Recent History – 2001
May 2, 2001, By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
A funeral will be held this Friday for Arnold Dahlen, a former mayor of Dawson Creek, a prominent member of the business community, and something of a war hero.
Dahlen died April 25 in Dawson Creek and District Hospital after suffering a stroke in late-March. He was 80 years old.
The funeral will be held at the South Peace United Church at 3 p.m.
Dahlen was born June 21, 1920 in North Dakota, one of 10 children. In 1928 the family moved to North Rolla where they began to farm.
Typical of the people of his day, Dahlen showed great resourcefulness during the Great Depression.
“He had a grade eight education and he was out trying to make his own money in the 30s, when he was a kid, and he had his own little sawmill and went around to every place in Rolla and sawed wood,” said son Laine Dahlen.
During the Second World War, Dahlen was a Bren gun carrier and driver in the Regina Rifles. His son said that Dahlen was “mentioned in dispatches” and received a formal letter from Montgomery. He may have also been the only private in the Regina Rifles to have earned two citations.
“I remember Dad saying he never quite knew why he got that, but the only thing he could think of was that he was a Bren gun carrier driver and that he did get some permission to drive some refugees from the front line back to a gravel grotto on a beach in Normandy to sort of get them out of harm’s way,” Laine Dahlen said.
The press wanted to interview Arnold Dahlen about it, but he turned down the chance to be filmed. “He said that after D-Day he was quite dirty because they had been through the dirt and the water and the mud and everything else, and he had a pair of overalls on and the rest of his uniform, and they wanted to interview him but he was afraid his family would see him on a newsreel back in Canada, so he declined the interview.”
It was in England where he met his wife, Joan. After three years of courting, they were married in a double ceremony with her brother and his wife in Selby, England on June 23, 1945.
Arnold returned to Canada that December, and Joan followed in April of 1946. Their first home was in Rolla, where Dahlen used his returned-services pay to buy a farm.
Then he and his brother ran the Rolla Store for a time, until it burned down. They then moved into town and started the Village Motel, which they built from army buildings moved down from Fort St. John.
Eventually he moved into construction, working as a foreman for a spell before he started to branch out on his own. Dahlen was behind many prominent buildings in the downtown core as well as some major subdivisions in the Tremblay and Crescent Park areas.
Dahlen was successful enough to move into semi-retirement at about age 45 after completing the Travellers Inn Motel. Daughter Brenda Gibson said he and Joan moved to Vancouver, where she was attending university, and he sold real estate for Block Brothers.
“When my oldest child was born, I had already moved back to Dawson Creek, and my mother said she wasn’t going to live 750 miles away from her first grandchild, so they moved back to Dawson Creek the day my oldest son was born,” she said.
Dahlen continued to sell real estate for Peacelander Realty.
Dahlen served as mayor for two terms in the mid-1970s, vaulted into the position by his involvement in the Save the Arena Committee.
Long-time colleague Dave Leoppky said Dahlen was a late-comer to the committee, struck to prevent city council from tearing down Memorial Arena, but became the leading spokesperson.
“I was busy running a business and he was too, but Arnold was quite a bit older than I was, so he just kind of took over,” Leoppky said.
After his stint in politics, the Dahlens continued to spend their summers in Dawson Creek and their winters in Arizona.
Joan died on October 20, 2000 at 76 years old. Friends said he had trouble recovering from the loss, but Laine believes that with time he would have pulled through.
“He took it very hard because they had been together for over 50 years,” he said. “He was from the old school I guess. She looked after the home situation and he looked after the other bit, so when it came around to her leaving us, he was lost in a lot of ways.
“He could fix anything, he could will his mind to anything and do it, but when it came to looking after himself he was kind of like most men. And he was going through bereavement too.
“If he had lived, I think he would’ve pulled out of it. He was a very strong-willed man.”