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Dedicated Maple Ridge historian passes away

Fred Braches told the stories of early Whonnock and Ruskin
Fred Braches (The News Files)

A man who was dedicated to preserving the history of the Maple Ridge area has died.

Historian, researcher, and author Fred Braches passed away on Feb. 1, at the age of 93.

READ ALSO: Fred Braches obituary

Just recently Braches published a book to preserve early photographs of Ruskin.

“He’s a local historian whose work is invaluable here,” said Shea Henry, the executive director of the Maple Ridge Museum and Archives, at the time. “He’s the knowledge keeper of the Whonnock and Ruskin histories.”

“Fred is unique is his passion for history,” she added.

He was dedicated to sharing local stories of the past, particularly of the Whonnock and Ruskin areas.

His recent book “Ruskin – Pictures from the Past” is dedicated to the late Charles A. Miller, who had an impressive collection of photos of the easternmost neighbourhood of Maple Ridge.

There are photos taken before there were roads, and paddle wheeler boats served the settlements along the Fraser River. It memorializes the early settlers and residents who built the community. It was never intended to be a money-maker, but just to keep a collection of photos Braches considered important.

“I wanted to make sure they survive in some way,” said Braches. “Pictures tell most of the story.”

Braches was born in Indonesia in 1930, moved to the Netherlands in 1947, and worked as a representative of a Dutch shipping line in South America. There he met his wife Helmi. They were married for almost 53 years. He also lived in Hong Kong for two years, but in 1985 the couple settled in Whonnock.

With his retirement in 1995, he threw himself into local history. He wrote a series on the history of Whonnock and Ruskin that was available online.

In 2017, he published Fact and Fiction: Slumach and the Lost Creek Mine, about a legendary gold mine in the Pitt Lake area.

READ ALSO: Looking Back: Searching for Pitt Lake Gold

He was also featured on a History Channel series Curse of the Frozen Gold, about the same gold mine, and those who died in the search for it.

READ ALSO: Braches joins the search for gold

Braches was a regular historical columnist for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News, and also served as the editor of the B.C. Historical News.

He published a compilation of the Looking Back columns from The News.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge historian saves columns in a book

“I can tell you, local history is so fickle. What people say as fact – is so much conjecture,” Braches told The News.

“History isn’t a myth-making discipline, it’s a myth-busting discipline.”

Braches has also been well known locally for the calendars with local historical photographs that he produced.

“We are fortunate that his contributions to local history will live on through his writing,” wrote Heritage House Publishing. “He will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his friends and family.”

Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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