They don’t make them like Steve Telep anymore.
The longtime Maple Ridge resident made his living the old fashioned way – off the land and with his hands – and his years in the bush gave him the down-to-earth sensibility of a pioneer.
“He was a straight talker, all right,” says Dave Telep.
Steve was his great grand uncle, and he and his sister Trisha would often spend the days of their childhood at Steve’s Maple Ridge mink farm.
When the 93-year-old passed away this past Christmas, Maple Ridge lost another piece of its living history. That history was remembered by Steve Telep’s family and friends Feb. 26 at a memorial service over glasses of Royal White and cabbage rolls.
“Royal White, that was Uncle Steve’s favourite,” says Trisha. “We did our best to choke it down.”
Steve was well known locally, if only for his rather unique talent – morbid as it sounds, he was extremely adept at killing.
His family discovered his skill at young age when he approached his father and brother trying to slaughter one of the family’s pigs, and failing miserably. Steve, barely 10 years old, took the knife from his father and dispatched the pig in an instant, slicing its throat and ending its suffering.
From then on, if an animal needed to be put down, Steve was the one who would get the call. He would routinely summoned to Hastings Park Race Track in Vancouver should an injured thoroughbred need to be euthanized.
“I think he saw the peace it provided them,” Dave says. “It sounds strange now, but that was an important skill to have back then.”
Steve’s somewhat macabre talent helped him support his family. Steve married Annie, a former Pitt Meadows Day Queen, and the two had a son and a daughter, Joe and Joanne. On his property in Maple Ridge, Steve operated a mink farm, and on the weekends, would operate the Pitt River swing bridge, which was eventually replaced in 2009.
He took up trapping, buying the rights to his first trap line near Kanaka Creek when he was still a teenager. Soon, Steve was working trap lines in Pitt Meadows, the Upper Pitt River, and as far away as Vancouver Island. North of Pitt Lake, there’s a creek named Steve’s Creek, where he would often trap in the summer months. When beavers threatened the Pitt Meadows dikes, it was Steve who was called in to trap them.
Telep Avenue, off 203rd Street, bears his name. The neighbourhood was once part of Steve’s property, which was eventually subdivided as suburbia crept eastward.
But with all the changes in Maple Ridge Steve witnessed over the years, Dave says his great grand uncle never forgot where he came from.
The Telep family immigrated to Canada from what is now the Ukraine in the early 1900s, and owned a farm where Thomas Haney Secondary School now stands. The family had livestock and a small orchard, and when the depression hit, the family was able to avoid the hunger and poverty that struck many less fortunate than they.
“He had a real memory of the Dirty 30s that he carried with him,” says Dave. “He was still mindful that with all the progress we see, sometimes we have to be able to go back to the land.”