Recent History – 2002
August 14, 2002 — By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
Ralph Thomsen, the man often credited with connecting the Mile Zero City to the rest of the province, passed away Tuesday morning in his Dawson Creek home at the age of 92. As the owner of a local auto dealership and a member of the Chamber of Commerce in the late-1940’s Thomsen was one of the more vocal advocates of getting a road constructed between Dawson Creek and Prince George.
“I just figured that anything that was good for Dawson Creek was good for me, so I got involved,”he once told the Block News.
He was even the member of a Join Alberta Association in the late-1940s, primarily because the only road heading out of the Peace at that time went east.
“We had to go through Edmonton and then down through the Big Bend to get down to Vancouver and to get to our capital,”he said.
The effort was enough to make politicians in Ottawa and Victoria take notice he said. By 1951 there was a road — what is now the Hart Highway. Thomsen was among the first to drive that road. In October 1951, he and two friends reached Vancouver in time for the first-ever visit to Canada by Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Born in Gull Lake, Saskatchewan in 1910, Thomsen moved to Dawson Creek from Medicine Hat in1942. As the owner of Thomsen Cartage, he soon found work building the Alaska Highway. Thomsen was also there when the 1943 explosion occurred, leveling an entire block in the town and killing 28 people. Thomsen drove patients to the old hospital.
It’s believed that he bought the dealership, Rimby Brothers GM Agency, in the fall of 1947 after he and his wife, Dorothy grew tired of farming. In 1957, a fire destroyed the dealership, and they moved to Agassiz. But three years later, they were back in Dawson Creek, this time to stay.
He developed a reputation for being energetic and was involved in several ventures — auto sales, trucking, land-lording, a townhouse development and raising horses.
He was also a magistrate, started the fair board, sat on the arena committee, and was instrumental in bringing natural gas to Dawson Creek. He also built a soap box derby track for the city, now a popular site sledding and tobogganing in Kin Park.
All his contributions were acknowledged when he was named the city’s Citizen of the Year in 1956, the first year the award was presented.
One of the projects he pursued in his later years was Memory Park. Launched just four years ago, Thomsen encouraged residents to plant trees in the memory of loved ones in an area near Spruceland Manor. Thomsen and his wife, Dorothy McBride, had four children: Don, Jim, Norma and Jon.
When he wasn’t pursuing one project or another, Thomsen loved to ride horses — something he gave up only five years ago.
Politically, Thomsen was an avid supporter of W.A.C. Bennett.
“As far as I was concerned, until Wacky Bennett got in, the rest of B.C. went up as far as Hope. And then beyond that they knew nothing about it, or practically nothing,”he said.
He nevertheless also remained an advocate of joining Alberta, simply because the region is so much closer to Edmonton. But he was also practical enough to know that would likely never happen.
“There’s no way B.C. is going to let us go,”he said. “It would be just like losing the goose that laid the golden egg here, because we’ve got the dam and we’ve got the oil and they’re putting millions of dollars into the coffers every year.
“They’re not going to just let us join Alberta.”
A funeral service for Thomsen will be held this Friday at South Peace United Church, 2 p.m. start.