew of the “FPV Falcon Rock”, Bert and me along with the Backen family. Bert made every effort to make sure we all lived life fully and happily. Fully and happily meant we enjoyed the outdoors, work and community. When I was posted to Bella Bella who but Bert and his new Fishery Officer recruit were always happily welcomed to our home/office, he and the various officers were frequent visitors where we again would enjoy life happily and fully. Bert trained many Fishery Officers and management staff over his many years with DFO and I am positive they all benefited greatly from his firm and caring guidance. Amongst all of Bert’s many qualities three come to mind immediately when I think of him; they are his love for a good laugh, his love of food and cooking and his love of community/family. Wherever we were if Bert was involved we could always count of him to bring all of his qualities forward with the noted three coming to the forefront. My sincere condolences to all, his immediate and extended family, Bert was a glowing example of how we should all live our lives fully and happily within our entire family."
- Bryan Jubinville
"So sorry to hear of Bert’s illness and death. I worked for many years with Bert. He was generous with his advice and great to work with in all types of situations."
- Frances Dickson
"Sorry to hear of Bert's passing and the loss to your family. I enjoyed working with Bert on salmon issues for many years and loved sharing stories about cycling trips each of us were doing. big hugs to you Diane and your family."
- Devona Adams
"It is with very sad hearts that Al and I send our condolences to Di, Dana, Carrie, Margie, Greg and families on the tragic loss of Bert...far too early. Bert has been a good friend since high school in Ontario. He will be remembered for his love of life, his unbounding energy, his thoughtfulness, his great sense of humour and his very kind soul. He was happy to share stories of family, work, his latest good read and of course - his and Di's adventures. His love for Di and the girls always resonated. His death leaves a big hole. All our Sympathy. Donna and Al."
- Donna and Al McMillan
"My prayers and thoughts are with the family and friends at this difficult time of Bert's passing."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with you Diane and family. Bert was a wonderful man who always made you smile long after you saw him. May you find peace with memories and friends and family."
- Hal and Debbie Hughson
"Diane, Dana, Cari and family, I am so heartbroken to have heard of Bert's passing. He was a kind and warm man. He always stopped to a chat whenever we ran into each other, I have so many good memories of our "skating" years, and the great meetings over wine at your home. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers."
- Laila Michell
"Flora and I are heartbroken to have lost such a gentle and kind soul. We always looked forward to our get togethers with Bert and Diane (a magical couple together), whether it be in Ontario, BC or Europe. We are so sad that we ran out of time to have enjoyed even more terrific travels together. I am especially sad to have lost such a lifelong friend in Bert as we enjoyed many similar activities and shared much time together - biking, skiing and enjoying nature. He did them all so well and he was always happy to share his knowledge and expertise in those areas. Our heartfelt condolences to you Diane, your family and to Margie and Greg and families. Bert was such a lucky man to have had all of you in his life, particularly in these last few horrible months. We will truly miss his smiling and expressive face when telling his great stories."
- Doug and Flora Miller
"We all know of Bert's love of nature and so Flora and I are honoured to have this tree planted in his memory. On a few occasions when Bert spent time with us in Ontario, he helped us plant many trees as well as helped us in the sugar bush therefore we are quite sure that Bert would have appreciated such a living memorial. We hope this is seen as a symbol of his continuing legacy."
- Doug and Flora Miller
"I send my sincere condolences to Bert's family. When I first met Bert in Rivers Inlet, i was struck with how kind, thoughtful and sincere a fellow he was. Over the years, it was a recurring pleasure to catch up with Bert as our work paths crossed. I am pleased that I had the pleasure to know him."
- Charlie Warburton
"In all my interactions with Bert, he was a joyful and dedicated public servant whose focus was always on making the world a better place for the environment he lived in, the people he worked with and the public he served. What a great Guy!!! My deepest condolences to his family."
- Don MacKinlay
"Bert was a great colleague; good spirited, good hearted and hard working. He contributed greatly to all those around him. My sympathy and best wishes to Di and the family."
- Heather James
"My sincerest condolences to Bert's family. I have great memories of working together to hire his admin staff, he made it fun! It is my pleasure to have worked with him over the 12 years with the Fishery Officers and also some time in RHQ. Such an absolutely wonderful human being!"
- Deb Ganton
"I was shocked to hear that Bert passed away. I met Bert and Di while working out at Storm strength and performance. I worked out with them for a year while I lived in Squamish. He was always so happy / upbeat and would CRUSH those workouts. When I told him I was moving back to the city last year, Bert said that him and Di would bring their bikes down to the city so we can all go for a bike ride around the seawall. I said - ya! That sounds like a great idea - a biking pub crawl! And they laughed... You will truly be missed, Bert. You brought so much joy to us at the gym and I'm sure that permeated through to every relationship you had."
- Amy Bonner
"Unfortunately, we never met Bert but heard so many wonderful things about him from our dear friends Margie and Peter, his sister and brother-in-law. He was obviously a kind and compassionate man who was respected by many and has left a positive and enduring impact on his family, friends and colleagues. We pray that the many fond memories that you have of Bert will comfort you at this difficult time."
- Mary Ann and Don Backus
"Our thoughts are with you all. What an amazing person. One of my favorite workout partners. I remember him playing in the pool with my girls, like it was yesterday."
- Heidi Harvey & Family
"I was very sad to hear of Bert's untimely passing. He was such a kind, generous and sincere person. I had the pleasure of working with Bert for almost 20 years. Bert was open to taking on any project. Bert cared deeply about the fishery resource in the Pacific Region. He touch many people within DFO and also cared very much about the impacts of the decision made by DFO on people outside the department. Vicki and I fondly remember hiking with Bert and Diane and having dinner's on their deck. Our condolences to Diane and family during this difficult time."
- Paul and Vicki Ryall
"My deepest sympathies to Bert’s family, I am very sorry to hear of his passing. I and everyone I know that worked with Bert are richer for it. He was passionate, dedicated, and respectful in his work, it was always a pleasure to have Bert as part of a project or team. No matter the situation, both internal or external, Bert was able to bring a positive perspective that would lighten any situation and help move conversations along. He will be missed by everyone that knew him!"
- Stuart Kerr
"I am so sad to hear of Bert's passing. I worked with Bert at DFO in Vancouver and he was a shining light. Bert was always Mr Positive no matter how hard things got and was always ready with a warm hug. The world is not as bright without him."
- Carole Eros
"My condolence to Bert's family. Sorry to hear of his passing.I had the good fortune to work with Bert in the Yukon and occassionaly on the coast. A genuine nice guy!"
- Tim Young
"Bert was one of the amazing individuals who accomplished more with communication than any compliance requirements. I heard more about what he was doing from those on the outside rather than the inside of his work. I regret not having the opportunity to spend time with him to know his family of which he was always very proud of. Condolences."
- Norm Lemmen
"Bert was the first person I worked with in DFO. He set a very high standard for me personally and for all those he worked with. His work ethic was something to behold and his personality was infectious. Jenny and I will always remember the fun times we had on the Central Coast, whether it was working the long hours or the fun times afterwards. We will always remember his smile and his laugh. Dianne and family, please accept our sincerest condolences , he was taken far too early. He touched so many lives and he will not be forgotten."
- Randy and Jenny Webb
"Dianne and family - It is with great shock and sadness that Laraine and I heard of Bert's passing. Bert was one of those genuine good people that one considers fortunate to have known. I shared many good times with him, as a troopmate in Troop #1 going through Regina, from a week of camping at Wellsley Lake, YT in the middle of winter to going to Billy Joel in 1980 in Vancouver. But what I really remember most was the importance he placed on his family. Whenever out paths crossed over the years,we rarely talked work... for Bert was more interested in talking about our respective families. Our sincerest condolences at this very sad time."
- Mal and Laraine Farquhar
"Diane and family, we were saddened to hear of Bert's illness and now his passing. Bert was such a pleasure to work with as a respected DFO employee and co-worker. We are thankful for happy times Bert spent with our family and the time you and Bert spent with us last fall. Our children, Jared and Colleen, will always remember Bert as a man with a huge warm smile. He will surely be missed by all who knew him."
- Barry & Valerie Huber
"My sincere condolences to Bert's family. As a former colleague, I remember Bert for his sense of compassion, humour, and willingness to work with everyone. He was a great role model for all."
- Chris Dragseth
"To Bert’s family -please accept my sincere condolences. I was shocked and saddened to hear of Bert's death. He was an amazing contributor to fisheries conservation and management , a storehouse of knowledge on the coast and as professional and compassionate as they come. It was always a pleasure to work with him."
- Colin Levings
"My sincerest condolences to his family on Bert's passing. He was an extremely likable person and was very effective in his work for DFO. I especially remember being out in the field with him on the Squamish watershed."
- Al Lill
"I am so very sorry to hear of Bert's passing. He was one of the earlier bunch at DFO and was fully and faithfully invested in his role, caring not only about fish, but the people he worked with and knew. A generous and humble man."
- Rick Higgins
"Diane, Kathy and I are so sorry to hear of Bert's passing. We wish you and your family strength and courage through this very sad time and we we will remember Bert with fondness and joy. He was a highly respected individual by all of us at DFO. May he rest in peace."
- Scotty and Kathy Roxburgh
"Sorry to hear of Berts passing. He was a kind and considerate person. He cared a lot about his fellow employees by volunteering as Critical Incident Stress peer member. My condolences to his family."
- Bruce Paterson